19 August 2009

Homily for Tonight

Tonight we observed St. Mary's Day, which actually fell last Saturday:

She sang:

“From this day all generations will call me blessed.”

That is, not just cousin Elizabeth with her “blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb, blessed she who has believed”, but all people will join in blessing the Mother of God.

How are you doing at blessing Mary? Lutherans are in little danger of falling into the excesses that have characterized her veneration across the centuries, but we’ve certainly fallen into the ditch on the other side. We’ve pretended she’s just like us.

Um, no. An angel pops in one day and tells you that you’re to become the Mother of God, and you believe it? No, she’s not like us that way at all. But there is hope that we might become like her. That when our God speaks to us His promises - no matter how wild and crazy they might seem, how impossible of fulfilment - we might come to be like Mary and bow meekly before the Words of God and say: “Let it be to me according to Your Word; what You say goes, Lord!”

For then the miracle that took place in her will also take place in us. The Word she heard engendered in her the Eternal Word of the Father, she became great with child, eternal life himself moved into her personally and filled her body with Himself. And through her He gave Himself to the world. From her He received the flesh and blood which He would offer as the sacrifice for the sins of a world gone wrong. For you and for me. From her He received the flesh and blood that was raised in incorruption on Easter and which the angels and saints forever adore in the unity of the Godhead.

When we become like Mary, when we by the grace of the Holy Spirit speak our “yes” to the promises of God and hold them tight, then into us comes Mary’s Son with all His divine life. And as He lives in us and we come to live in Him, He draws us into His sacrificial way of living so that we might come to be servants of one another as He has served us, and we do so in the joy and certainty that He has given us forgiveness for all our sins and the promise of the resurrection to a life that never ends. He gives us His body and blood that such outrageous, outlandish promises might be fulfilled in us.

And so we learn to call Mary blessed together with Elizabeth and all the Church. Blessed in the fruit of her womb. Blessed among women in alone being the Mother of the Son of God. Blessed above all in her faith and trust in God’s Word. And we pray God, though she is not much like us, that He would make us more like her, His blessed promise believing Mother, that He would increase our faith in all that He promises so that we might come finally to the joys of heaven and share with the most holy Virgin and all the angels and saints the blessedness that never ends. Amen.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this Fr. Weedon... the most moving and beautiful exposition on why we should bless and venerate Mary. From a Lutheran perspective no less : )

I get mighty upset when i hear others denigrate Mary or say that she is no different that I ...

Thank you again!

Matt

Paul said...

O clemens, O pia, O dulce Virgo Maria! -- St. Bernard

christl242 said...

Er, unfortunately Bernard went a wee bit overboard:

“God has wanted that we obtain nothing if not through the hands of Mary.”

Can't quite go there, but that's the unLutheran side of patristics.


Christine

Chris said...

Christine,

Bernard was talking about Christ that we receive through Mary. You still think that's going overboard?

Fr. Weedon, thank you for your thoughts. However, one small thing. You say that Mary is not like us. It is true that she bore the saviour in her womb and no one is closer (or can be closer) to God than she because of the incarnation. However, we Orthodox, always try to stress, in opposition to Catholicism, that Mary is not the great exception but the great example, to use Fr. +Schmemann's terminology that she is what we can become through the ascetical struggles and God's grace, that we can become pure, sinless, etc. Her dormition is the first fruits of the resurrection of the body which we all hope to obtain at the last judgment. I'm not saying that you are giving a Catholic viewpoint; it just seems a little out there. I'd also invite you to go to Orrologion for his latest posting "Not even heaven is pure" and he talks about Mary there.

Nonetheless, I'm happy to see some Lutherans give honor to the Mother of God (I'm sorry, but to call her Mother of our Lord, even though St. Elizabeth does say that and is Biblical, appears, only appears, to be semi-Nestorian). It's really a shame that she has been thrown to the wolves amongst most Lutherans to the point that she herself is declared an arch-heretic!

So, thank you.

christl242 said...

Oh really, Chris?

“Whoever you are that perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on firm ground, turn not away your eyes from the splendour of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm. ... Look at the star, call upon Mary. ... With her for guide, you shall not go astray, while invoking her, you shall never lose heart ... if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favour, you shall reach the goal.”

Ah yes, Mary, Stella Maris!

