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Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy
The prayer Hail, Holy Queen which we recite after the Rosary is a most ancient and beautiful prayer. Known by its Latin name, Salve Regina, it was sung both in the liturgy and in monasteries, perhaps 1,000 years ago.
The origin of the prayer and hymn is uncertain, but by the 13th century, it was an integral part of monastic life, and was adopted by the Benedictines, the Cistercians and the Dominicans. In the classical music repertoire, the hymn has been set to music by various composers, including Palestrina and Handel.
At the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations) was a central document, being the dogmatic constitution of the Church in the modern world.
Chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium is devoted to Mary, the Mother of God. Later suggestions that the Council diminished the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation are quite wrong, as subsequent popes, including St John Paul II and Pope Francis, have repeatedly confirmed.
In the Hail, Holy Queen, we declare that Mary is "Holy", is "Queen", and is "Mother of Mercy".
Mary's holiness was confirmed by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, when the Angel said she was "full of grace" and added, "the Lord is with you". Her Queenship is a consequence of His divine Kingship, which Jesus affirmed before Pontius Pilate.
The Church has always understood that St John's Book of Revelation refers to Mary where it says, "A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth." (Rev. 12)
In some of her most famous apparitions, including to St Bridget of Sweden and St Faustina, Mary identified herself as "Mother of Mercy".
She is our "hope". We cry to Mary because before Mary's "Fiat" and the beginning of the work of our Redemption we were indeed "poor banished children of Eve" (the mother of all living) and in some ways we still are because we can no longer meet our creator face to face as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
Today we meet our God and creator only with the eyes of faith.
Original Sin (of our first parents) deprived us of the experience of visual and "face to face" intimacy. As we live on this earth – and it is His joy and ours that we do so – we are deprived of the same intimacy of our Heavenly Father as you and I have the visible and tangible intimacy with our own fathers, and as you and I have an intimacy with our children.
We sigh and are sad because of this barrier that prohibits us from embracing our Heavenly Father as we embrace our own children.
"This Valley of Tears" is the earth and our lives as we live them.
My own life is strewn with tears and all human beings in one way or another experience both sorrow and loss. The tragedies we witness in natural and man-made disasters often make us feel as if we could fill a whole valley with our tears (poetically). So collectively our tears and those of all humanity fill a whole valley.
"Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of Mercy towards us." This is a special title for Mary. Remember Jesus on the Cross gave her to us as "our Mother" so we can turn to her with confidence as our heavenly Mother.
As we turn to our human mothers for advocacy, comfort, support, intimate needs, so we turn to our heavenly Mother for comfort for our soul's needs, to help us to carry that heavy cross like my own deeply regretted two decisions which changed the trajectory of my life.
"And after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus."
In this exile/banishment from the embrace and vision of our heavenly Father, we ask, "Mum, when we come to the end of this journey, would you take me by the hand and introduce me to your Son who gave you to me and who brought me into a new and intimate relationship with Our Father in heaven?"
I believe, wholly, completely and totally, that I receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of my Lord Jesus when I receive the Eucharist; and, as I have said in the past, if I close my eyes I can see the beauty of the light of my Lord Jesus of the Transfiguration. But it is only through the imagination and not direct eyesight.
We are meant to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, but the reality is that we are not and while we remain on this earth we can and do fail the ideal. None of us is sinless. We all sin and fall far short of the glory of God. However, for this and for the reason of His great love for us, He has left us the remedy for our inclination towards failing the ideal.
Yes, Jesus has conquered the Sin of the World, but this knowledge has to be taken on board, acquired and made one's own, and again the reality is that we are human beings who are frail. As St Paul says, I want to do good things but I fail.
The prayer Hail, Holy Queen has written within it a most marvellous catechesis and if it could be delivered, it would open the eyes of the soul. Within this catechesis is the story of God, creation, sin, redemption and return to our Father.
To the best of our knowledge we seek Christ in His integrity, unbroken just as His Mother and Father gave Him to us. This is what the journey is all about: finding the complete Christ in His divine essence.
That we should love our enemy is a given. That we get hurt with our enemy's arrows is also a given. In our effort to forgive we enter more deeply into the mystery of the Cross; and through this, we find Christ.
Anne Lastman is a counsellor who specialises in post-abortion grief and assisting victims of sexual abuse. Her latest book, Hidden Pain: an Insight into Childhood Sexual Abuse, has just been published, and was reviewed in the November 2014 AD2000.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 28 No 1 (February 2015), p. 20
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