By Ken Rolheiser
The magic of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” does not depend on the stage lights and the tenor voice of Andrea Bocelli or Michael Buble. Many have been moved to tears at this song in a humble church setting sung by an unknown artist.
There is magic in the words Ave Maria!Hail Mary! The Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary with this greeting heralding the good news of our first Christmas, of the Incarnation.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.” …you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” (Luke 1:1-2)
In other words, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.” The words of the Angel Gabriel and the speech of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who was filled with the Spirit, give us this Ave Maria prayer.
Other words in scripture give flesh to the rest of the “Hail Mary” prayer: Mary’s cousin Elizabeth “exclaimed with a loud cry… ‘why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me’” (Luke 1:42-43). “Holy Mary, Mother of God…”
The words, “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”, were framed by the Catholic Church. It is right that we, who ask fellow sinners to say prayers for us, should ask the one who is without sin to “Pray for us!” Should we not ask our Mother to pray for us? Do we not pray for our children and grand children?
Saint Paul VI in 1968 in his Credo of the People of God proclaimed: “We believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.”
The power of Mary’s intercessory love continues. On November 14, 1921, a dynamite-laced flower wreath in front of the main altar of the Basilica of Guadalupe exploded under the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The marble staircase was destroyed… central windows of the basilica and those of the surrounding houses were shattered.
But the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was untouched. Over nine million converts resulted from the signs and apparitions at Guadalupe. (A Moment with Mary, November 13, 2018)
And Mary continues to be approachable. A Veteran’s group Warriors to Lourdes, 2018, included Major Jeremy Hayes, paralyzed after being shot four times in Afghanistan and struggling in his marriage, said, “Despite [my] being a sinner, God showed mercy by sparing my life and allowing me to witness the birth of my son. …this spiritual journey has cleansed my soul and created a stronger connection with my wife.” (A Moment with Mary, November 19, 2018)
In the Hail Mary, the prayer most frequently said by billions of Catholics and Christians, we hail our heavenly Mother with the same powerful greeting the Archangel Gabriel used. And by its intercessory nature, the Hail Mary is the prayer for all Christians.
HAIL MARY, full of grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. HOLY MARY, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen