Jul 15, 2023
“Of course, no one needs to invoke Mary’s intercession… (but) imagine OJ without his Dream Team.”
It’s one of two prayers that form the core of Roman Catholic piety. More often called Hail Mary by the prayerful, it is a staple of every post-confession penance and often makes an appearance at weddings. It also forms the body of the Rosary, another uniquely Catholic spiritual practice:
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death,
The prayer naturally breaks into two halves, the first part highlighting things done by God for Mary, the second part highlighting Mary’s active contribution to the process of salvation.
“Hail Mary” is the voice of the angel Gabrielle, sent by God to bring ‘glad tidings’. God’s grace is his free gift to Mary; for all her renowned sanctity, she has done nothing to earn it. It is God’s to distribute as he will. Out of all women, God chooses Mary to partner with him in the Incarnation. So, she is doubly blessed, first by God’s selection, then by the fruit of her womb.
Abruptly, the tone changes. While ‘grace’ is the unearned gift of God, ‘holiness’ requires the cooperation of the saint. God alone cannot make us holy, unfortunately. (That is indeed a rock he cannot lift!) In the prayer’s first stanza, Mary is God’s passive beneficiary, but if you thought that Mary was a little lamb, it’s time to disabuse yourself. She is a lion!
This should not surprise us. Mary’s Magnificat, in response to Gabriel’s annunciation message, tells us everything we need to know about her:
My soul proclaims the greatness of God…
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit,
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones…
The rich he has sent away empty.
Mary is no wall flower; God made a good choice (of course) and Mary does not shy away from the awesome responsibility of her role in cosmic history. She will be Mater Dei; she will be the Mother of God!
God chose a fierce partner…and we have an opportunity to do the same. Speaking strictly from my personal experience, we are sinners. Not even OJ’s Dream Team can get us out of the pickle we’re in! We need an advocate even more persuasive, more unrelenting than Johnny Cochran.
Who comes to mind? The Mother of God, perhaps? I mean, who among us can turn down flat a heartfelt request from our mother? Your mother might ask you to visit her more often; duly noted. Jesus’ mother asked him to turn water into wine, which he did…with a flourish (best saved ‘til last)… even though he was trying his best to remain incognito. I want her on my side!
Of course, no one needs to invoke Mary’s intercession. We’re free to go it alone if we choose. We can represent ourselves; we can appear before God pro se. But we all know what’s said of those who choose to be their own attorneys. Not convinced? Ok, imagine OJ without his Dream Team; and now imagine me…without the Mother of God at my side. ‘Nuff said?
David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.