Hail Mary – the Trinity’s Love Song

Crowned statue of the virgin Mary carrying a child with a diffused vegetation background
Crowned statue of the virgin Mary carrying a child with a diffused vegetation background

The infancy narrative is the foundation for one of the great prayers of the church—the Hail Mary. The words of the first part of the prayer originate in the Trinity itself.  The Trinity’s goal for man has always been to bring them into the circle of Trinitarian love.  Here in the relationship between the Trinity and Mary you see God’s love and the perfect human response to that love. Just as the Song of Songs is a duet between the Bridegroom and the Bride.  At the beginning of the Infancy narrative you see a love duet between the Trinity and Mary.

Annunciation Mary AngelStained Glass Old Basilica Guadalupe Mexi
Annuciation Angel Gabriel Tells Mary She Will Give Birth to Jesus Stained Glass Old Basilica Guadalupe Mexico City Mexico. Also known as Templo Expiatorio a Cristo Rey. Basilica construction was started in 1531, finished in 1709. This basilica is the location where the Virgin Mary appeared to the Meixcan peasant Juan Diego. The old Basilica is where Juan Diego’s original cloak with the picture of the Virgin Mary first appeared.

The angel Gabriel who was sent from God the Father called her, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Those words are also translated, “Hail, full of grace!”  These are words of love for Mary that originate from the Trinity, spoken to her by an angel. Mary was troubled not knowing why an angel should address her with such honor and to what purpose.  Her heart already belonged to God and her humility made her wary of personal praise. Eve’s pride left her vulnerable when Satan sought her opinion.

Next the angel Gabriel like Abraham’s servant laid out the riches of the Father before her and asked her to be the mother of God the Father’s Son. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Marvelous, marvelous news, but does it remind you a bit of when Satan showed Jesus all the nations of the world that could be his?  Or when the serpent promised Eve equality with God?  Mary’s heart is still ever true to God. If this greatest honor of all time involves her breaking her vow of virginity to God, she wants none of it.  “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?

Mary did not succumb to pride when honored or greed when offered incredible position.  Her relationship with God was paramount.  She was not like Eve at all.

The angel Gabriel responded a third time, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Here Mary recognized the God she loved.  The same God who made Sarah pregnant has made her cousin Elizabeth pregnant.  The same spirit that overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant and entered the Temple will enter her.  Her vow to God rendering her body sacred to Him will not be violated but be brought to its highest level of sanctity.  Now she believed what was said earlier that the child will be the Messiah who will sit on the throne of his ancestor David.  Now she understands why she was called highly favored.  She gave love’s perfect response to God–perfect submission to His will. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

This annunciation event of the Father wooing Mary through Gabriel is remembered in the first lines of the prayer, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”   The next line of the prayer originated with the Holy Spirit who sang His duet with Mary through Elizabeth.

Antwerp - The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth by Francken
ANTWERP, BELGIUM – SEPTEMBER 5, 2013: The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth by Frans Francken (1581 – 1642) in Saint Pauls church (Paulskerk)

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting she was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave utterance. “Most blessed are you among women…”  This exclamation recalls the titles given to Judith and Jael the women warriors. “and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  This reaffirmed that child was the Messiah the one who would take the throne of His father David.  The Holy Spirit through Elizabeth gave her the title that had belonged first to Bathsheba, the queen mother.  “For the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”  This recalled David’s dance before the Ark of the Covenant when he brought it into Jerusalem.  The Holy Spirit affirmed her as the New Ark of the Covenant and gave her and her son the reception the world should have given them.  “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah the priest had failed in that and was mute because of it.  Under the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel represented by Zechariah had failed.  Mary was the faithful remnant of Israel, the daughter Zion who responded with faith.

Mary responded in the duet of love with the Holy Spirit. Overwhelmed by the expressions of love and honor given to her by the Holy Spirit through Elizabeth, Mary responded by declaring her nothingness without God.  Any greatness she had was because of what God had done for her. She wanted her very being to magnify God for the world. Gratitude, humility and a desire to glorify God were all blended in her heart’s response.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 

The Mighty One had done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Mary knew that God had already won a great victory over Satan.  God had called her to be “the woman” who with her son would crush the head of Satan. She responded as Miriam did when God delivered Israel from the Egyptians, as Deborah did when God delivered Israel from Sisera, and as Judith did when God delivered Israel from Holofernes.  She sang a song of victory, but unlike them she sang her victory song in advance of the battle.  This second part of her song of love extolled the might, mercy and faithfulness of God.

