Mary, Blessed are You Among Women!
Early Church Father
St. Sophronius was bishop of Jerusalem in the early 7th century and preached this sermon (Oratio 2, in sactissimae Deparae annuntiatione, 21-22. 26: PG 87, 3, 3242, 3250) on the Blessed Virgin Mary on the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord around the year 635 AD, the year that the Holy City fell to the Muslim armies advancing from Arabia. It demonstrates the strong devotion to the Mother of God that existed in the early era of the Fathers of the Church. This reading is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings, in the Common of the Belssed Virgin Mary.
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. What Joy could surpass this, O Virgin Mother? What grace can excel that which God has granted to you alone? What could be imagined more dazzling or more delightful? Before the miracle we witness in you, all else pales; all else in inferior when compared with the grace you have been given. All else, even what is most desirable, must take second place and enjoy a lesser importance.
The Lord is with you. Who would dare challenge you? You are God's mother; who would not immediately defer to you and be glad to accord you a greater primacy and honor? for this reason, when I look upon the privilege you have above all creatures, I extol you with the highest praise: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. On your account joy has not only graced men, but is also granted to the powers of heaven.
Truly, you are blessed among women. For you have changed Eve's curse into a blessing; and Adam, who hitherto lay under a curse, has been blessed because of you.
Truly, you are blessed among women. Through you the Father's blessing has shone forth on mankind, setting them free of their ancient curse.
Truly, you are blessed among women, because through you your forbears have found salvation. For you were to give birth to the Savior who was to win them salvation.
Truly, you are blessed among women, for without seed you have borne, as your fruit, him who bestows blessings on the whole world and redeems it from that curse that made it sprout thorns.
Truly, you are blessed among women, because, though a woman by nature, you will become, in reality, God's mother. If he whom you are to bear is truly God made flesh, then rightly do we call you God's mother. For you have truly given birth to God.
Enclosed within your womb is God himself. He makes his abode in you and comes forth from you like a bridegroom, winning joy for all and bestowing God's light on all.
You, O Virgin, are like a clear and shining sky, in which God has set his tent. From you he comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber. Like a giant running his course, he will run the course of his life which will bring salvation for all who will ever live, and extending from the highest heavens to the end of them, it will fill all things with divine warmth and with life-giving brightness.