Saturday 15 August 2020: The Blessed Virgin Mary
Mother Mary, show us your Son
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6,10; Psalm 45; Luke 1:39-56
Context: Feast Day Mass in a contemporary urban setting with a varied committed congregation
Aim: recognizing the presence of Christians of other traditions, and expecting encouragement and stimulation to live out their faith in daily life, especially in the light of the COVID-19 crisis
In Farm Street Church we have a new painting by Andrew White, our artist-in-residence, called Mother Mary. It’s challenged me to wonder who Mary really was. Andrew had a twelve-year-old girl from his village sit for him and researched the clothes a young girl in 1st Century Palestine wore. The indescribable but deeply engaging is captured so well in this portrait. Andrew captured her complexion which displays her radiance, her gentle loving disposition, her serenely prayerful heart. Her arms are, it would seem unconsciously, cradling a baby. For me, and for many, it shows Mary as she really was when she was told that she would bear a son. Reflecting on this beautiful painting has led me to ask again why she is so important for us. To appreciate more fully what she did out of love for us in saying yes to the Lord’s call to be mother, to be mother of Jesus and so in the divine plan for all time the mother of God and so also mother of us all. A simple but courageous young girl. Playing the most pivotal role in God’s plan a Christian disciple ever has.
This Feast Day invites us to draw our attention to her for who she is as a person. Mary always draws us to the child she would bear. This young teenager knew him more than anyone else ever could as his mother, so she draws us through her motherhood towards him. The Feast of the Assumption in the Roman Catholic Church invites us to celebrate her as playing that unsurpassed central role in showing us Jesus as his mother. The Roman Church teaches that this role was so pivotal, that she was so intimately tied to her son, that at the end of her life she was assumed body and soul into the joy of heaven to remain at his right hand. Just as on earth she was at his side she is now granted the glory and the singular privilege of being with him in eternity. Because she was his mother. ‘On the right stands the queen in garments of gold’, the antiphonal response to the Psalm at Mass, declares.
This is a feast which shows us above all this intimacy of the mother and son who cannot be separated. Rather their intimate relationship is part and parcel of God’s plan for the world. This is not, however, a feast solely for the Roman Catholic Church. In the East a similar feast is celebrated, remembering how Mother Mary, being a singular human being in God’s plan, did not die but fell asleep. And in many traditions of Anglicanism too this day is kept recalling that basic truth, that Mary’s role is pivotal, as she is celebrated because she is the mother of our redeemer.
St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits and author of the Spiritual Exercises, which now has an almost universal ecumenical appeal, asks us to turn to the Lord’s mother often, to talk to her, to ask her to help us. This is not surprising for Ignatius’ personal faith. It was after all after three nights spent in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat that he strode forth to Manresa and there composed the Exercises. We can talk to Mary because she knew him intimately as his mother, because she knows him intimately as his mother and so the mother of all of us.
Mary now assumed into heaven got to know the redeemer as a real woman, a real human being who was called to give her whole life to the plan Our Lord had for her in the mystery of salvation. She had the love of a mother who learned not to cling but to let go in freedom. And she had the sorrow of a mother in grief for her son. She spent hours in prayer pondering these lessons of life in her heart. Over these past months we have been on a rollercoaster of emotions on account of COVID-19. Sorrow, grief, fear, anxiety, uncertainty. We can turn to the mother of the Lord who as a human being knew this from a tender age and who lived through unprecedented times. Yet she shows us that, despite the sorrows that life brings, she can rejoice, and she can embrace the glory prepared for her. May we learn from her as we intercede of her today to know her son’s will.
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