The religious imagination of the human race has always had a special place for the feminine. The pantheons of ancient Greece and Rome, Egypt, and India were peopled not only by gods, but goddesses, as well. We may smile as we muse upon the apparent naiveté of these "primitive" peoples.
The fact is that their basic religious instinct was quite sound. They knew that the feminine told them something important about God, something that deserved both honor and attention. Their attitude should be no surprise to us since we have so often heard these words of Genesis, "Let us make man in our image. Male and female he created them."
The image of God that emerges from Scripture is not merely that of father, creator, sovereign, and judge. It is also that of mother and lover (read the "Canticle of Canticles"). Mary, the mother of Jesus, reminds us of this side of God. And that is one reason she has always been so precious to the followers of Christ.
Evidence of devotion to the Virgin is very ancient. Indeed, a second century parchment bears witness to it. Special prayers like the rosary and the "Memorare" have been crafted especially for her. In the "Hail Mary," the prayer we know best, we ask that she "pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death."
For centuries, Christians have instinctively turned to Mary in a crisis, perhaps because she had so many of her own, from the moment that Joseph decided to "put her away," to the hour that Jesus lay dead in her arms.
Mary’s courage is undeniable as she faced the sword that would pierce her heart. But her tender love and quiet trust are even more appealing. What is most beautiful about Mary is her quiet trust in the Lord, and her humble way of doing God’s will without any human fanfare or exaggerated self-aggrandizement.
Her very being spoke of her commitment to God. She says very little for her actions speak louder than words. What a contrast is Mary to the constant drumbeat today of those who proclaim their greatness and importance so that they can lord it over others.
Mary is the most powerful example of the embodiment of faith in an ordinary human being. Jesus, as we well know, personifies faith since he is the son of God, but it was Mary’s faith, her openness to God’s will ("Thy will be done"), that enabled Jesus to come into her life and into our lives as well.
"Hail Mary, full of grace. Pray for us who have recourse to thee."
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, "What is This Thing Called Faith?" is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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