HE BLESSED VIRGIN Mary is often depicted in art and in song as “meek” and “mild.” “Humble” and “lowly” are perhaps even better descriptions. But those adjectives are mistaken for submission and weakness.
Rather, humility and accepting a lowly state is a display of unprecedented strength. Only a person filled with great strength could possess the qualities of meekness and lowliness. The Magnificat is a profound manifesto of praise for God, coming from a woman of great inner confidence, self-knowledge, and power. How bold it is to say:
“For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
No, Mary was not simply unknowing and along for the ride. Consider, her strength was apparent from beginning until the end: from the visit of the Angel Gabriel in her “Yes!” to God, to pushing Jesus into his public ministry at the wedding feast at Cana, to enduring her own agony at the foot of the Cross. Such was the strength of Mary’s confidence in Jesus.
HILE RECENTLY REHEARSING the familiar Mode I “Ave Maria” with my choir, I reminded them of Mary’s extraordinary strength. I asked them to consider that very distinct opening melody of the chant. It is sturdy and purposeful. It is to be sung not only with conviction, but with energy. Such can be said of the familiar “Salve Regina” and “Ave Maris Stella.” These are melodies that are sturdy and enduring. They are not precious relics but bold foundations able and ready to nurture our faith.
In our prayer, song, architecture, and art, let us rely the strong intercession of our blessed Mother in Heaven.
I share with you a live recording at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of organist, Rosalind Mohnsen performing “Gaudens Gaudebo.” In this you will hear several Marian melodies including the final toccata on “Ave Maria.” This piece explores Mary’s “Yes!” Furthermore, the pipe organ is a particularly versatile instrument, able to to convey a wide range of color and emotion ranging from intimacy to towering strength.
Here is another work for organ. The quote of “Ave Maris Stella” is where the organ rises to its fullest: