‘We fly to Thy protection, O holy Mother of God..’
– Sub Tuum Praesidium
Most Catholic children are very fortunate in that from their earliest days, they were introduced to and told about the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And so for us, She has always been there. Our parents taught us the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer, simple enough even for little children. And because we learned this prayer in our childhood, it is perhaps one we turn to over and over, in those moments when we are aware that we need Her help and intercession. Turning to Her is ingrained in us; it is part of who we are as Catholics and as people.
Similarly, the early Christian Church – there was only one, for there were no divisions at that time – was accustomed to turn to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of the Lord. At the birth of the Church She was physically present, having been there amongst the Apostles with Her Son. After His Ascension, She remained with them and was praying in union with them at Pentecost, when the Church was born.
From the period immediately following the Apostolic Era, Christians turned to the Mother of the Lord in prayer, just as we do today. The earliest written prayer addressed to Her, the ‘Sub Tuum Praesidium’, dates back to around 250 AD. And so when we pray to the Blessed Virgin today, we are in very good company – we are the latest in a very long line of Her spiritual children, stretching back down the centuries to those ancient times.
The Church calls Our Blessed Lady the ‘Virgin Most Faithful’. She is faithful to the mission entrusted to Her at the foot of the Cross by Her Son when He said “behold Thy son”; referring to John, these words of the Lord encompass every single one of us, entusted to His Mother as Her children.
Her faithfulness to this mission is evident at Pentecost, where She remained in prayer with Apostles for nine days (and it from this that we have the word ‘novena’, or nine days of prayer), for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Mary is intrinsically linked to the life of the Church and to the action of the Holy Spirit within it. The first time the Holy Spirit descended upon Her, Christ was conceived; the second time, it was His Mystical Body, the Church. As She is Mother to Christ in the order of nature, so is She Mother to the Church in the order of grace. This is – and always was – a central part of the Divine plan for the Church and for the human family.
Today, then, when we come to the Blessed Virgin in prayer, we are fulfilling the will of God, Who desires that we take Her as our Mother, as surely as She has taken us as Her children.