Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mother of God

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death”
Sometimes we say the Hail Mary so fast, that we don’t take a second to examine the words and their meanings.  Why do we call Mary the “Mother of God,” and why do we say “at the hour of death”?

First, Mary has lots of nicknames: Immaculate Conception, Mother of Sorrows, Queen of Peace, the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Our Lady (or in French Notre Dame), Our Lady of Victory, Lourdes, Angels, Fatima, Guadalupe, etc.  None of these titles is more important than Mother of God.

The Catholic Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Mother of God because her son Jesus is both God and man: one Divine Person with two natures (Divine and human).  He was a little boy born in a manger, and he is also the Supreme Deity and Creator of the Universe.  Therefore, Mary is both mother of a human and Mother of God.  And as Mother, Mary accompanies God with reflection, love, and prayer.  As an intercessor for us, her children, she prays for us now, and when we need her most (at the hour of death). 

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death.”  The hour of death is another way of saying we need her prayers because it is highly likely that we had not used every waking moment for the praise and glory of God.  So, when we die, and realize how we had wasted our days, we sinners really need her support.  One of the biggest sins we commit is to let life slip away without our even knowing it.

I heard a story on NPR radio this morning about a new device that will be released this April.  It is called Tikker.  It is a watch device that counts down the days, minutes seconds and hours til your death.  “Now and at the hour of our death.”

It was invented by a Swede, Fredrik Colting, a former gravedigger who invented the gadget not as a morbid novelty item, but in an earnest attempt to change his own thinking.  He wanted some sort of reminder to not sweat the small stuff and reach for what matters. He calls Tikker, "the happiness watch."  It's his belief that watching your life slip away will remind you to savor life while you have it.

As a little experiment, I went to another web site called Death Clock.com where you can enter a few biographical details and determine your day of death.  My death clock profile says I need to be on the lookout for Saturday June 1, 2047, when I will be approaching my 93rd birthday.  I have over a billion seconds to live. The worst part: as I watched the screen timer count down the seconds, I felt like time was slipping away.  Which it is!  Another stark message:  YOLO (You only live once)!

Many people fear the moment of death, but I would agree with others that nothing is more terrifying than the thought of letting your life slip away without ever being who you wanted to be, doing what you wanted to do, or going where you wanted to go.
So, I need Mary’s prayers, not to step in at the last minute, but to step in NOW and help me appreciate the blessing of being Patrick Fairbanks.  I take inspiration from all three readings for the Catholic Solemnity observed on January 1:  Mary, the Mother of God.

First, the reading from Numbers is a blessing, taught by Moses to Aaron and other priests. 
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Ever since the days of Moses, we are to see our lives as blessed.  A blessing in action. To the Mother of God we pray:  blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  Appreciate every moment from your birth to your death as a blessing, so as to draw fruit from every second.

In the second reading from Galatians, Paul assures us, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son.”  So that means every second ticking by for us is not necessarily a threat but can be a drawing closer to God’s coming in fullness for you. Your death clock is not something to fear, but a favor.  Your life is full of grace: now, and now, and also now, and again now …

Finally, in the Gospel from Luke we read, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” As the Mother of God, Mary continues to reflect and pray.  She loves us and intercedes for us when our prayers and time seems wasted.  WE could call her Mary Help of Procrastinators.  That is why, when we close the Hail Mary, we use her most important title to ask her prayers for us sinners, we who waste our days and weeks with sloth or petty trivia.

We ask her prayers to help us appreciate every hour of this great life.  Until the hour when we meet the Lord face to face.   "And remember that I am always with you until the end of time." (Matt 28:20)