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Friday, June 8, 2012

Ave, Madelyne

Our oldest granddaughter Madelyne, at almost three, asked to be sung to every night as a part of her bedtime routine. Her beloved dad, away at work most days, usually got to tuck her in, a nightly father-daughter bonding time. She is now seven, and still values this kind of end-of-day ritual.

Strangely enough, one of her most requested early "lullabies" was Franz Schubert’s "Ave Maria."

Does this girl have good taste or what, I remember asking myself? Not only does this happen to be one of my favorite pieces, it is the one her father chose for his Class Voice solo performance way back in high school. Its Latin text is taken in part from the announcement of the angel Gabriel to the young virgin Mary, as recorded in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel:

“Ave Maria, grátia plena, Dóminus tecum! Benedícta tu in muliéribus, et benedíctus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.” 

Translated, it is, “Greetings, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women,” followed by an additional phrase from the blessing by Mary’s older relative Elizabeth, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Jesus).”

Needless to say, I was pretty impressed by this nightly liturgy at my granddaughter’s bed, a little reenactment of Gabriel and Elizabeth’s encounter with the young Mary. I felt Madelyne’s dad and mom were passing on something even more profound than they could have planned, something like, “Greetings, Madelyne, full of God’s grace. May you, too, like Mary, be blessed among women, and may the fruit of every part of your life be God’s gift to all.”

 Not that I want to distract from the honor belonging to the one and only Blessed Virgin. But was not Mary, too, once just another ordinary child from an ordinary Jewish family? It was God in her that made her special. And in our Creator’s eyes every child is incomparably precious and extraordinary, not unlike Mary.

This, I believe, is what parenting should be about, conveying blessings and extending callings to our children. In the Hebrew Schema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) we are told to pass on such words daily, "when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.”

Author John Drescher, in his book, "Parents--Passing the Torch of Faith," writes, “In the home we practice our faith in the most intimate way... In the family the child first feels and senses what is important. Here is the child’s first view of life and its meaning.”

And what better time to pass on this kind of meaning than “when we lie down,” when night falls and our children are about to fall asleep?

Ave, Madelyne. Benedictus, granddaughter. May you and every child be blessed and be a blessing.
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