A Hymn for the Annunciation

Anything that involves Mary seems to make non-Catholic Christians nervous and edgy, like something horribly idolatrous is about to happen.  This is really rather unfortunate, as there is a wealth of good biblical things to say about the Blessed Virgin.  I’ve posted some reflections on her before, and have been amused to observe over the past several months that it has risen to one my blog’s most-viewed articles.  Apparently lots of people have been searching for “Psalms of Mother Mary” or versions thereof.

Nevertheless, today is the Feast of the Annunciation, the day we celebrate the day the archangel Gabriel appearing to Mary to announce God’s plan of redemption, and she gives her assent, uttering the famous words, fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum (be it unto me according to your word).  Rather than harp on about this theologically, I figured this time I’d look at a hymn written for this feast day.  The following is hymn #269 in the 1980 Episcopal Hymnal, Ye who claim the faith of Jesus.

Ye who claim the faith of Jesus, sing the wonders that were done
when the love of God the Father over sin the victory won,
when he made the Virgin Mary mother of his only Son.
Hail Mary, full of grace.

Blessed were the chosen people out of whom the Lord did come;
blessed was the land of promise fashioned for his earthly home;
but more blessed far the mother, she who bore him in her womb.
Hail Mary, full of grace.

Therefore let all faithful people sing the honor of her name;
let the Church, in her foreshadowed, part in her thanksgiving claim;
what Christ’s mother sang in gladness let Christ’s people sing the same.
Hail Mary, full of grace.

“Magnify, my soul, God’s greatness; in my Savior I rejoice;
all the ages call me blessed, in his praise I left my voice;
he has cast down all the mighty, and the lowly are his choice.”
Hail Mary, full of grace.

(The lyrics were written by Vincent Stuckey Stratton Coles, except for the “Hail Mary” line and the 4th stanza which are both from the Gospel of Luke.)

Verse 1 starts us off in normal familiar territory: singing God’s praises in response to the Gospel.  In particular, it brings our attention to the event of the Annunciation.  Then verse 2 gets into the large-scale biblical context for the Annuncation: the people of Israel were blessed to be God’s chosen people through whom the Messiah would come, as is its land, and finally, as is the one Israelite chosen to be his mother.  This is an important scheme he’s working out: the Israelites, their land, and Mary herself, are blessed and significant because of Jesus.

Sometimes we tend to think of Israel as being an inherently blessed people-group; they’re special because God called them to himself, gave them a covenant and the Law of Moses, and delivered them out of Egypt.  But if that’s all that causes us to think they’re blessed above all others, then we’re thinking like Jews!  Are they not significant and blessed solely because of God’s plan to bring about, through them, the salvation of the world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ?  It is Jesus who makes Israel significant in the Old Testament, just as it is is Jesus who makes the Church significant in the New Testament.

Mary, then, is in a unique place in this framework.  She’s both the last Israelite who leads to Jesus, as well as the prototype Christian who follows Jesus.  That’s what we see in verse 3 – the Church is “in her foreshadowed.”  Therefore, with Mary as a type/shadow of the Church, we are called to join in the words of thanksgiving and praise that she offers to God, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, and summarized in verse 4.  In the course of her song of praise, known as the Magnificat, she declares that “all generations shall call me Blessed.”  This is because of what has just been described through this hymn: Mary is the culmination of the reality that Israel points to Jesus, and Mary is the beginning of the reality that the Church comes from Jesus.  And so if Israel is blessed because of Jesus, and the Church is blessed because of Jesus, so too is Mary blessed because of Jesus.  She’s the living link between Israel and the Church in terms of the earthly reception of Christ Jesus.

And thus we can exclaim with Gabriel the archangel, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and follow it up with the exclamation of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!”  For in her, we see the summary point of all God’s faithful people past, present, and future, all together blessed because of our Lord and our God, Jesus.

About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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2 Responses to A Hymn for the Annunciation

  1. Pingback: the Blessed Theological Mary | Leorningcnihtes boc

  2. Pingback: the Blessed Mother Mary | Leorningcnihtes boc

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