We begin this year placing ourselves under the maternal and loving gaze of Mary Most Holy, celebrated in today’s liturgy as Mother of God. Thus we take up once again the journey along the paths of history, entrusting our anxieties and our torments to her who can do everything.
These were the initial words with which Pope Francis started his first Angelus address for the year 2021, in the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God and in the World Day of Peace. Mary offers to us her maternal loving gaze. Her gaze is really what we need. Hers is a gaze of utmost care. As the Holy Father said at the conclusion of this year’s 54th World Day of Peace message, entitled A culture of care as a path to peace: As Christians, we should always look to Our Lady, Star of the Sea and Mother of Hope. And, we look to her because it is thanks to her maternal support that we really can we work together to advance towards a new horizon of love and peace, of fraternity and solidarity, of mutual support and acceptance (no. 9). It is thanks to her continual intercession that we can strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, “to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another”.
Mary is the Mother and Carer of the community. We rightly invoke her in the Litany of Loreto as the Queen of Peace. As Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians: He (Christ) is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2:14). What do we pray before we receive the Eucharist? Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace. It is interesting noting that the first two prayers of Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have the same ending: have mercy on us. Only in the third prayer, which is practically the repetition of its two preceding ones, ends differently: grant us peace. In other words, the Eucharistic’s sacrificial and salvific dimension has the aim of portraying to us Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world by giving us His peace. In giving us his peace He is having mercy on us!
Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). For Him Isaiah prophesied: Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore (Isa. 9:7). In his Kingdom the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them (Isa.11:6). The Lukan Gospel tells us that the first song around Jesus’ Crib was an angelic one heralding peace. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased! (Luke 2:14). As soon as He started his public mission He began to insist precisely on peace: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matt.5:9). Just before going for His passion, death and resurrection His Last will and testament was about peace. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (John 14:27). His death on Calvary brought His peace on us, dearly paid by His precious Blood. When He rose from the dead He uninterrupted greeting ran the following: Peace be with you (John 20:19.21.26). Hence, Jesus is the Prince of Peace from the beginning till the very end! Now I can now understand why Augustine would say in his Confessions: Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God and our hearts shall never have rest until they rest in Thee.
We call Mary as the Queen of Peace. Pope Francis made a beautiful reflection on this Marian title when, in his Angelus Address of January 4, 2015, he said: Let us now invoke Mary, Queen of Peace. During her life on earth, she met many difficulties, related to the daily toils of life. But she never lost peace of heart, the fruit of faithful abandonment to God’s mercy. Let us ask Mary, our gentle Mother, to show the entire world the sure way of love and peace. That is why in the collect of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Peace we pray:Lord our God, you sent your only Son to bring peace to our world. Through the intercession of Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, hear our earnest prayer; grant that our times may be tranquil, so that we may live in peace as one family, united in love for one another.
The effects of Mary’s intercession are tranquility, peace, unity and love for another. If such are the fruits that emerge from Mary, Mother of God and Our Mother, then how beautiful and true is that very beautiful Greek Marian hymn composed by Saint Nectarios of Aegina in the late 19th century, called Agni Parthene (in Greek: Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε), rendered as O Virgin Pure” or O Pure Virgin. In it we notice that its first three strophes aptly describe the attributes of the theotokos whilst the fourth strophe talks about a prayer for intercession to Our Lady. Here are the lyrics of this paraliturgical hymn, in other words, a hymn that is solely used outside of liturgical services.
O pure and virgin Lady,/ O spotless Theotokos
R: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!
O Virgin Queen and Mother/ O dewy fleece most sacred
O height transcending heaven above/ O beam of light most radiant
O joy of chaste and virgin maids/ surpassing all the angels
O brilliant light of heaven above/ most clear and most radiant
Commanding chief of heavenly hosts/ O holiest of holies
O ever-virgin Mary/ O Mistress of creation
O Bride all-pure and spotless/ O Lady all-holy
O holy Mary, Bride and Queen/ and cause of our rejoicing
O Maiden Queen most hon’rable/ O Mother most holy
More precious than the cherubim/ more glorious than the seraphim
Surpassing principalities/ dominions, thrones and powers
Rejoice, song of the cherubim/ Rejoice, hymn of the angels
Rejoice, ode of the seraphim/ and joy of the archangels
Rejoice, O peace; Rejoice, O joy/ and haven of salvation
O bridal chamber of the Word/ unfading, fragrant blossom
Rejoice, delight of paradise/ Rejoice, life everlasting
Rejoice, O holy tree of life/ and fount of immortality
I supplicate thee, Lady/ I humbly call upon thee
O Queen of all, I beg thee/ to grant me thy favour
O spotless and most honored maid/ O Lady all holy
[I call upon thee fervently/ thou temple most holy]
O thou my help, deliver me/ from harm and all adversity
And by thy prayers show me to be/ an heir of immortality
If you and I want to be heirs of immortality let us place ourselves under the maternal and loving gaze of Mary Most Holy! As she told us in Medjugorje on June 16th 1983: I have come to tell the world that God is truth; He exists. True happiness and the fullness of life are in Him. I have come here as Queen of Peace to tell the world that peace is necessary for the salvation of the world. In God, one finds true joy from which true peace is derived.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap