Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

A reflection on the word “OF”

By Carol Ann Chybowski

When Sarah first explained this marvelous project, of praying the Hail Mary as a group, one sacred word at a time, in order to contemplate the beauty of the words we take for granted, I was overjoyed.

To contemplate the words we speak, to breathe in the deeper nuances and shades of meaning until the words themselves become part of us, is to touch, in our human way, the one upon whom our gaze rests. We are changed by it, and come away knowing our Beloved in new and deeper ways. How enthusiastic I was to receive Sarah’s invitation to contribute to the prayer. I said yes before I even finished reading the email.

And then I received my word. Of? The humble and lowly of.

What on earth can be said in praise of of? What meaning can a lowly preposition possibly have?

In fact, this humble little breath of air carries tremendous power, so much power that Merriam Webster’s online dictionary lists no less than twelve distinct definitions. Of denotes origin, as when we say someone lives north of the tracks or is born of a line of kings. Of denotes the basic component of an object, as when we say that cup is made of gold.

But of is also a word that defines belonging and relationship. We are the sons and daughters of God.

In the Hail Mary, of carries all three elements: origin, composition and relationship. It looks behind itself to Mary. We are speaking about Mary and her relationship with God. She is full, filled by God in the best sense, as we learned Thursday. But what is it that Mary is full of if not God Himself? Mary is of God. She belongs to Him.

Of looks ahead to grace, which we will pray more deeply this Thursday. Mary is full of grace. Grace is the basic fiber of her being. Because of this little word of we know that she belongs to grace, and grace belongs to her.

Mary is the Mother of God. She belongs to God, and God belongs to her–He is her own Son.

Mary is the Mother of the Church. She belongs to the Church, even as we ourselves do.

As you pray with us, ask yourself: What am I of? Where do I come from, what am I made of, and to Whom do I belong?

Carol Ann Chybowski has a BA in Linguistics, and an MA in English Literature, with special emphasis on literature for children and young adults. She has two stories published in A Community of Voices, anthologies of Santa Barbara, California area writers. When not writing, Carol Ann can most likely be found in the garden or at the stables. She’s also very involved with the Catholic Writers Guild, which is how I have the pleasure of knowing her.

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