Mary - Southern Madonna

Today, August 15, churches celebrate Mary, the mother of Jesus. The day has many titles: The Assumption, the Dormition, the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary… In some places the feast is regarded as so special that it is moved to Sunday (or, one might argue, it is not regarded as special enough, and there’s a fear that not enough will turn up to celebrate the feast on a Tuesday…)

The origin of the feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15 is unknown.

My reflection on Mary the mother of Jesus includes:

Mary (“Miriam”) bears the same name as Moses’ sister. A strong woman. She is married to Joseph. The names of the rest of the family are also strong names recollecting their early history of liberation. Jesus (Joshua = “God saves/liberates/sets free”), James (Jacob), Joseph, Simon (Simeon), Judas (Judah), (Matthew 13:55). And, yes, we know Jesus had at least two sisters. It also tells a story that we don’t know their names.

Does your family go in for royal names (George, James, Henry, William, Elizabeth, Anne)? Famous sportspeople? Jesus’ family seemed to choose early liberation names. Jesus’ family chose names from the foundational deliverance stories of their nation. You can imagine what the Roman oppressors thought of people with names like this.

When the new Joshua (Jesus) crosses the Jordan (baptism) from the far side (Jn 1:28), re-entering the Promised Land, one can imagine the emails that hit Pontius Pilate’s PC from the equivalent of MI5 or the SIS. The strong Miriam-Mary and her family were a group to keep an eye on.

On a previous blog post for this feast, The Blessed Virgin Mary, there are some quotes worthy of reflection from Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ – joint statement of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC):

The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption raise a special problem for those Anglicans who do not consider that the precise definitions given by these dogmas are sufficiently supported by Scripture….

In the East the feast was known as the ‘dormition’, which implied her death but did not exclude her being taken into heaven. In the West the term used was ‘assumption’,which emphasized her being taken into heaven but did not exclude the possibility of her dying….

One consequence of our separation has been a tendency for Anglicans and Roman Catholics alike to exaggerate the importance of the Marian dogmas in themselves at the expense of the other truths more closely related to the foundation of the Christian faith. Anglicans and Roman Catholics agree that the doctrines of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception of Mary must be understood in the light of the more central truth of her identity as Theotókos, which itself depends on faith in the Incarnation. We recognize that, following the Second Vatican Council and the teaching of recent Popes, the Christological and ecclesiological context for the Church’s doctrine concerning Mary is being re-received within the Roman Catholic Church. We now suggest that the adoption of an eschatological perspective may deepen our shared understanding of the place of Mary in the economy of grace, and the tradition of the Church concerning Mary which both our communions receive. Our hope is that the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion will recognize a common faith in the agreement concerning Mary which we here offer. Such a re-reception would mean the Marian teaching and devotion within our respective communities, including differences of emphasis, would be seen to be authentic expressions of Christian belief….

As a result of our study, the Commission offers the following agreements, which we believe significantly advance our consensus regarding Mary. We affirm together

– the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture, and only to be understood in the light of Scripture (paragraph 58);

– that in view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One, Christ’s redeeming work reached ‘back’ in Mary to the depths of her being and to her earliest beginnings (paragraph 59);

– that the teaching about Mary in the two definitions of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, understood within the biblical pattern of the economy of hope and grace, can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions (paragraph 60);

– that this agreement, when accepted by our two Communions, would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context (paragraphs 61-63);

– that Mary has a continuing ministry which serves the ministry of Christ, our unique mediator, that Mary and the saints pray for the whole Church and that the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us is not communion-dividing.

Do also look at Mary Consoles Eve.

The image at the top of this post is that of The Southern Madonna, by Julia Lynch (Sister Mary Lawrence of the Trinity RSM). It hangs in the church at Southern Star Abbey, Kopua.

What resources, thoughts, reflections can you add to enrich the lives of those who gather around this site? Please add them in the comments.

The sermon today preached by Fr Richard Peers at the Mass celebrating the Assumption at All Saints Margaret Street, London is found here.

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