Mary

Tomorrow, in the calendar used by the Anglican Church in Australia, is the feast day of Mary, Mother of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church it’s the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

Mary is a bit of an enigma for me. I come from a fairly middle-church background, and devotion to Mary wasn’t a part of that. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and so I was thinking about how I could observe the feast, and what nourishment I could take for my meditation.

As I said Evening Prayer, I thought about the place of Mary. Afterwards, I picked up John Main’s Community of Love to read his chapter entitled “The Other-Centredness of Mary”. I’d like to share one quote with you:

We have to approach Mary as one of the important gospel signs of our pilgrimage of prayer – and to make the approach without fuddled heads or merely pietistic hearts. To approach her in the midst of our own sentimentality is to objectify her – to make her an image or even an idol rather than a symbol. To apprehend her full meaning which expresses the breadth, the fullness and the tenderness of the Christian mystery, we will have to understand her as a person. Like everything that leads to fulfilment in Jesus, our understanding must be personal; that is, we must understand the gospel, the Word of God, as a personal communication opening up and exploring the depths of our own intimate personhood. The experience of prayer is the experience of being known – the prerequisite for the experience is to let go of our egotistic efforts to know which too often means to control and objectify. Such efforts invariably lead us into sterility and frustration. A traditional word for the necessary disposition for prayer, which the gospel incarnates in Luke’s account of the Annunciation, is ‘modesty’. There is no fear in modesty – which must be distinguished from shyness, which is fearful. True modesty, where we allow the knowing-power of another to enter and explore us is that readiness, openness and sensitivity we often call ‘humility’.

Humility is the power that reveals and roots us in our precise place in relationship to another. As such, it is the basis for all real encounter. It is closely linked to another precondition for any personal encounter or relationship: a degree of detachment, a space which allows for the free play of the creative energy of love to effect union between us and the other. The space is usually filled with our own self-consciousness but in prayer it is emptied of all egoism and is filled instead with the pure consciousness of union in the power of love. Prayer itself is our awareness of our liberating union with the creative power of love that creates and sustains us in the person of Jesus. Because of the Incarnation, the tangible actuality of Jesus as God and man – our brother – this awareness is something more than rational knowledge. We can talk intelligently, beautifully, usefully, of the Incarnation, but this is not in itself knowing the person of Jesus as a living reality in and of my being. We can spend a lifetime studying the work and personality of Charlemagne or Bismarck, but this is not really knowing them – and never can be because no personal, living link unites them to us anymore. In the case of Jesus we have this link in his Spirit which fills our ingot being with the infinite, loving power of his resurrected life. And so we can know the person of Jesus, but it is with the ‘real knowledge’ or ‘full knowledge’ spoken of by St Paul when he exhorted the Church to know the love of Christ ‘though it is beyond knowledge’. (Main, John. Community of Love, 1990, Continuum, New York, p161-162.)

Mary’s willingness to be known, to be open to God the Father’s purpose for her, is inspiring. Her trust in his goodness and wisdom, when it must have seemed crazy, is an example to me today. Her resting in the truth, and treasuring it in her heart, as well as her prayerfulness and fidelity, are encouragements to me as I walk in the path of prayer / meditation.

Jesus, thank you for your mother, Mary. Thank you for her example to me. Give me a heart to walk with you in the same simplicity, trust and devotion. Amen.

(This is a joint statement on the role of Mary, from a theological commission looking for doctrinal commonalities between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church)

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