Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hail Mary

In the Roman Catholic Church, May is the month of Mary--the Blessed Virgin, the mother of our Lord, the Theotokos or God bearer of Orthodox Christianity.

How well I remember May 1 from my Roman Catholic days. We, the faithful, focused our attention on Mary. We attended a special Mass in Mary's honor. In our classrooms, we listened to the nuns lecture on her significance.

Growing up in the church, I was frightened of God the Father--that exalted, almost Zeus-like dweller in heaven with the flowing white beard (Much later, on a visit to Rome, I saw the Father so depicted in  Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and realized where that image had originated). I felt at home with Jesus, the Son of the Father; Jesus was my friend and companion, my comfort. I was puzzled by the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost.

But Mary? Ah, Mary, she was pure goodness--the ideal mother. She was the first disciple of Jesus, who was both her son and her Lord.  She was the examplar of faithful living.

In the Roman Catholic tradition of my birth and early years, Mary was revered, even adored because of her place in salvation history. She said yes to God, declaring to that angelic messenger: "Let it be to me according to Thy will."

And she bore the Savior, nurtured him over the years, and watched him, through anguished eyes, suffer in his passion and die on the cross. Mary wept and wailed as her child suffered and died, the way mothers have wept and wailed since the beginning of time as they have watched their children perish in war, from hunger, thirst, privation of all kinds, in storms and floods. Alas, mothers will go on weeping for their lost children.

Today, thanks be to God, Mary is honored not just by Roman Catholics, but also by many Protestants. As an Episcopalian now, I go on honoring her.

Devotion to Mary is a part of my rule of life as an associate of the Society of St. Margaret, an order of women religious in the Episcopal Church. (Yes, we have nuns and monks in the Episcopal Church.).
And so I remember the Blessed Mother today, in May, and on feasts dedicated to her.

And I pray the Hail Mary, that prayer my own beloved mother taught me when I was a toddler and that I have prayed regularly ever since.

Please pray with me...

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

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