Honouring Mary on Saturdays in the Liturgy
I was always fascinated in my youth by a revered elder, who after a busy working week, would always make it a priority to attend Saturday morning Mass. Upon enquiry as to why, he explained that spending that time honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Eucharist was very important to him. If you look at Saturdays on a liturgical calendar, you will notice that the Mass has the option of being celebrated as an Optional Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each weekday Mass is an opportunity to develop our Eucharistic spirituality, however we need to keep in mind that Sunday is the primary and essential gathering of Christians for worship.
It is an ancient Church custom to dedicate Saturday in honour of Mary. Early Church records indicate that on the Saturday before Pentecost, the newly baptized were led from the baptistry of St John Lateran to the basilica of St. Mary Major. (The original church was built under the reign of Pope Liberius, who was Pope from 352 -66). There is an account that Jesus appeared to Mary on the Saturday after his crucifixion to recognise her perseverance at the foot of the Cross. In any case, early Church writings attest to liturgies on a Saturday honouring Mary.
Such liturgies on Saturdays are Optional Memorials, which means that they do not have to be celebrated; the celebrant may choose the Mass of the Day for example the Saturday of the 27th week in Ordinary Time with the readings set for that occasion. In the case of the Optional Memorials, different prayers are listed to provide choice and they all refer to Mary. One type of such liturgical texts are the Entrance Antiphons, which accompany the Entrance Procession. “Hail, Holy Mother, who gave birth to the King who rules heaven and earth for ever” is used across multiple Marian Feasts including the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God on January 1st and is found in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Missal. This is an assortment of liturgical prayers for Saturday memorials of Mary or for Votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Collect also derives from the early Church and its formulaic structure assists in gathering the prayers of the assembly in the Introductory Rite. In the Collect from the liturgy of Saturday October 10 the Presider prays,
Grant us, O merciful God,
protection in our weakness,
that we, who keep the Memorial of the holy Mother of God,
may, with the help of her intercession,
rise up from our iniquities.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Optional Memorial Masses to the Blessed Virgin Mary are laced with prayers in her honour and indeed they are very beautiful. Mary is often called the “First Disciple” and the greatest of all the saints due to her unwavering faithfulness to her Son at all stages of his earthly life and then after his resurrection in her faithfulness to his mission. If you haven’t been to Mass on a Saturday in a while or ever, it is an opportunity to spend some time with both Mary and her Son.
- Sharon Boyd is a Specialist in Liturgy Education at ACU’s Centre for Liturgy.