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“Muggle Blood”

 

I gave blood today and every donor has to ask a string of questions to assure the purity of the donor’s blood.  There is more than one question about intravenous drug use, AIDS and homosexual contact.  So if taking drugs and homosexuality are so “okay” or right, then how can such ‘normal’ activities spread disease leading to death?  There is not one question to the effect:  Have you made love to your wife/husband in the last year?  There won’t be, or need to be such, because fidelity in marriage will not lead to tainted blood, but sleeping around will and same sex genitals do not fit into each other is basic biology and causes problems physical as well as spiritual.  The Lord has a plan for our life!  The Red Cross wants your “gift of life” to be clean, and bad blood not to be shared.  Finally and fully, the Red Cross can not clean our blood, but by the Cross, Jesus has.

In the Harry Potter novels and movies, muggles are magic folks with a non-magic blood. In one of the books, there was a movement amongst the nasty magic folks for pure bloods.  Yes, it is self-evident that we can do a lot to insure our blood is pure by NOT doing certain activities as indicated in the Red Cross questions, but once we think our blood is pure from, or by  birth then we are heading towards racialist and racist tyranny.  The point is our blood is not pure, as the hymn’s lyric nails it: 

For He alone, whose blood was shed,
can cure the fever in our blood

We are born with bad blood and it can get worse, but not so bad that the blood of Christ shed for sinners can not cleanse us (Hebrews 13:12) from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and has  and does (Matthew 26:28).

Many times I have been moved when I have witnessed, or as pastor led prayers in military ceremonies.  I have seen many a parade at the Virginia Military Institute and for all their rote marching, nevertheless, it is a solemn celebration that captivates.  I have led prayers at Navy retirements and once at a Navy commissioning of a “mustang“.  I have been moved at the simple eloquence of uniformed military presenting the colors on Memorial Day.  Given the gravity of the work our nation’s soldiers and sailors do on a daily basis protecting the Constitution and our nation, and what they are trained to do in war if needed, is reflected in a military ceremony which  portrays dignity of that purpose and vocation to that purpose.

I was struck by Pr. Gerhard’s meditation title, “The Dignity of the Church”, especially when I remembered this picture from a few years ago of bishops with clown noses.  Now I have been complicit in some of this nonsense over the years, such as,  I promoted a balloon release in a sanctuary for Ascension Thursday. It was all fairly silly…and lacking in dignity We have done many, too many silly things in Church, all with the purpose of being “relevant” and “reaching out to people”, as a way to be ‘joyful’.  Flippancy and joy are not the same.  As the noted 19th Century Baptist preacher said, and rather prophetically:  

Christians are being martyred as I write and you read this, not for wearing clown noses but for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.  They are not about public relations, but the Lord who sent His Son to die for a public weighted in death and despotism.  I think worship services lacking in dignity are an invitation to eventual apostasy.  We are called and baptized to a serious purpose, defending,yes, but also proclaiming the Lord.  Our vocations as parents, children, pastors, workers etc. is as the Lord’s, the salt of the earth.  The Church’s dignity is reflected in the liturgy of the Church which portrays the dignity of that purpose and vocation to that purpose, so the Lord captivates us in His freeing Word. Liturgy  is done by “rote”,  to show Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow (cf. Hebrews 13:8). Our vocations, the Lord’s call to Himself is for joy,”the serious business of heaven” (C. S. Lewis), not to be flip and forget about life, but joyful in the Life of all the living who finds us and saves us, and remember.  “Dignity” is from the Latin, “dignus”: worth.  The Lord has made us worthy, let us not do unworthy things.  From Pr. Gerhard’s meditation, The Dignity of the Church, for our encouragement:

