We’re getting closer and closer to the break out of the O Antiphons, the seven Magnificat antiphons prayed from December 17-24 that are best known by those who do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily as the seven verses of the hit Advent song, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Naturally, those antiphons will serve as reflection centerpieces for those seven days, which leaves us with two days before the countdown begins.
So today, I want to share a prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi that is likely to be new to many people out there. An undated work, this prayer is a reflection Francis wrote in honor of Mary and is unique in many ways. For example, in the first stanza of the prayer, Francis refers to Mary as the “Virgin made Church,” a title that is original to Francis. His theological insight here is that Mary is the first to “house Christ,” the first to be — in a sense, quite literally — part of the Body of Christ. Likewise, the Church — the Body of Christ, which is all the baptized — is called to house Christ today.
This theme is carried through the rest of the prayer, particularly in the second section in which Francis lists a number of titles that highlight this sense of housing, carrying and caring for Christ. There is a richness in the way that Francis invokes the Holy Spirit and presents a strong pneumatological theme throughout the prayer, associating, always, God’s work as Spirit in the lives of those who bear Christ.
For Francis, Mary is indeed the model of what it means to be a Christian, bearing the Word internally and bringing to birth Christ each and every day. As Mother Teresa is remembered to have said, “Christ has no hands or feet but yours.” As the Body of Christ, as the faithful joyfully awaiting the coming of the Lord, we are called — by the Holy Spirit and like Mary — to bring Christ to birth in our world.
A Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Hail, O Lady,
Mary, holy Mother of God,
Who are the Virgin made Church,
chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven
whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son
and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is
all fullness of grace and every good.
Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Dwelling!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!
And hail all You holy virtues
which are poured into the hearts of the faithful
through the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit,
that from being unbelievers,
You may make them faithful to God.