October 28, 2007

Hope via the Ave Maria

I think the "Hail Mary" is one prayer that sounds better in Latin. Ave Maria, gratia plena! is more inspiring than "Hail Mary, full of grace...". Compared to "Mary", the tri-syllabic "Maria" sounds paradoxically more regal and more intimate; Mary imitates God, He who is more regal and more intimate than we can imagine.

If some Protestant denominations see Mary as merely a Jewish peasant girl who became an instrument of God, Catholics and Orthodox see her as that and also Queen of Heaven, the Theotokos, and higher than the angels. It is precisely this both that gives us hope that God will do with us a tiny fraction of what He did with Mary. Capax Dei! If Mary can rise to those heights, a mere human, then it gives us hope of our salvation and those around us.

Mary - conceived without the ancestral curse of original sin - is more an exemplar of unmerited grace than even St. Paul. It's impossible to imagine Mary "earned" her position. It is said the Irish don't like people to rise above their station, taking that an indicator of pride. This can lead to a comfortable acceptance of mediocrity. But Mary is proof that one can rise above one's station and it be completely the work of God and not that of pride or personal ambition.

Gratia plena suggests grace in plentitude, grace a plenty, grace even for you and me, as St. Thomas writes:

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