Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ending Each Rosary ~ Mary As Queen!

Mary as Queen with angels and stars.

THIS PAINTING DEPICTS THE PRECISE MOMENT when Jesus, having seated his Mother next to him, is placing a queen's crown on her head. Mary is Queen, but Queen Mother. And historically the Queen Mother has often been so highly regarded, revered and loved because she is the one most close to her people. She sees their suffering and becomes their solicitous advocate and helper. She's more wise than others and responsive in love. 

There's also an entourage of angels gathered around the back of the throne. They're watching and taking peaceful pleasure in what they see. It appears that some have their hands folded  in prayer. I prefer to think they're clapping - sharing the joy. They might well be happy for us too, as a crown is reserved for you and me. Saint James tells us in his beautiful letter:

Blessed is anyone who perseveres when trials come. Such a person is of proven worth and will win the prize of life; the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

See the cosmic opening above the throne: the stars, sun and moon. Years ago, even before my ordination, I heard a Norbertine priest give a series of talks on Liturgy and Advent Symbolism. Along the way he referenced Mary, symbolized by the moon. One woman, clearly irritated, called out, "No woman should be reflected by the moon; the moon is a reflected light." Somehow I can't imagine Mary grousing that she's imaged by a reflected light. And symbols can't please everybody - especially moderns with their ever changing agendas. But notice this: here on earth we experience the moon in its beautiful phases. And while yes, Mary is symbolized by the moon, it is the moon in its first crescent phase. That is to say,  in Mary, something beautiful, delicate, new and promising is beginning. 


THE OFFICIAL PRAYER OF THE CHURCH is called The Liturgy of the Hours. The Church day is broken up with pauses for prayer, the two principle parts or hinges are Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer with little stops in between. But each day ends with Compline, which is also simply called Night Prayer. At the end of Compline there is always a kind of good-night hymn to the Virgin Mary. During the Ordinary Time of the year, when the Christmas and Easter seasons are completed, the hymn is always the Hail Holy Queen - in Latin: it is called Salve Regina. YouTube Salve Regina to hear it sung. Anyway, over time, as the rosary took shape, to pray the Hail Holy Queen became traditional and standard. The prayer is full of a tender intimacy with the Mother of God.

Hail Holy Queen.
Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy towards us,
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

When I was a young priest, I had a classmate who refused to pray the prayer because he disapproved of calling the world a valley of tears. This struck me as odd, since his parish was poor and reflected all of the problems that come with poverty: insecurity, violence, abortion, poor education, unattended sickness, loneliness, domestic violence, unemployment. Maybe since then, having seen more of life, he's changed his mind.

But here's a most interesting aspect of the prayer. The Salve Regina was written by a monk who suffered from an incapacitating neurological illness - perhaps what we would know today as Spina bifida or polio. And yet, for all the misery that would have caused him and the misery of the medieval world in which he lived, he acknowledged that suffering world and turned his sighs to heaven.

Turn then most gracious advocate your eyes of mercy towards us. How fortunate we are that the monk's words are still with us - that this insight has been passed down over hundreds of years and shared with us who have our own experience of this world, which while indeed a paradise, is also for many and perhaps all of us in some respect, a valley of tears. 

The Dali Lama tells of visiting a profoundly wealthy family for dinner: penthouse apartment, servants, other residences away from the city, cars, boats, travel. They had seemingly everything. When he went to use the bathroom he tells of the medicine cabinet having been left ajar. Maybe he peaked. And inside were shelves of medications for depression and anxiety. Our inner world can be a valley of tears. Pray this prayer often, and not just at the end of the rosary, and it will start to spring automatically to mind when life is unpleasant, harsh, irksome or painful.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy..

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