Judith Shows the Head of Holofernes

 

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 

The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.

 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,

 according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever. Amen.

In Song of Songs the bride and bridegroom extolled the physical characteristics of their beloved.  Here Mary and the Trinity extol the character and spiritual beauty of each other.  A soul that seeks God alone delights the Lord, the way a bride’s beauty ravishes her bridegroom’s heart. All of this duet between Mary and the Spirit is referenced in the second line of the Hail Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

At the center of the prayer is “Jesus”.  He was at the center of her life and devotion.  It was He that made her holy, set apart for God alone. The Father was truly Jesus’ Father. Jesus was truly the Son of God, but Jesus was also truly the son of Mary.  The title Mother of God encapsulates the mystery of the perfect unity of Jesus’ humanity and divinity.  He became our brother in the flesh, so we might become His siblings in the spirit.  He did this through His mother.  The next phrases of the Hail Mary refer to the mystery of Christ’s incarnation.

Holy Mary, Mother of God

The Queen Mothers of the courts of Judah were advocates and intercessors for the people.  If you remember how Bathsheba and Esther had to enter the king’s presence with trembling, and they were their wives, then for an ordinary person to approach the king would be terrifying indeed.  The queen mother was different. She could speak freely to the king and he would listen to her.  People could approach her.

We do not have to fear to approach God because Jesus our brother has sanctified us. But if we were to truly see him as He is, and truly see our sinfulness, we would faint like John in Revelations, or bid Him depart from us because we are sinful men like Peter.  The Holy Spirit led Elizabeth to proclaim that she is “the mother of my Lord” because God wanted her to act as mother not only for her son but for the other members of the Kingdom of God as well.  The Trinity is weaving us into a family with God as our Father, Jesus as our brother, and Mary as our mother.  This honor is encapsulated in the last words of the Hail Mary. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Ruth declares her love for her mother-in-law

Just as Mary was there for Jesus during His suffering on the cross, and she was there for Elizabeth during her labor, I believe that no Christian is alone during their hour as they are born into heaven.  Stephan looked up to heaven and saw Christ in his glory.  Joseph was surrounded by Mary and Jesus when he died.  He is the patron saint of a happy death because of it.  I believe that in a special way Mary is present at the hour of a Christian’s death just as she was at her son’s.

Why would God so honor a human being in this way?  For the same reason God honors us by calling us brother or sister.  The love of God is beyond reason in its generosity towards humanity.  By giving Mary this position Jesus is fulfilling the commandment.

“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”[1]

For those afraid to pray the Hail Mary lest they offend God, the Trinity should not be offended by us echoing the Spirit’s own words of praise and offering our own Amen to them.  Nor should God be offended in our asking for her prayers.  For Jesus said,

Again, [amen] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.[2]

The Hail Mary is a celebration of the Trinity and celebrates the Incarnation of Jesus.

[1] Ex. 20:12

[2] Matt. 18:19-20

#trcot #Hail Mary #Mary #Trinity #Rosary #tcot

 

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Zechariah — the Priestly Prophet

Jerusalem - birth of st. John the Baptist scene on windowpane in st. George a church

There was a period of prophetic silence in Israel. The major prophets had come before the Exile and some of the minor prophets came soon after the exile. Israel was crumbling. It was an occupied territory, but the prophets were as silent as Zechariah.

During Zechariah’s silence, he had time to ponder Gabriel’s message to him, his doubt and his own son’s destiny.  Then he witnessed but could not comment upon the wonder of the Visitation.  He pondered the meaning of Mary’s pregnancy.  When the time came for him to confirm Gabriel’s message by affirming that the child’s name was John, it was like a dam broke and the words bottled up inside him spewed forth.

His prophecy is believed to be in two parts. The first was directed at Mary, who had surely stayed for the birth, and Jesus within her womb. Picture him looking at her almost trembling as he says,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people,

and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us;

to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,

and to remember his holy covenant,

the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we,

being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,

in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.

Zechariah was excited he knew that the promised Messiah was here within that womb.  The ages of waiting for the promised one was over.  Israel wasn’t forgotten in its misery.  Then Zechariah looked down at the child in his arms.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,

through the tender mercy of our God,

when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in

darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

In the tradition of Samuel and Jeremiah, Israel had a priestly-prophet again. You may think that Zechariah was given the gift of prophecy because he was a godly man, but there was another priest-prophet who was anything but godly.  John tells us that prophecy was given him because he was the high priest.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”  He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

God worked through his priests even the ones who were out to destroy Jesus to accomplish the plan of salvation. These men chose of their own free will to do evil, but God used their choices to accomplish His good.