Meditate, O devout soul, upon the worthiness of the Church, and take heed lest thou do anything unworthy of her.  The Church is thy spiritual mother; take care that thou despise not her voice as she speaks to thee. She is thy mother, and through word and sacraments thou oughtest draw all thy spiritual nourishment from her. The church is as a chaste virgin ; if thou then wouldst be true to her, abstain from the embraces of the world ; thou belongest to her, see then that thou dishonor not thyself nor her by any unholy alliances with the devil. The Church is the bride of Christ, and so is every godly soul ; let it take heed then not to cling to Satan in an unholy union. Thou, 0 my soul, art the bride of Christ; see to it that thou lose not the earnest of the Holy Spirit which hath been given unto thee; thou art the bride of Christ, pray unceasingly, that thy heavenly Bridegroom may hasten to lead thee unto the marriage feast above. Thy Bridegroom may come in the quiet and security of the midnight hour (Matt. xxv. 6); watch therefore, that when He cometh He may not find thee sleeping, and shut the door of eternal salvation upon thee. Let thy lamp be filled with the oil of faith and be brightly burning, lest at the coming, of thy heavenly Spouse thou shouldst seek in vain for oil for thy lamp (Matt. xxv.).

The Persecuted Church

Armenian Orthodox church in Raqqa, Syria, now an ISIS office

The following article is copied from the Orthodox Christian Network and the photo is copied from an article in Rorate Coeli, “Archbishop of Mosul: “I have lost my Diocese to Islam – You in the West will also become the victims of Muslims”.-Pr. Schroeder

(AINA) — Since taking over Mosul on June 10, ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.

The following is the complete list of the Christian institutions in Mosul, grouped by denomination.

Syriac Catholic Church:

  1. Syrian Catholic Diocese – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul
  2. The Old Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul (The church goes back to the eighth century AD)
  3. The New Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood
  4. Church of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
  5. Museum of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
  6. Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation – Muhandiseen Neighborhood
  7. Church of the Virgin of Fatima – Faisaliah Neighborhood
  8. Our Lady of Deliverance Chapel – Shifaa Neighborhood
  9. The House of the Young Sisters of Jesus – Ras Al-Kour Neighborhood
  10. Archbishop’s Palace Chapel – Dawasa Neighborhood

Syriac Orthodox Church:

  1. Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese – Shurta Neighborhood
  2. The Antiquarian Church of Saint Ahodeeni – Bab AlJadeed Neighborhood
  3. Mar (Saint) Toma Church and cemetery, (the old Bishopric) – Khazraj Neighborhood
  4. Church of The Immaculate (Castle) – Maidan Neighborhood
  5. Church of The Immaculate – Shifaa Neighborhood
  6. Mar (Saint) Aprim Church – Shurta Neighborhood
  7. St. Joseph Church – The New Mosul Neighborhood

Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East:

  1. Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East – Noor Neighborhood
  2. Assyrian Church of the East, Dawasa Neighborhood
  3. Church of the Virgin Mary (old rite) – Wihda Neighborhood

Chaldean Church of Babylon:

  1. Chaldean Diocese – Shurta Neighborhood
  2. Miskinta Church – Mayassa Neighborhood
  3. The Antiquarian Church of Shimon alSafa – Mayassa Neighborhood
  4. Church of Mar (Saint) Buthyoon – Shahar AlSouq Neighborhood
  5. Church of St. Ephrem, Wady AlAin Neighborhood
  6. Church of St. Paul – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
  7. The Old Church of the Immaculate (with the bombed archdiocese)- Shifaa Neighborhood
  8. Church of the Holy Spirit – Bakir Neighborhood
  9. Church of the Virgin Mary – Drakziliya Neighborhood
  10. Ancient Church of Saint Isaiah and Cemetery – Ras AlKour Neighborhood
  11. Mother of Aid Church – Dawasa Neighborhood
  12. The Antiquarian Church of St. George- Khazraj Neighborhood
  13. St. George Monastery with Cemetery – Arab Neighborhood
  14. Monastery of AlNasir (Victory) – Arab Neighborhood
  15. Convent of the Chaldean Nuns – Mayassa Neighborhood
  16. Monastery of St. Michael – Hawi Church Neighborhood
  17. The Antiquarian Monastery of St. Elijah – Ghazlany Neighborhood

Armenian Orthodox Church:

  1. Armenian Church – Maidan Neighborhood
  2. The New Armenian Church – Wihda Neighborhood

Evangelical Presbyterian Church:

  1. Evangelical Presbyterian Church – Mayassa Neighborhood

Latin Church:

  1. Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and Convent of Katrina Siena Nuns – Sa’a Neighborhood
  2. Convent of the Dominican Sisters, – Mosul AlJadeed Neighborhood
  3. Convent of the Dominican Sisters (AlKilma Monastery) – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
  4. House of Qasada AlRasouliya (Apostolic Aim) (Institute of St. John the Beloved)

