St. Francis of Assisi certainly had a way with words. Speaking of Mary as ‘Virgin made Church’ is one of those inspired phrases found in The Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Third Order Regular Rule of St. Francis which Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity live also gives honor to our Blessed Mother using this title. What does it mean? Read the texts below. Ponder. Then, Sister Kathleen Murphy offers her own thoughts inviting your comments. Photo: Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Victoria Masil Virgin Made Church
Let the brothers and sisters keep the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever before their eyes. Let them do this according to the exhortation of St. Francis who held Holy Mary, Lady and Queen, in highest veneration since she is the virgin made church. Let them also remember that the immaculate Virgin Mary, whose example they are to follow, called herself the handmaid of the Lord. Third Order Regular Rule, Chapter IV, #17
The Salutation of the Virgin Mary
Hail, O Lady,
Mary, holy Mother of God:
you are the Virgin made Church
and the one chosen by the
most holy Father in heaven
whom He consecrated
with His most holy beloved Son
and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is
the fullness of grace and every good
Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Home!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!
And (hail) all you holy virtues which through the grace and light of the Holy Spirit are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from their faithless state you may make them faithful to God.
What do the words “Virgin made Church” mean to me? Well, for starters, the capital letters are central to my understanding. These words speak to me of THE Virgin rather than just any virgin. That is the Virgin Mary! Also the word Church with its capital letter status speaks of the Body of Christ, the “people” church rather than the structure. Mary is the Virgin made Church of course because of her part in bringing forth the body of Christ in a physical way. More importantly though, she brought forth the Body of Christ the Church. How? By her faith in her Son and God’s from the very moment of his conception, by her faith on display at the wedding of Cana where we hear her voice commanding, “Do whatever He tells you” and by her nurturing the fledgling Church in the upper room in the waiting time for the coming of the Spirit. Our existence as Church from the past and on into eternity is truly accompanied by and given life by THE Virgin. -Sister Kathleen Murphy, OSF