Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of Month Date, 2006
Hail Mary, full of grace
By TONY CASHMAN
Special to the WCR
The Hail Mary is the most said of Catholic prayers, from "for your penance, say three Hail Marys" to the 50 Hail Marys in the rosary.
This most-said prayer has a unique second dimension. It can also be seen, visualized as drama, three acts in the life of Mary.
The Life of Mary
Act One occurs at Nazareth, about 5 BC, plausibly in the walled garden of her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim.
The set designer and lighting director must combine their arts to weave an aura of serenity so sublime that young Mary is not startled by the sudden company of Archangel Gabriel or unnerved by his message.
An easier effect would be the lightning bolt delivering the word to fanatic Saul of Tarsus, bent on mischief toward the Christians of Damascus.
The archangel brings a surprising message. For perhaps the only time ever the infinite God with power to grant any favour must ask a favour of one of his creatures. Mary has free will. She must make a decision.
Gabriel greets her: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you."
Act Two, three months later. A town in the hill country of Judea. The home of Zechariah and Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.
Stage lighting has hardened. Stage properties are set along inflexible lines, directing the younger cousin towards an unimaginable destiny she has accepted on faith.
Unborn John the Baptist responds to the presence of Mary and the unborn Jesus. This is the moment of revelation for Elizabeth. In a burst of understanding, she exclaims, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."
Act Three, the present. Spectators of the drama become the players. Theatrical devices are overwhelmed. All the world is a stage, to misappropriate in a good cause words of the greatest playwright.
Mary was a listener in acts One and Two. She still listens. Day and night a vast chorus entrust their hopes and fears to Mary, now the queen of heaven. She did not refuse God. He will not refuse her.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the our of our death. Amen."