Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 5: "Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women"

Blessed art thou amongst women

1. Exegesis. These words were pronounced by St. Elizabeth during Mary's visit. St. Luke says that "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a strong voice: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!'" (Lk 1:41-42). Notice the repetition of the word "blessed": the mother and the son follow the same line and the blessing of God falls on both. The phrase "among women" raises the adjective "blessed" even to the supernatural, for it is equivalent to saying "blessed are you among all women," as we translate in the Spanish. It is an eastern mode of speaking that supplies for the lack of superlatives by using the positive degree of comparison ([cf. Jdg 5:24: "Blessed among women be Jahel, the wife of Haber the Cinite, and blessed be she in her tent")].

2. Theology. Listen to St. Thomas [(Expositio salutationis angelicæ, article 1-2: "The Lord is with you"; "Blessed are you among women"; trans. by Joseph B. Collins (New York 1939); available here:]:
[In the third place, t]he Blessed Virgin exceeds the Angels in purity. She is not only pure, but she obtains purity for others. She is purity itself, wholly lacking in every guilt of sin, for she never incurred either mortal or venial sin. So, too, she was free from the penalties of sin. Sinful man, on the contrary, incurs a threefold curse on account of sin. 
The first fell upon woman who conceives in corruption, bears her child with difficulty, and brings it forth in pain. The Blessed Virgin was wholly free from this, since she conceived without corruption, bore her Child in comfort, and brought Him forth in joy: “It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise” [Is 35:2]. 
The second penalty was inflicted upon man in that he shall earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. The Blessed Virgin was also immune from this because, as the Apostle says, virgins are free from the cares of this world and are occupied wholly with the things of the Lord [1 Cor 7:34]. 
The third curse is common both to man and woman in that both shall one day return to dust. The Blessed Virgin was spared this penalty, for her body was raised up into heaven, and so we believe that after her death she was revived and transported into heaven: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place, You and the ark which You hast sanctified” [Ps 131:8]. 
Because the Blessed Virgin was immune from these punishments, she is “blessed among women.” Moreover, she alone escaped the curse of sin, brought forth the Source of blessing, and opened the gate of heaven. It is surely fitting that her name is “Mary,” which is akin to the Star of the Sea (“Maria—maris stella”), for just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so also Christians are by Mary guided to glory.
In order to explain why we ought to bless Mary among all women, the contemporary author whom we have cited above writes with piety and unction [(Fr. Barcon, S.J.)]:
For being the Mother of God, chosen and preferred above all women.
For being both mother and virgin, utterly unique among all women.
For being conceived without Original Sin, solely among all women.
For being holier than all the women saints of the world.
For being the most sweet Mother of all men.
For being our Advocate, the Refuge of sinners, the Consolation of the afflicted, the Help of Christians, the Queen of peace.
Because God—O Virgin Mary!—was pleased to look upon you, and thus, as you yourself have said, all generations shall call you blessed.
And all mortals shall invoke you and praise you and bless you.
And altars, temples, and hermitages on the heights of the mountains, in the valleys, and through all the earth shall be raised for you, and they shall be offered to you as a testimony of gratitude and love.
And they shall say: Blessed a thousand times, O Virgin of the Pillar!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of the Helpless!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of the Anguished!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of Montserrat!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of Begoña, Virgin of the Fields, Virgin of the Remedies of Fuensanta, Virgin of Guadalupe!
Blessed for being more beautiful than Rachel.
Blessed for being purer than Susannah.
Blessed for being more powerful than Esther.
Blessed for being more valiant and stronger than Judith.
Blessed for being more prudent than Abigail.
You are the joy of Israel, the honor and happiness of our people! [Cf. Jdt 15:10]
Help us, O Lady, to praise you, to bless you, and to rejoice in your company in heaven unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 451-453.

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