Cemeteries:

  1. Christian Cemetery in the Ekab Valley which contains a small chapel.

Collect of the Day: 

O God, enkindled with the fire of Your love, Your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and a shining light in Your Church. By Your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in Your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ. our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Bernard: A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the twelfth century AD, Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of twenty-two. After two years, he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some sixty-eight daughter houses. Bernard is remembered not only for his charity and political abilities but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by St. Bernard. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Addendum:   His zeal for the truth of the Gospel and the faith quelled many heresies.  But, “…in 1146-1147 Bernard led the preaching of the second Crusade and was sharply disappointed by its failure.” In historical retrospection, his eloquent preaching of the Crusade was misplaced.  Yet, “In his zeal he attacked the luxury of the clergy, the persecution of the Jews, and the abuses of Roman Curia.  Renowned as a great preacher, he brought to an end the pre-scholastic era, and he is sometimes called ‘the Last of the Fathers.'” (quotes from Festivals and Commemorations by Rev. Philip Pfatteicher)

Bernard most importantly and clearly preached and taught salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Many years ago, I picked up in a used book store volume 2 of Bernard’s sermons on The Song of Songs.  He applied the love poetry to the Church and Jesus, her Head and Husband.  It was one of the volumes that led me back to the orthodox Lutheran faith.  This first quote is cited in  the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, The Book of Concord:  The Lutheran Confessions:  

For it is necessary first of all to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God, but add yet that you believe also this, namely, that through Him sins are forgiven thee. This is the testimony which the Holy Ghost asserts in your heart, saying: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” For thus the apostle judges that man is justified freely through faith.

The Confessors in the Book of Concord point out that many of the crowd want to imitate the saints’ works, but not their faith and so falsely thinking  a man can be saved by works.  Bernard knew by faith that he and the whole Church are are saved  alone by grace alone through Christ alone and works flow forth. Faith is the root, love is the fruit.  

Out of Christ’s love, one with the Father in the Holy Spirit, comes the stillness in Him, listening to the Word, learning the Word, loving the Word, so living the Word.  In the following quote is an antidote for our much loquacious world, when everyone now blogs and posts every notion that comes into one’s head:

The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself. He knows that a curse is on the man who allows his own property to degenerate. And if you think my opinion worthless, then listen to one who is wiser than I: “The fool,” said Solomon, “comes out with all his feelings at once, but the wise man subdues and restrains them.” Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

In a similar vein, in the 17th Century, Johann Gerhard reflected: “Silence of the mouth is an excellent thing for peace of heart.”  We think that somehow that all our words, quick opinions, and shallow analyses will make for a better world, when it is the Word made flesh, the Word of Scripture, Who can alone change the heart, give life to body and soul, and hope to a dark sin-sick world. Indeed:  

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.
Psalm 12: 6

Finally and most importantly, Bernard knew the exact source of all faith, hope and love:  the  work of the Word made flesh alone upon the Cross Who saved as  this great hymn based upon a poem by Bernard proclaims.  As you read the lyric or listen to it, think of  the body of Christ and Christ our Head, our Sacred Head in the midst of the martyrdom of Middle Eastern Christianity taking place at this time and not forget to pray and speak out for the persecuted Church.  As the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  And (Saul) said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9: 5):

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676  Text: Is. 50: 6
Author: Paul Gerhardt
Based on the Latin poem “Salve caput cruentatum”
By Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, asc.

1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
And flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
That once was bright as morn!

3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
Their color, once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished
The splendor that was there.
Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife.

4. My burden in Thy Passion,
Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression
Which brought this woe on thee.
I cast me down before Thee,
Wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee;
Redeemer, spurn me not!

5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine!
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love,
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.