 

Referenced scriptures: Luke 1:67-79, John 11:49-52

#trcot #tcot #Zechariah #John the Baptist

 

 

His Name is John

Baptism of Jesus

Names were very important in the Bible and the one who did the naming had authority over the one that was named.  To know somebody’s name was to have a claim over them. Joseph was renamed when he became the Pharaoh’s right hand man.  Daniel, Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah were all renamed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

In the Old Testament, you see God renaming Abram and Sarai, as well as Jacob.  This was God’s way of claiming special authority and ownership of these people.  Indeed, they were the patriarchs of the Jewish people. A comparable event took place when Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter.

For a long time Abraham’s descendants had  no name for God. God first identified Himself to Moses as “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” which is not really a name rather an identifier.  Moses does a very bold thing, He asks God to reveal His name that Moses might tell the Israelites. God tells Moses that it is “Yahweh” which means “I am who am”.

Many Jews will not speak or write the name of God because it is too holy, too sacred. They will use terms like Adonai which means “the Lord”.  There is a whole commandment devoted God’s name.  You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold guiltless who takes his name in vain. To know and to speak God’s name was to have a claim on Him.

When the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah, he told him to call the child John.  God claimed special ownership over this child before he was even conceived.  Zechariah had doubted God and was struck dumb. When Elizabeth said that the child’s name would be John it caused great consternation among the people gathered. It wasn’t a family name. Could his father be in agreement?  So they went to Zechariah who had the authority to name this child. When Zechariah wrote “His name is John”, he was acknowledging the authority of God over this child. It was his way of expressing his belief in everything that Gabriel had said about what he would do.  It was like an “amen” if you will.  Immediately, he was able to speak.

An angel also came to Joseph in a dream telling him to name the child Jesus. This had a twofold meaning.  Heaven was acknowledging Joseph’s authority by giving to him the name by which he was to be called. Heaven was also claiming ownership over this child.

These events compare to when a Roman soldier said, “This truly was the Son of God.”  The Romans thought that they had dominion over Jesus and that they could do with Him what they willed.  But when Jesus died the curtain in the temple was torn in two from the TOP to the bottom, the earth quaked, the sun failed, and people rose from their tombs and walked about.  The Romans never had ownership over Him.  Jesus had called God His Father, and it was now clear to the soldier that He was God’s son.

Referenced scriptures  Genesis 41:37-46, Daniel 1, Genesis 17, Genesis 32:28, Matt. 16:18, Exodus 3, Exodus 20:7, Luke 1, Matthew 1:21, Matthew27:51-54

 

Why was I born?

The Thinker by Rodin
The Thinker by Rodin-second cast in the original cast and signed by Rodin himself. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Why did God create me? According to the Old Baltimore Catechism it was to know, to love and to serve God in this world and to live happily with Him in the next. The profound questions of life were answered in that book.

If you were to ask Mary that question, she might answer that her soul was here to magnify the Lord and make manifest His Son to the world.  Jesus might answer I came to reveal the Father and to glorify Him. He who has seen me has seen the Father.

Do we see our life’s purpose that simply? As Christians our calling is to make Christ manifest to the world. Do we magnify Him, make Him easier for the world to find? If someone has seen us, have they seen Jesus?

It doesn’t have to be done through preaching, it can be done through our lives. Honestly, most of our lives don’t shout the love of God to people. God help us.  At our judgment we will be held accountable not only for what we did but also for what we failed to do.  What a gaping chasm that is.

A few years ago, I found this wonderful prayer.  It is called the prayer of daily neglects.

Eternal Father, I offer thee the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with all its love, all its sufferings and all its merits. First–to expiate all the sins I have committed this day and during all my life (Glory Be…)  Second–to purify the good I have done badly this day and during all my life (Glory Be…) Third–to minister for the good I ought to have done, that I neglected this day and during all my life (Glory Be…)

Amen.

#advent #why was I born? #prayer of daily neglects #trcot #tcot

Why was the Greatest Man of Woman Born Jesus’ precursor instead of His successor?

Baptism of Jesus

Except for Jesus, John the Baptist was the best man ever born.  He was better than Moses, King David, and Elijah. While he was still in the womb, he leapt with joy at the presence of God.  That leaping has often been compared with David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant when it returned to Jerusalem.

