And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” ~Luke 1:28
Prayer is central in the Christian life. And we pray for all kinds of reasons. We pray when we are discerning a life decision or going a difficult period in our lives. We pray in a time of loss or when we are undergoing tests, treatments, or surgery. We pray for creation, for peace, for the world, for leaders. And we pray asking God to intervene in times of war and conflict, in places of violence and abuse. We pray in thanksgiving and praise. Prayer is centering and grounding. It is our conversation with God, to share what is happening in our lives and in our world. In prayer, we seek God’s guidance and reassurance. In prayer, we listen for God’s voice which gives us strength, hope, and comfort.
Prior to the Reformation though, prayer could only be made to Mary, then the saints, then specific saints for specific needs. Such as Saint Christopher for travel mercies. While Luther changed that understanding so the faithful can pray freely to God, there is still the tradition in Catholic Churches of praying to the saints who intervene on behalf of believers. Out of that intercessory prayer tradition, grew not only prayers to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but a rich musical tradition as well. We have a wealth of musical settings to the well-known prayer Ave Maria.
One such setting of this intercessory prayer is sung in Latin by the vocal group, Cantus (video above). This beautiful arrangement of “Ave Maria (Angelus Domini)” was composed by Franz Biebl in 1964. Petitions are offered to Maria, Mary, to intercede for us and for the world. She is the most blessed of all woman because she birthed Jesus Christ, the Saviour. So, traditionally, prayers and sung musical settings are offered to Maria, whose prayers to God would be more effective. Whether we sing or pray to Mary or not, we can appreciate the rich heritage of the church universal as we all offer our prayers in this time of pandemic.
God of resurrection, we thank you and praise you for the gifts of prayer and music. We give thanks for the rich tradition and heritage of musical settings to Ave Maria throughout the centuries. May this special prayer inspire us in our prayer lives as we recognize that the Risen Christ speaks throughout all times, places, and traditions. Hear us, O God, as we lift before you all of the uncertainties with which we live in this time of pandemic, as we experience grief upon grief. We pray for the families of all of the victims of the Nova Scotia shootings. Be present and comfort all who mourn. Walk alongside the RCMP, the first responders, funeral directors, crime scene investigators and all who are affected by these terrible acts of violence. Hear us as we pray along with Cantus, Ave Maria. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.