Mary, Hail!

… though afraid, she believed, she obeyed. 
In her womb, God is laid: till the time expected, nurtured and protected

The Church of England has recently launched a new website on prayer - http://www.justpray.uk/. It was to be heralded with an advert to be shown at cinemas across the UK with the words of the Lord's Prayer. If you have followed the news over the last few weeks then you will know that this is not happening!

The website is very much worth visiting. It allows people to share their prayers and has suggestions on how to pray. It also contains prayers for people to say http://www.justpray.uk/resources/prayers/.

After the Lord's Prayer the second recommended prayer is the Hail Mary:

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women
And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The words of the prayer are familiar to us. They are in a number of hymns we sing.

The first four lines of the prayer are taken from Luke's Gospel - Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:41-42. If you like the more modern NRSV translation the prayer would be:

Greetings (Mary), favored one!
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Jesus).

The next part of the prayer may be less familiar. Mary is Holy because she is set apart for a special purpose - she is favored and blessed! The term Mother of God is a translation of Theotókos, and dates back to C3rd. It does not mean mother of God in eternity, but rather mother of God incarnate in Jesus. Another translation might simply be 'God-Bearer', as Mary carried Jesus.

The final line of the prayer is a request for Mary to pray with us, as we ask all the saints, in earth and in heaven to pray for us. Mary was at the cross where 'a sword pierced her heart' (Luke 2:35) as her son died for us, and so she is seen to be with all who are close to death.

Mary is so important to Christians because of what we believe about Jesus. That Jesus was fully God and fully human. That Jesus was carried by, and born from a human being, a woman described as young, unmarried, far from home, in an occupied land, with nowhere to stay, and yet also favored and blessed by God.

This Christmas we look to the Middle East and we see Mary in the eyes of refugees, in the eyes of those who have lost stability, livelihood and home. They too are loved by God and bear the image of God.

Have a blessed Christmas; celebrate with faith, family and friends the birth of Christ among us.

But also, please pray for those who, like Mary, have a far more uncertain Christmas ahead of them.

Much Love,

Fr. Eddie

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