Mary at the hour of our death
and at the Hour of Our Death ...”
the Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary) we conclude the prayer
with, “now, and at the hour of our death.”
Death will come to each of us — and not at the hour
of our choosing. Perhaps for one whom we had loved it has
come already. But so has Mary ... praying for us in
hora mortis — at the hour of our death. Had we
not implored this of her in every Hail Mary that
we had uttered in our lives ... that our name be
on her holy lips in the hour we most need it?
We instinctively know, even if we had never been told, had
never witnessed the scandal, the loss, and the corruption
of death — that we are called to pass through that valley
of deep shadow, through cypress-whispered-lies carried on
a wind to the west that subdues even the sun in the vastness
of night. All speaks of an end.
How many times in our lives has God called us — and the
way to Him was a pass, a pass deep in shadow through a menacing
valley of towering fear ... a valley haunted by the shadows
of our sins, the specters of our crimes — long ago absolved
by God but which we still bear in a justice ill-conceived,
and, because it understood nothing of love, and not knowing
love, knew nothing of forgiveness and absolution. What is
more, darker things, things ancient and evil inhabit that
valley with towering walls of despair, a valley unfathomably
deep in pain and dark with suffering.
we found, is not the only dark corridor.
words are engraved on the tomb of Duns Scotus, the
great medieval Franciscan theologian and philosopher. They
mean, “Buried once. Died twice.”
put, we must die before we die. It seems paradoxical,
but for any life lived in Christ, it is well understood.
We must, and in so many, many ways, die to ourselves, to
our own wills, our own inclinations, our desires, our pride,
our arrogance ... all that would carry us off to the
... that final death in which all utterly perish and from
which none ever return. This is the death from which all
sane men flee. St. John beheld it from afar in the Book
of the Apocalypse.1
What we must come to understand is that each of these “valleys”
causes us to die to ourselves in some way. Each is an experience
of walking through a valley over which the shadow of death
in one form or another has fallen. More often than not,
we are seized with fear, we cannot see the way ahead, we
deem ourselves alone, abandoned and forgotten. The way grows
narrow, and one by one all our pretensions fall aside, our
defenses crumble, and in the gathering darkness we are left
with two options only: faith or despair ... we tremble in
either and are blind in both.
We have reached the end of all things. If we have
chosen faith, faith in God, ... the darkness becomes sacred.
Despair, that doorway to death, is shattered by a blinding
shaft of holy light. The Holy Spirit Himself calls us to
place our trust and confidence in Christ Who conquered death
... even while, in our humble humanity, we see
no solution or answer to our problem or pain.
This is the “Dark Night of the Soul”, the path of pure faith
... a time, a place, in which we cannot find words,
in which we are become speechless, surrounded with silence
and sanctified through suffering. We collapse to our knees
before the mercy, goodness, and absolute certainty of God.
He Who has chosen us, we have chosen in turn.
every valley, in every darkness ... in every death, we hear
the whispered prayer for which we have longed all our lives
each time we have cried out, “Pray for us, now and at the
hour of our death!” The culmination of that prayer of Saint
and sinner, of sinner become Saint, will it go unanswered
in medio umbrae mortis, in the midst of the shadow
In your perplexity, vulnerability and uncertainty, call
upon Mary; she will unfailingly bring you to her Son Who
is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As a parched and dying
nomad prostrate in a desert night, you will fall into her
gentle arms – and she will pour on your lips and into your
heart the very Living Water of Life.
Ite ad Mariam! Go to Mary!
Apocalypse 2.11, 21.8
Geoffrey K. Mondello
Boston Catholic Journal