“The Rosary and Blessedness” (12/21/10)

Rev. Br. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP

             In the proclamation of Elizabeth today, we hear three times the word “blessed.”   Elizabeth says to Mary, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” And a little later, “Blessed are you who believed.”

 A little like the triple-Alleluia, this triple-blessed accents God’s blessing. As Emmanuel has begun his descent among us, abiding in Mary’s womb, the Holy Spirit inspires Elizabeth to speak of God’s blessing.

            So John Paul II, in Redemptoris Mater, links Elizabeth’s words of blessing to that marvelous canticle of blessing in Ephesians 1, from Monday Vespers. For it tells of the heavenly Father “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…to the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

     Seeing Elizabeth’s words against the backdrop of Ephesians 1 highlights the profundity of Mary’s blessedness. But it also situates Mary in the context of all those God has blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Mary is the first and highest member of the Church. She excels all other members, no doubt, yet she also shared with them the same basic contours of the pilgrimage of faith.

 Hence John Paul II focuses on the line, “Blessed is she who believed.”   He says, “In the expression, ‘Blessed is she who believed,’ we can find a kind of ‘key’ which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary, whom the angel hailed as ‘full of grace.’” In other words, key to Mary’s inner life was her constant fiat to God’s word and promise. This is the only fitting response to the glory of God’s grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved…and with which he made Mary full of grace. And this is the response we can give, so it might be said of us, “Blessed are we who believed.”

 To close here’s a possible idea for praying the Rosary. As we echo Elizabeth’s words in the Hail Mary’s, we might sometimes recall this backdrop of Ephesians 1. For the Ave’s set up a rhythmic repetition of “blessed.” “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.” We first turn to the blessings of the New Covenant offered to all and given especially to the lowly Handmaid who believed: Blessed art thou among women.

 Then we move on to praise the Fountain of all blessing, the Beloved in whom we have been blessed: “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.” Now the notion of “blessing” entails “a communication of life from Yahweh to man.” So Jesus, the union of God and man, we can say is God’s Blessing made flesh, God’s Blessing Incarnate.

 Over the next few days, then, we await the breaking forth of this Incarnate Blessing from the womb of the Virgin who believed. And we await with renewed belief the breaking forth of his blessing into our lives.  

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