Part 6 in our series on the “Hail Mary”.
I am late on this week’s post because we had a baby Saturday morning. Welcome, Catherine Rose!
“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Elizabeth’s words make a parallel between the way Mary – and we – are blessed and the way Jesus is blessed. He shares his blessings with us. Our blessing is no less nor more than his. It flows from his blessings, and then returns back to him.
This too can be called the very heart of the Hail Mary, and the heart of the Gospel: to say, “Blessed is Jesus.” We pray this through all the mysteries of the Rosary: Blessed is Jesus, announced to Mary, and incarnate in her womb; visiting through Mary the visitor; born in poverty; presented by Joseph and Mary; found in the temple. Blessed is Jesus in agony, scourged, crowned with thorns, carrying the cross, crucified and dead and buried. Blessed is Jesus sending the Holy Spirit, carrying his mother to heaven, crowning Mary. Blessed is Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom, transfigured, giving us the Eucharist.
This is, in fact, one of the traditional methods that St. Louis de Montfort recommends to make our rosaries bear real spiritual fruit: to add after the name of Jesus a very brief description of the mystery we are praying, “Jesus, baptized in the Jordan.” If we do nothing else in the rosary but bless Jesus in each of the mysteries, we will have drunk deeply.
And of course we can add other words. Blessed be Jesus my faith, my hope, my love. Blessed be Jesus in this trial, in this small victory, on this happy day, as I begin my work. Or just blessed be Jesus, whenever we can pray.
This is the heart of the Hail Mary. And, conversely, to surround this blessing of Jesus with the Hail Mary is to enter more deeply into it. Because above all, we pray, Blessed be Jesus, who brings joy (Ave!) to Mary, who fills her with grace, who is with her. Blessed is Jesus who makes her holy, who is her child. Blessed is Jesus to whom Mary prays for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Blessed be Jesus!
In his letter on the Rosary, Pope John Paul II wrote: “The centre of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus. Sometimes, in hurried recitation, this centre of gravity can be overlooked, and with it the connection to the mystery of Christ being contemplated. Yet it is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to his mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary.”
Let us carefully invoke his holy name, and so discover the riches of the Hail Mary.
Blessed is Jesus: this is the content of heaven. “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3). “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna, to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12).
“Holy,” “Glory,” “Blessed,” “Hosanna,” “Worthy.” There really is nothing else in heaven to prepare for than to bless Jesus. In heaven we will do nothing but bless him forever. Praying the Hail Mary well – praying “Blessed is Jesus,” with the words that surround and emphasize that central affirmation – is practice for heaven.
It is worth considering how the rest of our lives prepare for heaven precisely insofar as they participate in this blessing. The Commandments mark out things completely inconsistent with blessing Jesus. But really to bless him is to be patient and kind; not to be envious, or puffed up; not to seek our own, but to rejoice in the good (1 Corinthians 13). To bless Jesus in all things.
How do you bless Jesus, in your prayer and in your work?