“Hail Full of Grace, the Lord is with you.”
When the Lord spoke these words to Mary, her life was changed forever. She was to become the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. When she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who was also with child, even in her old age, her words were prophetic as well. When Mary entered Elizabeth’s home the child in her womb leapt for joy and Elizabeth said,
“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
Of course, these two sentences from Luke’s Gospel are the beginning of the “Hail Mary”, the tribute to the Blessed Virgin that every Catholic learns early in life and continues to pray as long as they live.
We discussed earlier, in our post on saints, that we don’t worship Mary. We venerate her. How else should we treat Jesus’ mother? Without her, there would have been no Messiah. Obviously Mary could have said no. In fact one reason we do venerate her is because she said yes. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary could have refused. She could have told Gabriel to leave her alone. She was young. She was engaged to be married. The last thing she needed was a surprise pregnancy. Nazareth was a small town. What were the neighbors going to think? What was Joseph going to say? But she had faith in God and she agreed to do His will.
Don’t forget, Mary was born without sin. God had been preparing for this event for years. If Mary had refused to go along, He couldn’t just go get another woman. He would have had to start over. But, of course, He knew that she would never refuse to do His will.
But why do we Catholics have such a strong devotion to Mary? After all, other faith traditions believe the same Nativity story that we do. They understand that Mary was Jesus’ mother, but they don’t seem to hold her in the high esteem that we do. We pray for Mary to intercede for us with Jesus. Every Catholic church has at least one statue of her. Until recently, Mary was the most popular girl’s name in the United States. There are thousands of Catholic Churches named after her, either as Saint Mary, or as one of her other appellations. We Catholics love Mary.
Mary carried our Lord in her womb for nine months. She raised Him from a baby and held Him in her arms after He was crucified. She was assumed into heaven so her sinless body wouldn’t have to lie in the ground. She was Jesus’ mother and I think we can all agree, if you love someone as much as we love Jesus, you have to love their mom.
Mary said “yes” to God and gave birth to His Son. As He hung on the cross, Jesus gave her to his beloved Apostle John, and so gave her to us. Mary was very cool.
Here’s a trivia question for you. What is the only US city named after the blessed mother?