I'm going to adopt this motto: "I am a Lutheran. If I believed the teachings of another church I'd join it."


Christine

Past Elder said...

Flying Judas at the airshow, the Salve Regina, while it has been attributed to both St Anselm and St Bernard -- both Benedictines -- it is actually the work of Hermannus Contractus, which means Herman the Cripple, so these days he gets called more politically correctly Hermann of Reichenau, a monk of the Benedictine (of course) abbey there, which lasted from 724 until Napoleon in 1803.

Here is the full prayer. Don't just skim now -- when devoutly recited you get a plenary indulgence.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
ad te clamamus
exsules filii Hevae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.

Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

Nobis post hoc exsilium ostende indeed, as if he did not become incarnate to extend himself to us already, and in the Sacrament too, before joining him in heaven.

The versicle and response that go along with the traditional collect are even more revealing:

V. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Ain't nobody worthy of the promises of Christ, that's the whole Good News, that we got 'em anyway.

Thus does her "all generations will call me blessed", a fulilling of the Song of Hannah, making a leap of faith that will put her under the possibility of being executed as an adultress, and then the reality of being a politcal exile, making her indeed a model of faith to be called blessed, turn into something else.

Past Elder said...

PS -- rumours that die Christine and I are going to podcast Sei gegruesst, O Koenigin are completely unfounded, probably started by a damn friar or something.

However, the hymn based on it "Hail holy queen enthroned above" does afford one of the few times when you will hear Latin in a Catholic church these days, if only the incipit of the original. I will sing it from memory with those so inclined. Loud.

christl242 said...

PS -- rumours that die Christine and I are going to podcast Sei gegruesst, O Koenigin are completely unfounded, probably started by a damn friar or something.

Reminds me of a visit I made to a -- what else! -- Benedictine monastery while I was in Germany; the chapel dedicate to Mary had a sign reading:

Sei gegruesst, Gnädige Gottesbraut

Hey, maybe those monks would like to join in on our podcast !!

PE's observations about Mary are right on the mark -- the Biblical picture is too often obscured in clouds of incense and mysticism that forgets what a truly courageous daughter of Israel she is and model of faithfulness for the church in every age.

"Rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it" says the Lord about his Blessed Mother.

Christine

Past Elder said...

Oh God bless me sideways and whack me with the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. With deepest apologies to those who were getting their hopes up, the indulgence is not plenary, only partial.

Now if I can only find an indulgence to get rid of the temporal punishment I deserve for screwing up about what kind of indulgences.

christl242 said...

With deepest apologies to those who were getting their hopes up, the indulgence is not plenary, only partial.

May I once again, in all humility, suggest a little knee workout on the Camino de Santiago??

That should supplement it nicely!

Christine

William Weedon said...

The "not like us" was referring primarily to the bright flame of her heroic faith, for our faith(or maybe I should speak only for myself, my faith) is often only a dimly burning wick.

Yet even her heroic faith is a gift she received and faithfully tended. Also in Lutheranism she is the great example - but she is a GREAT example because in this regards she is truly exceptional. She ventures to believe what cannot be seen or known and to say "yes" to a course of action that would put her at great personal risk, as Terry pointed out.

Past Elder said...

Der Jakobsweg? Kein weg -- I'm allergic to scallops!

christl242 said...

@Past Elder

Was? Du magst keine Jakobsmuscheln?

Okay, back to twenty whacks with the Enchiridion!

Christine

Chris said...

Christine,

You wrote: I'm going to adopt this motto: "I am a Lutheran. If I believed the teachings of another church I'd join it."

That's fine and dandy. I wasn't trying to convert you, only saying that your premise was wrong and still is. And I'm insulted that you think that such was my intent.

christl242 said...

That's fine and dandy. I wasn't trying to convert you, only saying that your premise was wrong and still is. And I'm insulted that you think that such was my intent.

Oh no, no! Wasn't in the least thinking that you were trying to convert me, not at all. I was merely stating that if I believed what the Orthodox believe, I'd BE Orthodox!

But then, I'm guessing I'm a tad older than you and saw a side of the Lutheran tradition that existed before the 70's and 80's, when a lot of experimentation was going on in many churches. Plus my formative years as a Lutheran were lived in Europe, not the U.S.

As for my premise, I will cheerfully but totally disagree with you :)

Christine

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Thank you for this homily, Father. Very nice.