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Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church

Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church

Given that yesterday the Church celebrated the memorial of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I thought that this week instead of my usual poem I would share a prayer, a traditional litany in honor of her beautiful Name.

As I prepared this piece, I couldn’t help thinking that much of the prayer’s language will be unfamiliar to my Protestant brothers and sisters. It might even be troubling for you to see with what high regard the Church views Our Mother, and with what love she is praised. I would like to offer you some thoughts on this.

October 13th of this year brings us to the 100th anniversary of Mary’s final appearance at Fatima, Portugal (if you are unfamiliar, please read about the events at Fatima. They are among the most important in modern history.) At the month’s end, October 31st will mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation’s formal beginning.

There are no coincidences–I would say “in God’s eyes,” but the plain truth is that what we see “in God’s eyes” is simply reality. He exists; His Providence governs all; everything is planned, nothing is accidental. Not even this little parallel between the 13th and the 31st of October, 2017, one number the inversion of the other.

100 years and 500 years–although Mary herself and Marian devotion predate Martin Luther by over 1,500 years; and Mary’s role as the Mother of God has been held in the Divine Will, fixed and immutable, from eternity. But there is nevertheless something of a David and Goliath here, in the sense that on one hand you have five centuries backing the general Protestant distaste for Our Lady, which I myself shared in for a time; and on the other, a mere centenary highlighting Our Lady’s mission of love for all the world, and first of all for her children.

It isn’t for nothing that the Church calls Protestants “our separated brethren,” for they are also the children of Mary, as are all “who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). Yet these children of hers most often refrain from honoring her, become uncomfortable at the mention of her name, and view her with a distrust that on a purely natural level must arouse sympathy and sadness in the heart of any mother.

At best, Protestants distance themselves from Mary out of fear that devotion to her implies a disregard or disdain for her Son, Whom they love and seek to honor. The love is real, but the fear is more immediate, I think. Fear of trespassing against a sacred boundary between God and His creatures mixed in with simple fear of the unfamiliar. We do not know Our Mother as we should.

While I can’t put forward a sustained apologetic here, I will say that the answer to this fear is the love of Mary. I mean this in the sense of our love for Mary, because she is Our Mother and Christ’s; but more deeply in the sense of Mary’s love for us, because we are her children. Her Son is the Head, we are the Body, and Mary is Mother of the whole Christ. Jesus Himself affirms this from the Cross, only moments before His death, when words cost Him most:

When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother: “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)

In the most abandoned moments of our affection, my wife and I fall into a pattern of praise that finds nothing too small to love, nothing insignificant in the other: “I love the way you laugh when you’re nervous. I love your teeth. I love the smell of your hair. I love the way you forgive. I love your eye for beauty. I love it when you paint Amelia’s nails. I love you, I love you”–and so it goes, dissolving into small, unmeasured kisses given without regard to time or number, landing where they may.

In the same way, a litany is a profusion of love. It is born of the desire to go on: What else can I say? What more can I give you? What else can I find in you to love? If you pray it aloud, you will find that it takes some time. But as you enter into the praises with love, with genuine interest, even with a holy and generous desire to understand those who can say these things seriously, you will find that the time is forgotten, and the love is remembered.

To answer this call of Jesus, to behold Mary, I think this beautiful Litany of the Holy Name of Mary will be helpful. In fixing ourselves on her Holy Name, we find that she fixes us fast on the Name of Jesus. Hers is the soul that magnifies, increases, makes great within us, the Name above all names. She never tires of saying to us, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). She never ceases to form in those who turn to her the likeness of her Son–the first to love the Holy Name of Mary.

Litany of the Holy Name of Mary

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Son of Mary, hear us.
Son of Mary, graciously hear us.

Heavenly Father, of Whom Mary is the Daughter,
Have mercy on us.
Eternal Word, of Whom Mary is the Mother,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, of Whom Mary is the Spouse,
Have mercy on us.
Divine Trinity, of Whom Mary is the Handmaid,
Have mercy on us.

Mary, Mother of the Living God, pray for us.
Mary, daughter of the Light Eternal, pray for us.
Mary, our light, etc.
Mary, our sister,
Mary, flower of Jesse,
Mary, issue of kings,
Mary, chief work of God,
Mary, the beloved of God,
Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
Mary, all fair,
Mary, light in darkness,
Mary, our sure rest,
Mary, house of God,
Mary, sanctuary of the Lord,
Mary, altar of the Divinity,
Mary, Virgin Mother,
Mary, embracing thy Infant God,
Mary, reposing with Eternal Wisdom,
Mary, ocean of bitterness,
Mary, Star of the Sea,
Mary, suffering with thine only Son,
Mary, pierced with a sword of sorrow,
Mary, torn with a cruel wound,
Mary, sorrowful even to death,
Mary, bereft of all consolation,
Mary, submissive to the law of God,
Mary, standing by the Cross of Jesus,
Mary, Our Lady,
Mary, Our Queen,
Mary, Queen of glory,
Mary, glory of the Church Triumphant,
Mary, Blessed Queen,
Mary, advocate of the Church Militant,
Mary, Queen of Mercy,
Mary, consoler of the Church Suffering,
Mary, exalted above the Angels,
Mary, crowned with twelve stars,
Mary, fair as the moon,
Mary, bright as the sun,
Mary, distinguished above all,
Mary, seated at the right hand of Jesus,
Mary, our hope,
Mary, our sweetness,
Mary, glory of Jerusalem,
Mary, joy of Israel,
Mary, honor of our people,
Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception,
Mary, Our Lady of the Assumption,
Mary, Our Lady of Loreto,
Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes,
Mary, Our Lady of Fatima,
Mary, Our Lady of Czestochowa,
Mary, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal,
Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
Mary, Our Lady of the Angels,
Mary, Our Lady of Dolors,
Mary, Our Lady of Mercy,
Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary,
Mary, Our Lady of Victory,
Mary, Our Lady of La Trappe,
Mary, Our Lady of Divine Providence,

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord Jesus.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord Jesus.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us, O Lord Jesus.
Son of Mary, hear us.
Son of Mary, graciously hear us.

V. I will declare thy name unto my brethren.
R. I will praise thee in the assembly of the faithful.

Let Us Pray.
O Almighty God, Who beholdest Thy servants earnestly desirous of placing themselves under the shadow of the name and protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, that by her charitable intercession, we may be delivered from all evil on earth, and may arrive at everlasting joys in Heaven, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.

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Daniel Hyland

Daniel Hyland

Daniel is a Catholic writer and voice artist living in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and daughter. He believes in the power of beauty in life, nature and art as a tool of evangelism, and seeks to follow Christ through study, work and prayer. His favorite book of the Bible is the Song of Songs because of the stunning intimacy it presents both with regard to the sacrament of marriage and the marital union with God to which every soul is called in Christ. He is the proud owner of a small collection of facial hair, charitably termed a mustache.