The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the lesser known feasts of Our Lady, but it was widely celebrated in Spain, Italy and parts of Central Europe. It falls within the period of O Sapientia, which begins on December 17th with the great 'O' Antiphons for the Magnificat at vespers up to December 23rd. As a result it is suppressed along with most other feasts in that period in the Novus Ordo of Paul VI. In the missal and breviary up to 1962 it was commemorated for certain places.
This particular feast is a mini - Annunciation seven days before Christmas. The prayers of the mass and divine office for both feasts are almost identical. It originated in Spain at the Tenth Council of Toledo (656) because the Annunciation fell during Lent, and so the Expectation arose as a substitute. It was celebrated with a full octave, and was known as Nuestra Señora de la O, because on that day the clergy used to sing the great O at vespers with great protraction, to express the longing of the world for the coming of the redeemer.
In the Expectation our Lady awaits with joy the arrival of her divine Son, the Prince of Peace. Her whole posture suggests how she remains wholly consumed in contemplation of her Son under her heart. Her immaculate womb has become a living portable sanctuary of divinity. In the translation of the Roman breviary by the Marquess of Bute, the feast is known as 'Our Lady, looking shortly to be delivered'.
The intercession of Our Lady under the title of her Expectation was called upon by women unable to bear children, and there is a novena for this. Nowadays while the feast has special relevance for the protection of unborn life from the terrible scourge of abortion, it has sadly fallen into disuse. However all is not lost! On September 14th 2007, the motu proprio of Benedict XVI Summorum Pontificum came into effect, allowing full use of the 1962 missal. Let us hope in the future it may be reinstated for certain places according to the extraordinary form.
Prayer from a Sermon of St. Alonzo, Archbishop of Toledo
O my Suzerain and my Lady, who bearest rule over me, Mother of my Lord, handmaid of thy Son, who gavest birth to Him who made the world, I beseech thee, I pray thee, I ask thee, that I may have the Spirit of thy Lord, and the Spirit of thy Son, yea, and the Spirit of thy Redeemer, to enable me to think what is true and worthy concerning thee, to speak what is true and worthy concerning thee, and to love whatsoever is true and worthy concerning thee.
Thou hast been chosen of God, taken of God, called of God; thou art very nigh unto God, thou cleavest unto God, thou art bound unto God; thou wast visited by an angel, saluted by an angel, blessed by an angel, called happy by an angel; trouble at his saying, perplexed in thought, confounded at the salutation, wonder struck at the words of his message.
From the fourth lesson of the Feast of the Our Lady, looking shortly to be delivered on December 18th, Roman Breviary, translated by John, Marquess of Bute, 1879.