He fearlessly called rulers and sinners to repentance like Elijah. The Jews awaited his return because he was to prepare the way for the Messiah.  Gabriel prophesied that John would come in the power and  spirit of Elijah.

Despite all of the greatness, he was a truly humble man like Moses.  He was not jealous of Jesus at all.  He proclaimed that he was not worthy of carrying Jesus’ sandals. He viewed his job as that of the best man to prepare for the bridegroom and then fade into the background.  He rejoiced at his own diminishment.

If you want to understand the purpose of the Old Testament and the Law look to John the Baptist.  It was there to convict the people of sin and bring them to repentance, to prepare the people for the bridegroom’s coming, and to point out Christ when He came. What it couldn’t be was the bridegroom.  It couldn’t bring us into unity with God, only God could do that.

I could prepare a wonderful dinner for the Pope, but I can’t make him enter my house.  Only the Pope could do that.  The Old Testament was the best man preparing us for Jesus.  Once the bride and groom are married there is not further need of the best man.

Jesus did not choose John to succeed him.  The New Testament is based on mercy.  Jesus choose Peter who once gave Jesus advice so bad, Jesus rebuked him as a Satan.  Peter lost faith when he was walking on the waves and denied Jesus three times.

From a human standpoint we would feel more comfortable following a John than a Peter, but we are New Testament people!  We are not clothed in our good deeds, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  It is not what we do for God, but what He is able to do through us.  To God be the glory!  If you are a weak, flawed individual, are we the church for you.  For when we are weak that is when God is strong.

Jesus loved John the Baptist.  Jesus said to call no man good, for only God in heaven is good, but He praised John in this manner.

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Man’s greatest righteousness is nothing compared to the righteousness of God that clothes even the least of believers.  The Old Testament called us to righteousness. The New Testament empowers us to be so.

#John the Baptist #Peter #righteousness of God #righteousness of man #Law #Mercy #trcot #tcot #purpose of the Law

 

How to Greet a King

Antwerp - The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth by Francken
ANTWERP, BELGIUM – SEPTEMBER 5, 2013: The Visitation of Virgin Mary to Elizabeth by Frans Francken (1581 – 1642) in Saint Pauls church (Paulskerk)

Today’s post will discuss Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, but we have a couple of biblical stops along the way until we get to her.  First we have to go way back to the first Son of David to assume the throne, Solomon!

David had promised the throne to his son Solomon, but the oldest son Adonijah thought it should go to him.  David was old and frail, so Adonijah tried to pull a fast one.  He gathered his followers among the priests, the military and all of the other sons of David and held a large feast to celebrate his becoming King.  Only Bathsheba Solomon’s mother, Zadok the high priest, Nathan the prophet  and a servant named Benaiah remained loyal to David and Solomon.  They warned David as to what was happening.

This is what David decided to do: Solomon was to ride the King David’s ass, and enter the city with David, the high priest Zadok, and the prophet Nathan who would proclaim Solomon King.  The whole city broke out in a tumult of celebration. David bowed himself upon his bed and proclaimed, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has granted one of my offspring to sit on the throne this day, my own eyes seeing it..”

This scene should sound very familiar to you, because it is similar to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  This entry was really about the Messiah, the Promised Son of David coming to Jerusalem to be crowned. Only we know it was a crown of thorns not the earthly crown He was after.  Listen to what the people cried out. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This was the way you greeted a king.

After Solomon became king he set up a throne for his mother beside him. Thereafter in Judah, the queen mothers would sit beside their sons as queens and intercede for the people.  Unless it was something detrimental to his own throne, the king would refuse his mother nothing.  It was a very powerful position.

Now we can finally listen to Elizabeth’s prophetic words:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

The Son of David and His mother had arrived.  The world didn’t know it but the Holy Spirit allowed for a proper greeting for the new king.  The people to greet Him and proclaim Him “my Lord” with Mary being “Mother of my Lord” were the prophet Elizabeth and the priestly John celebrating within her womb.

Oh that we would greet the Lord in that way.  Shouting blessings and being filled with joy. It doesn’t have to be every time or every day.  Being reverent is important too but sometimes we should greet Him in a manner worthy of a King. Those in the Catholic Charismatic movement excel at this.

Referenced Scriptures 1 Kings 1-2;19, Luke 19:28-40, Luke 1

#Elizabeth’s greeting #Visitation #trcot #tcot #Solomon #Son of David #Mary