Hail Mary – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 1:39-56, Solemnity of the Assumption

The feast of the Immaculate Conception and the feast of the Assumption are like book-end celebrations of our Blessed Mother’s life. Mary was born without original sin, the first bookend, and she remained sinless until death, so she was assumed straightaway into heaven, the second bookend, which is today’s feast. I don’t doubt for a moment that Mary was born sinless and remained sinless. But I’ve begun to wonder sometimes, and ask, “Why must the two major feasts of Mary always have to have something to do with sin—or its absence, for that matter?”

I know that I never was and will never be sinless. But for some strange reason, sinfulness and sinlessness have never been the starting point in my devotion to Mary. Mary has never made me feel that I should keep myself at arm’s length from her, given her perfect spotlessness as against the wretchedness of my own sins. Maybe, my Jesuit professors dropped the ball on this one when they taught me; but the issue of her sinlessness versus my sinfulness rarely figures in what draws me to the Blessed Mother. In fact, the older I get, the more I ask, “Are there ways to appreciate Mary other than from the standpoint of her difference from us as a sinful, depraved lot?”

Fortunately, I found four ways, and I have Fr. Tom Rosica to thank for this. He’s a priest from the Congregation of St. Basil, or the Basilians. And he says in one of his homilies, “Mary’s life can be summed up with four words that are found in the Gospels: ‘Fiat,’ in her response to the angel Gabriel; ‘Magnificat,’ as her response to God’s grace at work in her life; ‘Conservabat,’ as she cherished all these memories and events in her heart; and ‘Stabat,’ as she stood faithfully at the foot of the cross.”

I’d like to expound on each of them but that would entail a recollection. But it’s a beautiful way to look at Mary & what her feasts celebrate. She was a woman whose life was a fiat, unwavering “yes” to all that it took to be the Lord’s mother. Her life was a grateful magnificat, magnifying God for the wonders he has done in her. She was no stranger to agony & pain, but she cherished all these in her heart, conservabat. And finally, stabat, she always stood by her son, stood for her son—even unto his death. Because of all this, she was finally rewarded a straightaway ticket to heaven—where her fiat, magnificat, conservabat, & stabat are now fulfilled.

Nothing about sin in there, for a change. Mary’s life doesn’t have to be a protest against ours. For just as her son loves us, she loves us, too. And so we pray, “Hail, Mary.”

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