6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
From Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish
In death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

7. The joy can ne’er be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of life, desiring
Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring,
I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

9. My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!

10. Be Thou my Consolation,
My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well!

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #172 

 

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, Your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, and to another the word of faith. We praise You for the gifts of grace imparted to Your servant Johann, and we pray that by his teaching we maybe led to a fuller knowledge of the truth which we have seen in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

About Johann Gerhard:  Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) and the most influential of the seventeenth-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (twenty-three large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of fifteen he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the superintendent of Heldburg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  Pr. Gerhard is one of my favorite theologians. He prayed with the Church, he preached and taught the Scriptures with the Church and desired to give praise to God alone through His mercies in Jesus Christ for him and us all.His sermons are wellsprings of Scripture.  It used to be said as complement that a preacher preaches from the Bible.  Pr. Gerhard surely did!  As one pastor in an introduction to a volume of Gerhard’s sermons wrote:  “He saw the New Testament through Old Testament eyes.”  As the blessed Lutheran Reformers knew that Jesus Christ is the key to the Bible and the Bible, all of it, points to Him, Pr. Gerhard so preached and lived.  Pr. Gerhardt  lived and breathed the Scriptures as they are the very words of the Holy Spirit writ into His creation for our redemption in Jesus Christ.

The following quotes are from Pr. Gerhard’s Sacred Meditaitons:

On Holy Communion:

What can be more intimately united to the Lord than His own human nature, which He hath taken, in His incarnation, into fellowship with the adorable Trinity, and thus made the treasury of all the blessings that heaven has to bestow? What is so intimately joined to Him as His own body and blood? With this truly heavenly food He refreshes our souls, who are as miserable worms of the dust before Him, and makes us partakers of His own nature; why then shall we not enjoy His gracious favor? Who ever yet hated his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29)? How then can the Lord hate us, to whom He giveth His body to eat and His blood to drink? How can He possibly forget those to whom He bath given the pledge of His own body? How can Satan gain the victory over us when we are strengthened and made meet for our spiritual conflicts with this bread of heaven ?

On Christ’s Crucifixion and the Church:

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife ; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and will as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth ; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. V. 26).

On John the Baptist and Steadfastness:

 “…John’s (the Baptist) steadfastness is held up as an example to be followed by all faithful teachers—indeed also by all true Christians. John was not a reed. He did not allow himself to be deterred from the pathway of truth and from his calling by the world’s cunning and temptation.  So also Christians are not to be fickle and erratic like a reed.  Rather, they are to be grounded like pillars and columns in the house of God.   1 Tim. 3: 15, Rev. 3: 12ff

On Peter’s Denial and God’s Power:

 “We should also contemplate how Peter came to such a fall (i.e. his denial), in order that we avoid the same. He was entirely too daring (presumptuous)–meaning that it all depended upon a good heart and good intentions. When he noticed others who were not like him in this matter, he held them in disdain. Thus he experienced how very little we are capable of if God does not sustain us. Therefore we should indeed not rely on the strength of our own faith, or on our good intentions. God’s power does it, and it alone must do everything.”

On Meditation: 

“Let holy meditation produce in thee a knowledge of thy true condition, and this lead thee to conviction of sin, and convicyion beget in thee a spirit of devotion, and this indite thy prayer. Silence of the mouth is an excellent thing for peace of heart.  

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, through the patriarch Isaac You preserved the seed of the Messiah and brought forth the new creation.  Continue to preserve the Church as the Israel of God as she manifests the glory of Your holy Name by continuing to worship Your Son, the child of Mary;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Isaac:  Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Gen. 22:1–14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19–26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite—and eldest—son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28–29). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The enduring legacy of the Lord’s Word to the prophets is that His Word is given through marriage(s) and families, culminating in a Holy Family in Bethlehem.  These families do have their moments!  As when Rebekah schemes to have her favorite son Jacob receive Isaac’s blessing.  Funny how the Lord works things out but after all it was the Lord who named the son of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Laughter (Genesis 17:19)  Just think: Father and Mother calling to their son, “Dinner time, Laughter”.

One of the single longest chapters in Genesis is chapter 24 and it is all about the way the Lord arranged the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.  It is a moving love story. The main character is Abraham’s unnamed servant who acts as the Lord’s matchmaker.  We are told he prayed as the chapter proceeds. This is significant because this is the first time in Genesis when someone else, besides Abraham, prays to the Lord of Abraham!     It is  easy to gloss over, but important. The servant’s prayer is for a wife for Isaac as the Lord wills for His creation.  This long chapter is about marriage between man and woman and through marriage and family, His will of creation continues and so does redemption:  the Son of Mary, the step-son of Joseph.Truly, Abraham is the father of faith. And faith comes by the promises of God fulfilled finally and fully in Jesus Christ, the promise fulfiled. The Lord fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah in their son Isaac, and then in Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob and unto us the Son is born, unto us the Child is given (cf. Isaiah 9: 6).  Jesus Christ is the laughter of God overcoming sin and death as He is risen.  

