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Litany of Loreto - Vessel of Honour

Saturday, February 12, 2011

By the "unique and unrepeatable fact" that Mary was truly the Mother of God, the Theotokos or God-bearer, she is honoured. She is the new Ark of the Covenant, the place where God chooses to rest. She was the vessel that not only carried Christ in her womb but gave him his human nature. This intimate relationship with the Word itself made flesh elevates her in the created order and amongst humanity. However to think of Mary as just some sort of passive incubation chamber for the incarnate Word would not only be false, it would also be a somewhat perverse view not only of her motherhood but of motherhood in general. We can also think of Mary as a vessel in a nautical sense. A ship carries cargo and its destination is determined by the cargo but its crew must navigate the oceans to reach port.

During our Lord's public ministry, a woman in a crowd once exclaimed "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!". Christ replies, some might say rather surprisingly, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!". In saying this Christ does not dismiss the blessedness of His mother but emphasises her faithful cooperation with God and His grace. Mary responded to God's call at the Annunciation, and throughout her life pondered upon the Word made flesh in her heart. It is for this reason that we can also call Mary a model for the Church. By following her example the Church, as Pope John Paul II said, achieves "a fruitful spiritual motherhood". The image of the Church as a ship has often been used and it is apt in this instance. If we follow the lead of the pride of the fleet, the Star of the Sea and the Lord's Vessel of Honour, we too can cross the ocean to the promised new world.

Mark Davoren


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