When in your own land you go to war against an enemy that is attacking you, you shall sound the alarm on the trumpets, and the Lord, your God, will remember you and save you from your foes (Numbers 10:9).
In Jewish tradition, the trumpet or the shofar was blown to announce the new moon, month and year; to announce the coming of the Lord (recall how the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated before the Day of Atonement); to assemble the people for the Lord (the Jews even believed this would be the mechanism that summoned the dead to come to the final judgement); and to sound the alarm and begin the attack (recall the stories about the walls of Jericho and the other Old Testament battles where the Ark of the Covenant was carried out into battle).
The Book of Revelation gives us a clue regarding the trumpet. In two particular verses, John identifies the trumpet as the words of an angel: “I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches….’” (Rev 1:10). And again: “After this I looked, and behold in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’” (Rev 4:1).
St. John the Apostle, who would himself have celebrated the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), understood that this feast could not be simply abolished, but rather had to be fulfilled by the Lord, in keeping with the principle “Do not think that I have come to abolish Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17). The feasts will somehow continue in the Christian dispensation. But what would correspond to this feast in the New Testament, and in the Catholic Church today?
One convincing answer was given to this question in a brilliant article published at Rorate Caeli on August 31. Its author, Alisa Kunitz-Dick, demonstrated how every one of the Jewish holidays finds a striking parallel in the traditional Roman Rite. She does not make the observation, but I will, that many of these parallels are decisively absent in the Novus Ordo, suggesting that its rupture is not only with the venerable Roman Rite or immemorial custom, but also with the divinely-revealed worship of the Old Covenant: a case of abolition rather than fulfillment. Just as the reformers of the 1960s retained only 13% of the euchology (orations) of the old missal, so too did they retain but a small portion of the Jewish heritage that was and is present in ancient Eastern and Western rites. The authentic Roman Rite’s Ember Wednesday of September makes a threefold allusion to Rosh Hashanah: the Introit makes reference to the blowing of the shofar; the Gradual honors God as King, which is a major theme of the Jewish feast; and the Communio refers to the custom of eating sweet things for a sweet New Year.
However, I would like to suggest a more subtle and at the same time more pervasive way in which the Feast of Trumpets and the role of the shofar has been assumed into Catholicism.
The words of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation are the most powerful of trumpets, as they announced the Lord’s coming in the flesh. The Virgin is the finest flower of Israel; she is the Bride of Yahweh; she is the one whom the Lord “remembers” above all others, and saves from the ancient Foe.
With this in mind, consider praying the Hail Mary as if you are blowing the Great Shofar. To repeat Numbers 10:9: “When in your own land you go to war against an enemy that is attacking you, you shall sound the alarm on the trumpets, and the Lord, your God, will remember you and save you from your foes.” Perceive the power of the Angelic Salutation in the midst of battle as well as in the midst of rejoicing; perceive the power of the Rosary that sounds the trumpet of Gabriel again and again. When you pray the Rosary, you blow the heavenly shofar and call upon the power of God to fight your battle, our battle. It doesn’t matter so much how emotionally “connected” you feel in your prayer, as feelings come and go; the simple act of reciting the Hail Mary in and of itself has tremendous power!
Archbishop Viganò mentioned this symbolism in a message in which he spoke of “a sort of siege of Jericho, not with seven trumpets made of ram’s horns sounded by priests, but with the Hail Marys of the little ones and the innocent to bring down the walls of the deep state and of the deep church.”
Another “word of an angel” which is like the sound of a trumpet is the name Jesus. It is Joseph who received the name of Jesus from the words of an angel. Thus the message to Mary and the message to Joseph combine to form a powerful trumpet, an invincible weapon backed by heaven’s might.
In the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin Mary makes a prophecy which is a clue to one of the ways we are supposed to spend our time while on earth: “From this day ALL generations shall call me ‘blessed’…” (Luke 1:48). From the Holy Spirit speaking in and through Our Lady, we discover how important it is to repeat the Hail Mary, which includes the words of her cousin Elizabeth: “Blessed art thou among women…” (Luke 1:42). The “little ones” who are in the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 19:14), the ones who will dwell in His everlasting kingdom, will be calling her blessed for ever and ever.
Within the Rosary, we are asked to meditate on the mysteries. This is not meant to be something elaborate, like the meticulous “methods for mental prayer” found in some old Jesuit manuals that can make us feel inadequate to praying, much as reading about how to achieve fluency in a foreign language might be discouraging to the linguistically average. The Rosary is given for the little ones, or for those who come to see the need to be little. Many an ardent young man who takes pride in following the multi-step methods turns into a mild old man who fingers his beads before the Blessed Sacrament.
Like a small child, we can go to the Blessed Mother, our Queen, hold her hand and let her lead us through the garden of the Gospel. We can ask Her to show us the wonders of her life and the life of her Son. She will embrace us as the children of God we were and are. There is such freedom in this simplicity. As children we can face the Queen and feel her smiling upon us because she loves all children, even as her divine Child loved them and bid them come to Him.
When the Mother brings me to her Son, great gratitude flowers in my heart, because I do feel loved, never afraid, like a little bird resting in His hand. I try not to worry about what I am going to eat or wear, or what tomorrow may bring. He will provide everything, when and as it is needed. I may go about my work—or my suffering—with confidence that He is making use of me right now to build His kingdom in souls, beginning in my own, and that His kingdom, which is not of this world, will have no end.
The Mishna states that the rabbis kept on waiting for the day when the Lord would “leave His seat of judgment and take His seat of mercy.” Mary is that Seat of Mercy: this is what we behold in every image where the infant Jesus is seated on her lap. To reach the Lord of mercy we have to go through Mary, even as He came to us through Mary. Let us not be remiss this October or indeed any month in taking up this angelic trumpet and bright weapon, the Catholic shofar: Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Composite photo by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, from public domain sources.
 Even as music is composed of intelligible ratios like 1:2, 2:3, 3:4, translated into physical sounds by means vibrating objects or columns of air, so is the Incarnation the invisible Word assuming visible, tangible, audible nature.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and The Catholic University of America. He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria, the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, and Wyoming Catholic College, which he helped establish in 2006. Today he is a full-time writer and speaker on traditional Catholicism who has written many books and publishes on a wide variety of sites. His work has been translated into twenty languages. Visit his personal website at www.peterkwasniewski.com, his Substack “Tradition and Sanity,” his publishing house Os Justi Press, and his composer site CantaboDomino.