Tuesday 7 October 2014

Ten beads: protestant meditations on the Ave Maria

Hail Mary
Forgive me, Mary, if I do not hail you as Queen of Heaven, if I hesitate to praise you as Mediatrix or salute you as Co-Redemptrix. Allow me to greet you humbly by the humble name your mother gave you. Mary, a peasant child. A poor girl from a little village. Mary, in whom the joy of heaven came down to dwell. Mary, the little hinge on which the hopes of all the ages turn. I greet you, Mary! If I do not adore your perpetual virginity, I will instead contemplate your perpetual humility, for all riches were laid up in your poverty. If I do not venerate your immaculate conception, I will strive nonetheless to imitate your immaculate fidelity, for through your faith the knot of human faithlessness has been undone.

Full of grace
I believe – I try to believe – in grace. I hope for it. I look for it like watchmen for the morning. I stake my life on something that has never appeared to me. A grace that is always, like my death, just out of reach – near, far, approaching, never yet. I believe, or hope, that grace is coming for me. I believe because I do not know. I believe because I have not seen. But you, Mary, have seen grace and have known it in your body. In you grace became flesh. The grace you knew was as real as a baby's kicks, as real as blood and birth. Even when I cannot quite believe in grace for myself, I will believe in grace for you. Even when grace is hidden from me, I will believe that you have known it, that all the grace the world will ever need has dwelt in you.

The Lord is with thee
I greet you, Mary, with love for you who bore the one I love. He is with me only because he was with you. He wears my nature because he clothed himself in yours.

Blessed art thou amongst women
For as long as men have had the power of speech they have brought curses and laid them at the feet of women (the women they love). God started it, acting like a man that day, cursing Eve and all her daughters. I have cursed a few myself. Forgive me, Mary, but I too am a man, a son of Adam. To curse a woman is as natural to me as making love. Sometimes the two things are the same. But man and woman are blessed in you as at their first creation. In you the sabbath comes again: the maker’s blessing: rest.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
Your body is the little door through which God stooped to enter the small house of my life. God sought me out and found me. Because I could not find the way to God, God sought and found you, Mary, and through you came to visit me in my grief.

Holy Mary
O Mary, the world has been profaned before my eyes. I had ceased to believe that sanctity was possible. I had ceased to believe that anything was holy. I am sorry, Mary, but I am more than twice your age when you conceived, and all the holiness I ever knew as a child has been worn out by time. Yet a holy flame burns in your mind, and the whole world's darkness is defenceless before one light. Mary, I will call you holy in hope for the day when all things will be sanctified, when all minds will be light and not darkness. Until then, I will follow the small flame of your life that leads me to your Son.

Mother of God
Your womb, Mary, nourished in silence the Word that nourishes all worlds. From your blood God took blood into his veins, from your flesh he took flesh. God came forth looking just like you, your spitting image, with the blood of all your ancestors running in his veins.

Pray for us sinners
Pray for me, Mary. Not because your Son is deaf to my cries but because he hears so well. Because each cry of mine echoes yours, you who brought God crying into the world and watched him grow and treasured all these things within your heart. You who stood by at the hour of his passion, broken by the grief of all the world laid on him. You whom he called woman. Your heart was broken by him first. Let the cry of my heart ascend, mingled with yours, to your God and mine.

Now and at the hour of our death
At the hour of your Son’s passion you looked into the face you loved and saw the union of love and death written there – God’s love, the whole world’s death. You who have seen the secret of my dying, pray for me now. Now in the hour of my grief. Now when death's shadow lies across my heart. May the mystery of my dying be made clear in the light of your Son, the only one who ever truly died because he truly (ever) lived.

If ever your Son should forget me, Mary, take his hand and place it on your abdomen and remind him that he once dwelt there, bearing your flesh (my flesh), your blood (and mine), a stranger no more to grief (my grief and yours). Remind him, holy Mary, that in your body God has already said the one Amen to every human prayer.

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