Today marriage is under assault as no other time but this is just the outworn post-enlightenment understanding of the so-called “new morality” of the ’60s, which is really the old immorality dressed up to look hot.  It’s hot…hotter than hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, you can no more make a new value than you can a new primary color.  Luther said it well, “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.”  (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  The commemoration of Isaac is another good day to remember that before the Fall, the Lord gave us marriage and family, it is part of His creation and in Christ, creation itself is renewed waiting for the new heavens and the new earth and the marriage feast of the Lamb (seeRevelation 19:9) .

Readings for the day:  Isaiah 61:7-11Galatians 4:4-7Luke 1:39-55

St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned repeatedly in the Gospels and the Book of Acts, with nearly a dozen specific incidents in her life being recorded: her betrothal to Joseph; the annunciation by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the mother of the Messiah; her visitation to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer; the nativity of our Lord; the visits of the shepherds and the Wise Men; the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple; the flight into Egypt; the Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve; the wedding at Cana in Galilee; her presence at the crucifixion, when her Son commended her to the care of His disciple John; and her gathering with the apostles in the Upper Room after the ascension, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Thus she is present at most of the important events in her Son’s life. She is especially remembered and honored for her unconditional obedience to the will of God (“Let it be to me according to Your word” [Luke 1:38]); for her loyalty to her Son even when she did not understand Him (“Do whatever He tells you” [John 2:1-11]); and above all for the highest honor that heaven bestowed on her of being the mother of our Lord (“Blessed are you among women” [Luke 1:42]). According to tradition, Mary went with the apostle John to Ephesus, where she died. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A Reflection:  I think the Roman Catholic problem with Mary is that they make much too much of her which has no Scriptural warrant.  I think the Lutheran problem with Mary has been we make much too little of her importance which likewise has no Scriptural warrant.  We should not pray to her and neither should we think we have prayed her away.

The Scripture records what she prayed:  “My soul doth magnifies the Lord.”  What or who do we magnify in our lives?    Think of what the world magnifies:  fame, wealth, power and the temple of the  self:  my feelings, my goodness, my friends, etc. and ad nauseam, and I  have wanted it all. Not Mary.  For instance: Mary did not “shop till she dropped”. Her Son was not a choice but her Child. She loved her Son.  She magnified the Lord.  She magnified, made big in her life God’s grace to her in bearing the Only-Begotten Son of God.  She bore her Savior and yours.

The other feast days, featuring the Mother of Our Lord, The Annunciation (St. Luke 1: 26-38), The Presentation (Luke 2: 22-38, and The Visitation (Luke 1: 39-56, are actually festivals of Jesus Christ.   And that’s the point! Mary is associated with them and she did magnify the Lord.  She never sought  attention for herself.   She knew she would be blessed (Luke 1: 48) but she did not seek adoration but adored Him born of her virgin womb. He was her Son and her Lord!  She knew humility.  This is not the stance of the neo-feminist woman of our day…or any man.   Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Orthodox professor (1921-1983) pointedly reflected, “In (Mary’s) humility and silence, she can hardly serve as patron for the noisy and arrogant feminism of our time.”

 A colleague of mine once said during the fad of “WWJD” bracelets (What Would Jesus Do) that it actually should be “WWMD”:  what would Mary do?  Good question.  The answer?  She heard the Word of God, the Word of grace.  She obeyed.  She was a faithful wife. She believed.  She prayed.  She suffered.  She served her Lord and her neighbor. She pointed to her Son at the wedding at Cana:  Do whatever He tells you (John 2:1-11}. It was all the Lord’s good work toward her and the fruit of His good work, likewise the Lord’s and the greatest still is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And because of her Son, as Luther said, the greatest miracle was not the Virgin conceived, but she believed.  She is the model of the faithful believer, even the whole Church. “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”--Galatians 4: 19

Let us pray:  

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary 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 lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

 

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