02 July 2019

A Homily for the Visitation

Matins, p. 219

Opening Versicles, p. 219

Psalm 138 (chanted responsively)

Hymn: "From East to West, From Shore to Shore" 385

Reading: Luke 1:39-45

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into rthe hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth swas filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, t"Blessed are you among women, and ublessed is vthe fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of wmy Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And xblessed is she who believed that there would be7 a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."46 And Mary said,

y"My zsoul amagnifies the Lord,

47  band my zspirit rejoices in cGod my Savior,

48  for dhe has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations ewill call me blessed;

49  for fhe who is mighty ghas done great things for me,

and hholy is his name.

50  And ihis mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

51  jHe has shown strength with his arm;

khe has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

52  jhe has brought down the mighty from their thrones

land exalted those of humble estate;

53  he has filled mthe hungry with good things,

and the rich nhe has sent away empty.

54  He has ohelped phis servant Israel,

qin remembrance of his mercy,

55  ras he spoke to our fathers,

qto Abraham and to his offspring forever."

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

O Lord, have mercy on us. R. 

Responsory, p. 221

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It was a tad over a week ago that we gathered in this room to celebrate the Nativity of St. John, and now the Church yanks us back to that moment some three month's prior when the Mother of God arrived at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. What gives with that? Surely, you've noted any number of times how the Church Year misbehaves. Dec. 25th you celebrate the birth of the Savior, and suitably you DO celebrate his conception some nine months prior on March 25th. But then Dec. 26th, you're fast-forwarded more than three decades and are suddenly witnessing the death of Stephen and then decades more and St. John the Apostle and then of all things on Dec. 28th, you're back to two years after the birth of our Lord and the Holy Innocents killed by Herod and then on January 1st, you're all the way back to just 8 days after his birth, the Lord's circumcision, but give it six more days and you're back to when he's two and the Magi are visiting and then in a week or less, you're at His Baptism (28 years fastforward) or He's a twelve year old in the temple (10 years fast forward). Huh? It leaves your head spinning, wouldn't you agree?

And it will drive you batty or you'll recognize that when God enters our time, when the Eternal inserts Himself into the Temporal, weird things happen and unexpected becomes expected and "before and after" and even "now and later" become a tad, well, fuzzy. "For all live to Him" as our Lord Himself would say and go on to show on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Our God entering our time is what the incarnation is about. Except that's putting it all wrong. It was never "our" time to begin with. It's always been His. And He may do with it as He chooses. What He does choose to do with it is utterly mind boggling. Plants the center of it all in a manger and cross, in flesh taken from a Virgin's womb. And that's where today's feast picks up. Mary, with God's tiny heart beating now beneath her own, high tailing it to the Judean Hills. No doubt, wondering at why God couldn't have had the Angel appear to Joseph as well as to her? Well, maybe, she thought, He'll see to it yet. His ways are always inscrutable. And astounding.

And so the call of greeting and the miracles begin tumbling out. Nine days ago we remembered how John would be born again before he was born, filled with the Spirit even in his mother's womb, and today we witness the truth of it: Mary's call and the arrival of John's Lord and Master hidden in that young virgin causes the Baptist to leap for joy in his mother's aged body and suddenly Elizabeth herself is filled with the Spirit and beholds the marvel of it all.

You can see her stand and make her way across to her young kinswoman. You can see her wrinkled hands take that smooth face into their embrace and you can see the look of awe in the old woman's eyes as she stares into the questioning eyes of the Virgin. Mary no doubt wondered if they would believe her story, but she didn't even get to tell it. Elizabeth blurts it out herself. "Blessed are you among women! Blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me. For as soon as I heard your greeting the baby in my womb leapt for joy! Blessed is she who believed (and I always think he was looking at Zecharaiah when she said that) that there would be a fulfillment of what was told her from the Lord."

And like Zechariah in his nine month gestation of joy, so Mary's pondering of the angel's message since she heard it in Nazareth and as she made the journey south, bursts forth in response to the way Elizabeth had greeted her. 

Magnificat anima mea. "My soul magnifies the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior!" Did she look down in awe and touch her womb as she sang her song? "For He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold from now on all generations will call me blessed." And they have. Ever since. Why, it's even in the title we usually give her The BLESSED Virgin Mary. "For He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name and his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation." The mighty one, the holy one, is the mercy one. Zechariah had spoken of the tender mercy of our God, what a beautiful name for Christ. Eleos, mercy. Kyrie, eleison. Lord, be yourself, do your doing. "He has shown strength with his arm, scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly, filled the hungry with good and sent the rich away empty" echoes, strong echoes of Hannah's song, cosmically lifted up: the proud angels who fell replaced with us creatures of clay? Amazing. The God who turns things topsy turvy, upside down from our normal way of thinking, because of course we're the one's with the upside down perspective. He's just setting it all back to rights. "He has helped his Servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His SEED forever." His Seed. Did she look down again, did she ever stop looking down in awe at the Lord, her Savior?

Three months she abode there. Can you imagine the lively discussions between the two women as their awe and joy mingled, and the twinkling eyes of silent Zechariah confirmed it all and how he ached to teach from the Word and yet abode silent, waiting his day. Three months would likely have been enough for her to be at the events we celebrated a week ago, as I suggested then. But whether or not Mary was there, the One who would be born of her, had shaken things up royally. No wonder the year that's celebrated in his honor jumps here and there in the story, reminding us that when God enters time, things get strange. When God is born of a virgin, all bets are off. And when God keeps His promise to Abraham, flipping everything on its head, by bringing blessing to all in dying on a tree, well, time just explodes and you can roll with it or fret about how untidy this joy bursting out all over has come to be. I say we roll with it, like Mary did: "Let it be to me according to Your word. My soul magnifies the Lord!"

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Te Deum, p. 223ff.

Kyrie, p. 227

Our Father, p. 227


Collect of the Day: Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard of the poor and lowly and despised. Grant that we may receive Your Word in humility and faith and so be made one with Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Collect for the Sick: Holy Father, You teach us in Your Word that Your faithfulness is great and Your mercy is everlasting. Confident, then, in Your tender care, we remember before You this day Your servants Joel, Bonnie, Herb, Gene, Paula, Roger, Allan and Jan, and all those afflicted in body or soul, mind or spirit, asking for them every good and needful thing; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Collect for Missionaries: Holy One, we thank You that You continue to send laborers into Your vineyard that Your Word may resound, faith in You be strengthened and love toward others be increased. Sustain Chaplain Peter Burfeind and all who have gone forth in Your name that the Word of reconciliation may be proclaimed to all people and Your joyful Gospel preached in all the world; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Grace: O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, You have safely brought us to the beginning of this day. Defend us in the same with Your mighty power and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but that all our doings, being ordered by Your governance, may be righteous in Your sight, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Benedicamus and Benediction

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