THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Our church, like many others, is dedicated to St Mary, the Mother of our Lord. In the Anglican Church there are five special Feast Days in which she is commemorated, and the principal one is on Saturday – 15th August. In the west and in Roman Catholicism it is known as ‘The Assumption of Mary’ and in the east and in Eastern Orthodoxy, ‘The Dormition (falling asleep) of Mary.’ In the Anglican Church it is simply ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary’, and is regarded as the date of her death.
Because 15th August usually falls in the middle of the summer holidays churches dedicated to her might have a sparsely attended Patronal Festival!! – so the Patronal is moved to the second Sunday in September (the Sunday nearest the birth of Mary on 8th September).
In today’s reflection, the Rev James Hair shares something of his own personal ‘journey with Mary’ and illustrates this in the three sketches on this page.
Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6; 10
Tomorrow is one of the days scattered throughout the Church Calendar marked for giving thanks to God for Mary and her crucial role in Salvation History. “Be it unto me according to thy word”.
I have to confess to having had something of an ambivalent relationship with her, and it is interesting for me to see how I have changed in that, and it is that process I want to share with you.
Sketching her has helped me track the process. All three sketches are based on a statue of her with infant Christ at St Michael and All Angels, Paulsgrove. Last year St Mike’s had a makeover, and one of the consequences was that Mary got de cluttered. Literally I have seen her in a new light!
My start point is ordination training in the early seventies. You might say she and I got off on the wrong foot, because of the company she kept at theological college. Hence image 1. Fussy and cluttered.
Fast forward to 2013 and the beginning of my involvement with St Michael’s. After the Parish Eucharist each Sunday the altar party process to the statue where the Angelus (“Hail Mary”) is sung by the principal celebrant. Whenever it was my turn I could echo the words of Eric Morecambe, “ I am singing the right notes, but not in the same order!” However, in all that I gazed and pondered, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” seemed to cement the Reality of He whom we had just encountered in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist . Something was stirring.
The next stage was to draw her again, the colours more vibrant, a strong young woman and full of compassion.
Some words from Archbishop Justin Welby, “In her initial response to Elizabeth, the “Magnificat”, God’s purpose in the creation and incarnation is found……we have a prophetic vision of how society should work in the Kingdom of God……it threatens those who are comfortable. It says as Jean Vanier used to say, that the strong need the weak in order to find Jesus Christ.” (Preached at the national pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham May 2019).
So this brings me to image 3. Loose flowing lines, vitality and energy because the Word Made flesh in her. Because she said “ yes” to God, Life Himself is seeking to be at home in us. Praise God.
HYMN: ‘Tell out my soul’