*Welcome, Mary, sister in faith;
the Lord has surely chosen you.
The life leaps within me
to herald the fruit of your womb
which is Jesus!
Who am I
that the mother of my Lord
should come to me?
Pray with me now,
*Weep, Mary, a mother’s tears.
Your son must die,
thrust high in agony.
Alone in suffering
separated from His Father’s smile
by sin we laid upon Him.
Blessed in He
who comes in the name of the Lord.
Now, Mary, be mother to John
and all who will lean, like him,
close to the heart of Christ,
and watch with Him in the hour of death.
*You, Mary, who knew His grace,
now you’re with the Lord.
Blessed is any who walks with God,
then is not here, but taken–to Jesus!
Hold us, Mary, at peace with God;
join with the prayers of the penitent,
now and at the gate to life.
I found this prayer, this little liturgy, in the Celtic Book of Daily Prayer. It seemed appropriate, because today is the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of Our Lord. Mary has always held a special place for members of the Dominican Order, dating back to very early in the Order’s history. So, I thought I’d make a few observations about Mary.
First, Mary seems to offer a special place of devotion for those who’ve had their hearts broken. One can’t look at the Pieta without immediately recognizing Mary’s special understanding of heartache and sorrow. The Holy Mother also speaks gently to those who understand the risk of faith.
When Mary answered “Yes” to God’s call, she laid aside her plans for her life and undertook the risk of an unwed pregnancy. In first century Palestine, that kind of thing could get you in trouble; it could get you killed. Mary (who would have been known as Miriam) thus teaches us about allowing God to interrupt your plans, and willingly accepting the cost of becoming God’s instrument. She showed us how to trust God and how to live without fear.
For many of us, Mary serves as the gateway to, and the icon of, the Incarnation. If God’s decision to walk among us as a man was indeed the pivotal point of human history, it was Mary who cleared that path. She offers us the key to Jesus’ full humanity. Her tears on Golgotha demonstrate that this was no metaphor and no mere spiritual apparition. Hanging on that Cross was Mary’s little boy whom she had raised from His birth in a stable.
The Holy Mother also teaches us a good deal about the faithful response to mystery. When Gabriel told her of God’s plans, she didn’t ask a lot of questions. She didn’t need to understand what happened at Cana; she simply witnessed it. I’m fairly confident Mary didn’t understand the need for the crucifixion or how the Resurrection changed the world. I doubt she had a firm grasp of the Pentecost. And yet, there she stood: a witness (martyr in the Greek) staring across the precipice of the greatest mysteries of our faith.
Our Orthodox brothers and sisters refer to Mary as the Theotokos (the God-bearer). Mary teaches us all about the importance of bringing Christ into the world, of being pregnant with the message of the Kingdom. I pray we all can bring God into a world which needs Him now as much as it ever has. I know she will join in that prayer.
God watch over thee and me,
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis