What a fascinating concept for a book: Sarah Reinhard and her 41 contributors unpack the Hail Mary one word at a time, and the result is the perfect blending of personal testimony and Catholic theology.
"Lex orandi, lex credendi" - the Church believes as she prays. The Hail Mary is a theological gold mine and Reinhard and her contributors dazzled me with their ability to point out the sizeable theological nuggets hidden in plain sight. The first reflection, Fr. Patrick Toner's for the word "Hail," is a perfect example:
"To greet [Mary] is to acknowledge that she is present to us" (p.7)."Hail" as a one word testimony to the Communion of Saints! This book had me hooked right there. It is the best kind of theology, that done on one's knees: prayer yields insight, and that insight launches one back into prayer. I found it in reflections over even the most seemingly insignificant words of the Hail Mary. Listen to contributor Val J. Bianco:
Of is a preposition meaning "from." It can indicate ownership or position, neither of which has any meaning unless the word forms a bridge between two other words. Here, those words are Mother and God...Mary is of God in that she is from him, and in her fiat she completely belongs to him. Jesus, in turn, is of her in that his humanity springs from her. His genetic code, eyes, hair color, blood type, and smile are all of his mother, Mary.Take that thought with you into today's praying of the Hail Mary; I guarantee that you will be the richer for it.
I was also drawn into this book by the personal connection each author felt to the Blessed Mother and the important role the Hail Mary played in their lives. Their witnesses allowed me to recognize what a small mental world I inhabit when praying the Hail Mary and to appreciate the many different notes it strikes in the souls of my brothers and sisters.
Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary is an amazing tool to bring into your prayer life, especially as we enter Advent. With one reflection for each of the 42 words of the Hail Mary, I urge you to pick up a copy now; and let it enrich your approach to the great feasts that lie ahead: the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Christmas, and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.