“The Visitation” by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), oil on canvas, 1643, housed at the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey.

Spiritual Life

CONNIE ROSSINI: All generations are blessed through her

Today we complete our examination of the Catechism’s teaching on the Hail Mary. We have already addressed the angel Gabriel’s greeting. Now we focus on the words of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.

We read in Luke’s Gospel, “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe 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 blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord’” (Lk 1:39–42, 45).

This blessing called down upon Mary hearkens back to Abraham. The Catechism says, “Abraham, because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations on earth” (no. 2676). God made a covenant with Abraham in ancient times, promising him as many descendants as the stars in the sky (Gen 15:5). Even though Abraham was very old and childless, and his wife barren, Abraham believed God (15:6). God later said that all nations would be blessed in him (18:18). All who have faith in Jesus are children of Abraham.

Similarly, “Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the ‘fruit of the womb’” (CCC, no. 2676). Mary also was in a situation where it seemed impossible to bear children: She was a virgin. Tradition tells us that she had made a commitment to God to remain a virgin for life. Yet, like Abraham, she believed God’s word that she would have a Son. Following Abraham, she became the spiritual mother of an uncountable number of people through her Son. As all people were blessed in Abraham, “all generations will call (Mary) blessed” (Lk 1:48).

The second half of the Hail Mary is also influenced by the words of Elizabeth, although not as obviously. When we pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” “with Elizabeth we marvel, ‘And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (CCC, no. 2677, quoting Lk 1:43) Elizabeth recognizes Mary’s holiness. She knows that Mary has met the Lord in a unique way. The child in Mary’s womb is not just a prophet, as the child in Elizabeth’s womb is. He is the Lord, the God of Israel.

Mary brings God to us in a similar way. It is a great privilege for us to be able to call upon her, to be in her presence. “Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word’” (ibid.). We humbly entrust our prayers to her.

“Pray for us, sinners,” Mary. Bring Jesus to our side in all our needs, and especially “at the hour of our death.” May we follow your example of faith and obedience. “May she be there as she was at her Son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her Son, Jesus, in paradise” (ibid.).

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