Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
May 5, 2003
Pray the rosary again and again
May, Mary's month, in the pope's declared Year of the Rosary - what meaning has it for us? More deeply, is it possible to have a world where Christ has brought salvation and where there is no Mary?
Jesus, of course, needed an earthly mother if he was to be born of human estate. But was his earthly mother, as so many seem to think, a matter of little or no concern? Did Jesus just need a womb to be born in, any womb?
On the brink of Mother's Day, it seems foolish to talk this way. Just as the mother is mother to the child, so the child is an expression of the parent. It could hardly be fitting for the Son of the Most High to be born to a woman chosen randomly, the winner of a lottery, so to speak.
In writing of Mary's assent to God's request through the angel Gabriel, theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, "She is not only the pipe from the well through which God's gift has flowed; she and God together are source."
This is a bold way of speaking. It alludes to Mary's co-responsibility for the Incarnation and, ultimately, to her co-responsibility for the redemption. Mary suffered as any mother would suffer at the death of her child; she suffered more deeply because her love was, by necessity, the perfect love of the mother for the God-Man.
If Mary were only "the pipe from the well," we would be in trouble. God can do all things and God can cause us to have faith. God could even give us the opportunity to choose to have faith on our own.
But if we only had that faith and justification straight from God, we would live a dark, lonely human existence. It would be me and Jesus . . . apart from the rest of the world.
Mary is perfect freedom, freedom uncontaminated by sin. In her assent to the angel's request that she bear the Son of God, there is no self-seeking, no sense of herself as a higher form of being than other men and women. She is God's humble servant. And in the Magnificat, she proclaims, not God's justice, but his mercy in coming to his lowly servant.
Her assent opens up the possibility of our assent to God's call. The faith of even Sts. Peter and Paul was faith marred by sinfulness. But Mary has shown us the way and, even if we are stumbling along, we are not stumbling in the dark. Like the beloved disciple, we can make a place for Mary in our homes and we can be at home in her. In doing so, our faith is no longer of the isolated me-and-Jesus variety. It is faith within a body, faith within a Church.
That is what gives hope to the world. There is hope we will have faith together and that as a body we will be a leaven that not only wins personal salvation, but also transforms this world with the values and blessedness of the Beatitudes.
It was with great insight that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council chose to include a chapter on Mary in their document in the Church, rather than to write a separate document on her. In doing so, they were saying that while Mary is a person to be venerated, she is more importantly the mother of the body of God's people.
Mary is mother in that she was the first disciple. She is mother, more significantly, in that all fruitful faith comes through her.
The rosary is a beautiful prayer. It tells of the central mysteries of the life of Jesus. But its most frequent prayer is the Hail Mary and it ends with two mysteries from the story of Mary - her assumption into heaven and her coronation as the queen of heaven. These two mysteries colour the whole 20 decades. They tell us that the life of Christ is Mary's story too and, through Mary, the story of the Church. The rosary is the prayer of fruitful faith, of faith that transforms not just us, but the world around us. The rosary is the prayer that can lift our world out of darkness into God's wonderful light. Let us keep praying it, again and again.
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