Good morning. Welcome to the first English Day of this school year. What a wonderful coincidence that we have the first English Day on the Birthday of Our Lady! We remember the birth of Mary on this date not because it is really her birthday. Christians for many centuries pay a special tribute to Our Lady on this date. Just like Jesus was not really born on 25 December, we are quite sure Mary was not really born on 8 September. But because both Jesus and Mary are real historical persons, they must have been born at some point in history. The main thing is not when Jesus or Mary was born but the fact that they were born and were born for a purpose.
To celebrate this feast, let us sing Hail Queen of Heaven on page 7 of your HPB. This is a new song. We will sing just the first verse. Since most of you do not know this song, allow me to teach you this song line by line. [Song]
Now let us hear a story – printed on p.20 in your Hymn and Prayer Book. At the end of the reading, please respond “Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ.” [Story]
I would like you to notice three things about this story. First, the message that Gabriel said to Mary has become the prayer that is known as the Hail Mary. The first half of the Hail Mary is the greetings of the angel: “Hail! Mary full of grace the Lord is with you.” Each time we say the Hail Mary, we are repeating the greetings of the angel Gabriel. The word “Hail” is the same as saying Hello.
Second, as I have underlined the words for you, Mary was troubled and afraid when the angel Gabriel spoke to her. We usually use the word trouble as a noun. Your parents might have warned you before you leave the house: “Be good and don’t cause any trouble today!” If you do cause trouble, your teacher may arrange to meet your parents. If that is the case, you are in trouble. But here, the word trouble is used as a verb. We say Mary was troubled that means she was afraid and she wondered what was happening. When was your last time that an angel would visit you and speak to you? You may be as troubled and afraid as Mary, if an angel knocks at your door. At the beginning of the new school year, especially if you are new to this school, or if you are facing public examinations, you may be troubled by schoolwork or you may be afraid of the new school environment or new teachers. You may have many questions and there are many things you may not understand. In this story, Mary wondered about the message of the angel. That means she did not understand. When you have a question about why something happens. You can say: I wonder why. When you have a question about when something is going to happen. You can say: I wonder when. If you remember, just now at the beginning of morning prayer, I said, “What a wonderful coincidence that we have the first English Day on the Birthday of Our Lady!” You may know the word wonderful. Here wonderful doesn’t mean full of questions – it means something great and amazing.
Finally, please notice the last part of the message of the angel. Gabriel said, “For there is nothing that God cannot do.” There is nothing that God cannot do. This is a double-negative sentence. It is a good idea to avoid using double negatives because it may be confusing. If I say, don’t put up your hands, if you do not understand me. You have to think twice or listen twice to understand what I mean. However, we use double negative here to emphasize the fact that because God is God, there is nothing that He cannot do meaning God can do everything. Because God can do everything, we need not be afraid or troubled.
If you turn back to page 7, the song we just sang, we can say a few things using the words we have just learnt. Let’s concentrate just on the second line: Tossed on life’s sea, I claim thy care, (“thy care” means “your care”) save me from peril and from woe. Both of the words “peril” and “woe” are bad things. Peril is the same as danger and woe means unhappiness or sorrow. So facing life’s peril and woe, you will naturally be troubled and afraid. You may wonder when these peril, woe, danger, unhappiness and sorrow would end. You may wonder why such bad things are happening to you. Luckily, we remember that there is nothing God cannot do. So He will protect us and guide us through life, even if the sea of life is full of troubled waters. Mary, as our song suggests, is the Star of the Sea, she will pray for us.
Please say the response.
Brother William Ng OFM