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Hail, Mary

I have been involved in Church music for a some time now, and the intense stage-fright I had at first has vanished. For the first few years, however, my sleep would occasionally be disturbed by what I called “out-of-control liturgy dreams.” Often in these dreams, everything would go well until we reached the moment of the Sanctus, and then I would realized that I didn’t have the music. No matter how hard I looked or how frantically, I couldn’t find it. The dream would end with my still searching for the Holy.

Of course, the symbolism of the dream didn’t escape me even then. Where was the Holy? How often do we find ourselves searching for the holy without seeming to find it? How often do we fail to see that the holy — as well as the Holy One — has been right there all along, around us and in us? The reign of God is very near — even “within you,” as Luke shows Jesus saying.

These days, when I pray the Hail Mary, I am aware, if only in a confused, foggy way, of the importance and the possibility of being able to recognize the holy. With the greeting, “Hail, Mary, full of grace,” I find myself somehow joining with the angel Gabriel — the first to speak these words — as he sees and welcomes the holy in an obscure town called Nazareth. It is mysteriously essential for me to be able to distinguish, with God’s angelic messenger, the locus of grace and to be led in this way to Jesus.

But this is not all. Gabriel’s brief salutation also calls me to be aware of the holy in my own life. For after all, each of us is also the locus of the holy, and surprisingly enough the holy dwells in situations and in people where we would least expect it — and sometimes where we least desire to acknowledge it. Therefore we greet the holy not only in Nazareth but right here, and with Gabriel we bow reverently as we welcome Jesus, the Holy One of God, into our world.

‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ (Exodus 3:5b)

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