DAY 21: “MOTHER OF MERCY” (MATER MISERICORDIAE)
Having concluded the original Marian titles in the Litany of Loreto, we shall now examine the additional titles recently included by Pope Francis. “Mater Misericordiae” (Mother of Mercy), “Mater Spei” (Mother of Hope) and “Solacium Migrantium” (Comfort of Migrants) are the three new invocations inserted in the Litany of Our Lady, which traditionally concludes the prayer of the Rosary. The decision of the Holy Father was communicated by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in a letter (dated June 20, 2020) addressed to the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect and Secretary of the Vatican Dicastery respectively. Part of the letter reads: “The titles and invocations which Christian piety has reserved for the Virgin Mary over the course of the centuries, as the privileged and sure way to an encounter with Christ, are innumerable. Even in this present moment which is marked by feelings of uncertainty and trepidation, devout recourse to her, which is full of affection and trust, is deeply felt by the People of God…” To this effect, the first invocation, “Mother of Mercy” (Mater Misericordiae) will be inserted after “Mother of the Church” (Mater Ecclesiae), the second, “Mother of Hope” (Mater Spei) will be invoked after “Mother of Divine Grace” (Mater Divinae Gratiae) and the third, “Comfort of Migrants” (Solacium Migrantium) will be added after “Refuge of Sinners” (Refugium Peccatorum). Today, being the twenty-first day of our October Devotion, we shall be contemplating “Mother of Mercy” (Mater Misericordiae). Why do we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of Mercy?”
The title “Mother of Mercy,” was given for the first time to the Blessed Virgin by Saint Odo (†942), abbot of Cluny, as a way of honouring her because she gave birth to Jesus Christ, the visible Mercy of the invisible Merciful God, and because she is the spiritual mother of the faithful, full of grace and mercy. In fact, the Mother of Jesus, now in Heaven, presents the needs of the faithful to her Son, whom, when on earth, she pleaded in favour of the couple at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1-11).
The ecclesial tradition made the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) prayer come to the hearts of the faithful. In it, the Virgin Mary is invoked with the title “Mater Misericordiae” (Mother of Mercy). What made the Virgin of Nazareth recognized and invoked with such a divine name? The Church has always taught that all of Mary’s merits have their origin in Christ Jesus. There is no Marian devotion that is consequently not the way for the Son and, from Him to the Father. As Pope Paul VI reminds us in the introductory part of his “Marialis Cultus”: “The development, desired by us, of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is an indication of the Church’s genuine piety. This devotion fits as we have indicated above into the only worship that is rightly called “Christian,” because it takes its origin and effectiveness from Christ, finds its complete expression in Christ, and leads through Christ in the Spirit to the Father. In the sphere of worship, this devotion necessarily reflects God’s redemptive plan, in which a special form of veneration is appropriate to the singular place which Mary occupies in that plan. Indeed every authentic development of Christian worship is necessarily followed by a fitting increase of veneration for the Mother of the Lord.”
In proclaiming an Extraordinary Jubilee for the celebration of God’s Mercy in 2016, Pope Francis invites the People of God to fix their gaze on Christ Jesus, “Misericordiae Vultus” (The Face of Mercy). And, in that look, marvel at the Father’s mercy, just as Mary marvelled at the Magnificat (cf. Lk. 1: 46-55). In other words, at the Magnificat, Our Lady sings of Mercy, sings the joyful love of God, who returns happiness to a saddened world. She is the first Daughter of God’s mercy; and, at the same time, she is the Mother of the God of Mercy: that is why we call her ‘Mater Misericordiae.’
The divine look of the Father comes to us through the human face of the Son. God the Father first “looked” at the humility of the Virgin Mary (cf. Lk 1:48) because she, as a servant, made herself available to her Lord’s saving will, saying: “Let it be done to me!” (cf. Lk 1:38). From that “fiat,” the Saviour was born. And so, in her humble life story, Mary contemplated the Father’s merciful face. First, because she recognized that in the entire history of her people, “The Almighty has done great things and his mercy endures from generation to generation” (Lk 1:49) and also that her Lord remembered his people because of his mercy (cf. Lk 1:54). Second, because it was she who generated the face of mercy in her own womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:31). And not only did she generate Him, but it was also she who first contemplated taking Him in her arms, protecting and wrapping Him in swaddling cloths… (cf. Lk 2:6-7). What ineffable joy, what divine bliss! Contemplate God’s merciful face on a child’s face! We rightly call it “full of grace” because there is no greater grace than to behold the mercy of God. Thus, Mary, with her fiat, gave us a merciful face, maternally and piously (cf. Lk 2:22). And with old Simeon, contemplating that sacred face, we bless and adore the Father “because our eyes have seen salvation” (cf. Lk 2:30).
Above all, dear friends in Christ, invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of Mercy,” we contemplate the glory of the Father in the face of the Son, which has visited us through Mary’s fiat. Therefore, we cry out to the Blessed Virgin Mary many times as we walk in the “valley of tears,” in pain and suffering, etc. Let us resort to her, the New Eve because in our sins we see ourselves as “poor banished children of the first Eve.” May “Mary’s merciful eyes” turn to us, and after our exile, show unto us the “blessed fruit of her womb” – the Face of Mercy.
Let Us Pray:
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
Oh “Mother of Mercy” (Mater Misericordiae), pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?