Praying the ‘Hail Mary’: Honouring Mary as the Mother of God, without diminishing her humanity

Anne Inman writes on how to pray the ‘Hail Mary’, giving to Mary the honour she is due as Mother of God while at the same time respecting her full humanity.

Mary, the embodiment of faith and the Mother of God
In an Advent Reflection in my church in Hartley, Kent, which has a shrine to Our Lady of Hartley, I discussed how Mary most perfectly lived out the life of faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Mary is the ‘most perfect embodiment’ of the faith we find in Abraham (144). This present reflection is based on a talk first given at a virtual pilgrimage to her shrine. It asks how we might most appropriately honour Mary as the Mother of God without seeming to cut her off from her humanity.
As a good place to start, I will begin by stressing once more that Mary’s life provides the perfect example of the faith we associate with Abraham.

After accepting God’s plan for him as revealed by the Lord, Abraham left his country, his kindred and his father’s house and set out into a land he did not know (Gen. 12.1).1 In a similar way, after accepting God’s will for her at the Annunciation, Mary immediately set out. First, she travelled to the hill country of Judaea to visit Elizabeth. Her second trip was again to Judaea to be registered at Bethlehem, and from there, Matthew tells us that she went down into Egypt (a land she did not know) before returning to Galilee (Mt. 2.13–23).

Difficult as these journeys would have been for her during her pregnancy and then with the threat of assassination hanging over her infant child, she had already made the more momentous break from her previous life. When she accepted to become a mother outside marriage, she was stepping outside the patriarchal family structure, which had afforded her security and protection, and it must have seemed a real possibility that she would bring dreadful shame upon both herself and her family. This was surely an extraordinary act of faith; a terrifying step into the unknown. Both literally and symbolically, like Abraham, she set out to lands she did not know.

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