The “Hail Mary” is one of the best known prayers for Christians. Like the “Our Father”, it is taken mostly from the Bible. The opening lines, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you,” is taken from Gabriel’s greeting to Our Lady when he announced to her that she would be the mother of the Messiah.
The words which follow, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” are taken from the greeting which her cousin Elizabeth gave her when Our Lady visited her upon learning that she was pregnant with John the Baptist.
Mary is blessed among all women because she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. She was blessed to carry Him within her, to love Him as her own child and to accompany Him throughout His life right up to His death on the cross. In fact, Mary will say of herself in her great song of joy, “The Magnificat”, that “all generations will call her blessed. We honor our Lady as the “Blessed Virgin Mary” because of the unique role she played in the life of Jesus and, therefore, in our salvation as believers in her Son.
Had it not been for her willingness to say “yes” to God’s plan to bring the Savior into the world through her, Jesus would not have been born. Mary willingly participated in God’s plan though it meant sacrificing her own plans for the future. Because of this, we honor Mary not only as the mother of our Saviour but as our mother also in faith. Just as we would not have life without the sacrifice of our own earthly mothers, so we would not have eternal life without the sacrifice of our spiritual mother, Mary.
Mary is “blessed among women” not only because she was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah but also because she lived a holy and virtuous life herself. She was a disciple of the one she cared for. Not only did she feed Him when He was hungry, but she fed on every word He said. Not only did she bathe Him at night, but she was cleansed by following His teaching. Not only did she support Him as He traveled the countryside preaching the good news, but she was supported by the great signs of healing He performed. Finally, she remained faithful to Him until the end, standing at the foot of the cross, taking part in the most horrific event any mother has ever endured - the crucifixion of her Son. Mary is “blessed among all women” because she heard God’s word through her Son and lived it.
Because of her faithfulness to her until the end, Jesus shared with His mother the victory He earned over death. Just as Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, so He raised His mother up, body and soul, into the glory of His eternal Kingdom. Could you imagine a son who, suddenly coming on a fortune, would not share it with his mother? Could you imagine him not building a new house for her and providing for her just as she had provided for him? Just so, Jesus honored His mother by sharing His victory over death with her and by crowning her as queen of His heavenly Kingdom.
This is the feast we celebrate today, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. It is the fitting conclusion of a life marked by faithful service to the Son of God. Mary was blessed to love and serve Jesus throughout her life. Now, in death, she is blessed to enjoy the fruits of the salvation He came to bring. After Jesus, she is the first to share in all the joys of heavenly life not only in her soul but in her body as well. Because she was faithful to God, God remained faithful to her crowning her with everlasting life and glorifying her body.
In heaven, Our Lady continues to serve her Son by praying for us, His people. Like a good mother, she brings our needs to her Son. She has not forgotten us who strive to follow her Son under the burdens of this earthly life. In all our needs, we can turn to her because she knows what it is like to struggle, she knows what it is like to go without and she knows what it is like to suffer. In Mary, we literally have “a friend in high places” who will never forget us and will pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
Mary is “blessed among all women” but we are also blessed because we have come to believe in her Son and strive to keep His word in all we do. With the help of Our Lady’s prayers, we can be confident that we will continue to grow in grace until we too are called to share in Jesus’ victory over sin and death and take our place in the Heavenly Kingdom praising God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit forever with Mary and all the saints in glory.