Feast of the Blessed Virgin

15th August 2021
Blessed Virgin Mary
Year B

Collect

Almighty God,
who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and chose her to be the mother of your only Son:
grant that we who are redeemed by his blood
may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Isaiah 61.10,11

                   I delight greatly in the LORD;
                        my soul rejoices in my God.
                   For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
                        and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
                   as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
                        and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
                   For as the soil makes the young plant come up
                        and a garden causes seeds to grow,
                   so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
                        spring up before all nations.

 

Galatians 4.4-7

When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

 

Luke 1.46-55

Mary said:

     “My soul glorifies the Lord
         and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
     for he has been mindful
         of the humble state of his servant.
     From now on all generations will call me blessed,
         for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
         holy is his name.
     His mercy extends to those who fear him,
         from generation to generation.
     He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
         he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
     He has brought down rulers from their thrones
         but has lifted up the humble.
     He has filled the hungry with good things
         but has sent the rich away empty.
     He has helped his servant Israel,
         remembering to be merciful
     to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
         even as he said to our fathers.”

 

Reflection by Hilary


In Christian worship some of the most popular words that have been set to music are the words of Mary after she was told that she was to bear a son who was to be the Saviour of the world.   Mary’s joyful hymn of praise has echoed down the generations and still plays an important part in Christian worship today.  Some Christians see it as almost a mission statement for Luke’s gospel, with its focus on lifting up the lowly and bringing down the proud.  Some of the most inspiring Christian music of today including that from contemporary composers such as Margaret Rizza, Jaques Berthier, and Richard Shepherd to mention a few have been inspired by those words.  And those words which form the canticle, the ‘Magnificat’ are very familiar words in the service of evensong down the years and which is still a popular service today although sadly it has been discontinued by many churches.

 

In the Gospel reading for today from the 1st chapter of Luke’s gospel we hear Mary’s song as she visits her cousin Elizabeth, the angel having told her that she would bear a son who was to be the Saviour of the world.  Mary’s response to the angel is one of complete acceptance, ‘Be it unto me according to your word’.

 

Having said ‘Yes’ to God’s invitation, Mary immediately participates in God’s plan by hurrying off to see her cousin Elizabeth.  As these two women meet, the plan of God is revealed and we are told that the child Elizabeth is bearing leaps in her womb.  Elizabeth recognises and responds with blessing and acceptance to the presence of the Messiah as she addresses Mary as, ‘The mother of my Lord’.

 

Mary responds wholeheartedly in praising God in the words of, ‘The Magnificat’.   Mary’s response is dominated by the concept of a God who defies all worldly expectations by honouring the poor and humbling the rich.  Certainly the emphasis in Mary’s song is on the work of God’s power, which is shown particularly brightly when it exalts the humble who fear God and shatters the illusion of security surrounding the rich and powerful who trust in themselves.

 

Mary was well versed in the Scriptures as can be seen in the references to the Old Testament in the Magnificat and ends on the theme of God’s faithfulness as displayed in remembrance of the promises to Abraham.  Mary acknowledges all that God has done for her in asking her to be the mother of Jesus.  ‘God has looked on my lowliness…..all generations will call me blessed’.

 

She reflects the great joy of discipleship and of the invitation to respond to God’s call in our lives.

In the second half of the Magnificat, we see a shift of focus.  The ordinary woman, Mary, called and responding to God’s sings of what she will do and is doing for the word through her saying ’yes’.  God has ‘put down the mighty’, ‘raised the lowly’, ‘routed the proud’, and ‘filled the starving’.  Mary’s song of praise reveals the Christ to us and points the way.

 

Despite the low status of an unmarried young woman in first-century Middle Eastern society, Mary clearly has a well-developed relationship with her God, and an understanding of the history of God’s relationship with her people. She is articulate in her insights into the uncertain nature of what has happened to her, an insignificant girl chosen and entrusted to bear the incarnate son of God. We can’t help thinking that the son born and raised by this brave and faithful young woman will turn the world upside down.

 

Mary lays down quite a challenge to those who follow her son. Are we to be content with the status quo, meekly accepting the divide between rich and poor, powerful and lowly? Are we to go along with a world order where it is acceptable for many to go hungry when some have so much more than they will ever need? Or are we to follow a God who joyfully turns all this on its head, blessing those whom the world does not bless, and rewarding faithfulness with a close and loving relationship? Jesus embodies so much of what today’s Gospel reading is about: taking the received structures and norms of society and overturning them. It is Jesus who socialises with tax collectors and sinners, heals the outcasts of society and sets aside the religious rules which are getting in the way of people’s understanding of God.

 

The revolutionary God whom Mary praises in the Magnificat is not the God of respectable institutions or the establishment, neither then nor in our own time. It is not the authorities such as Herod and the chief priests, who recognise the birth of the Son of God, but itinerant agricultural workers, such as the shepherds and foreign scientists, the Magi.

 

One of Mary’s many titles is that she is the First Disciple.  She was the first human being to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, whose kingdom would have no end and she was the first to believe it.  Like her, we need to be ready to hear God’s call, so that we can follow her example.  We may not be visited by an angel but perhaps by a church leader, calling us to some new ministry, some new role, some new task.  We are all called to some form of service, though not all Christian ministries have a label. 

 

When God calls we need to respond in the way Mary did – ‘Be it unto me according to your word’. 

 

Post Communion Prayer

God most high,
whose handmaid bore the Word made flesh:
we thank you that in this sacrament of our redemption
you visit us with your Holy Spirit
and overshadow us by your power;
strengthen us to walk with Mary the joyful path of obedience
and so to bring forth the fruits of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Galatians 4.4-7 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Isaiah 61.10,11 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Luke 1.46-55 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Collect (Blessed Virgin Mary) ©  Church of the Province of Southern Africa (Anglican)
 

Post Communion (Blessed Virgin Mary) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000