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Posts Tagged ‘the Virgin Mary’

Lessons:

Isaiah 11: 1-5

Psalm 138

Romans 12: 9-16

St. Luke 1: 39-56

Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Son and made known through her Your gracious regard for 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 with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Festival Day:  John the Baptizer and Jesus, the two great figures of salvation history, now come together in the visit to Elizabeth by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:39-45), both of whom conceived their children under miraculous circumstances. Thus John is brought into the presence of Jesus while they are still in their mothers’ wombs. This presence of the Lord causes a response by the child John as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. John’s response to the presence of Jesus, the Messiah, foreshadows John’s own role as forerunner. Already now, a new creation is beginning, and a baby still in the womb hails the new creation’s inception. Foreshadowed in John’s leap are the miracles of Jesus, who will cause all creation to leap at His presence: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). The incarnate presence of the Messiah also evokes a response from Elizabeth, who proclaims Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) provides the theological significance of this meeting as Mary sums up her place in salvation history. Mary’s song is a hymn to God for His gracious gifts to the least in this world, whom He has lifted up out of lowliness solely because of His grace and mercy.

“… it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”—Irenaeus of Lyons (died AD 202)

(The above from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  The understanding from Ireanaeus of the contrast between Mary and Eve has obviously been around for sometime.  It has become a liturgical and theological centerpiece of Eastern Orthodox churches.  This dovetails well into Martin Luther’s understanding that the greatest miracle is not that Mary conceived but she believed.  Many years ago, everyone was all agog about WWJD bracelets:  What Would Jesus Do.  A friend and colleague said those bracelets should have on them, WWMD: What Would Mary Do.  She believed as the Word of the angel came into ear and into her heart (Romans 10:17).  She received with the meekness the implanted Word(James 1:21). Mary and Elizabeth are the first Church as the Church is the body of Christ, so Mary bore the Christ.  Because of the Christ in her womb, her body was the Church.  Mary bore the Word made flesh, as does the Church if she is faithful  to the Lord, as was Mary, even at times not understanding because of the weakness of the flesh (Luke 1:34). As Luther taught in the Large Catechism that the Church is a mother who begets every child through the Word of God.  As it is written:

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.Galatians 4:3-5

The Word of God made the virgin’s womb as He made all wombs and so:

Every child is gift. The Lord is sheer gift times two: God and man for all the diverse manner of women and men.  And so when Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s child, John, leaped in her womb when Elizabeth heard the greeting, the Word. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word alone.  The Church was there in the hill country of Judea.  The temple of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We are made His through His Word alone in Holy Baptism and in faith.  In the most humble of homes, the beauty of holiness shone within and without.  St. Luke 1: 45: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Indeed!  And so are you! The Church is made by His Word so that the Word be heard and sinners can hold fast to the Lord by His grace. As Elizabeth visited Mary and their Lord, so visit Him this day and every day in Word, in Holy Communion, in Prayer. He visits you with His Word, with His Baptism, with His Body and Blood!  Blessed Festival Day!  

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“As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.”-St. Cyril of Alexandria

Bio: Cyril (ca. A.D. 376-444) became archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, in 412. Throughout his career he defended a number of orthodox doctrines, among them the teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is “rightly called and truly is the Mother of God”–Theotokos, “the God-bearer” (Formula of Concord, VIII, Ep VIII, 12). In 431 the Council of Ephesus affirmed this teaching that the Son of Mary is also true God. The writings of Cyril on the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ reveal him to be one of the most able theologians of his time. Cyril’s Christology influenced subsequent church councils and was a primary source for Lutheran confessional writings. (Source: LCMS website:  Commemoration Biographies)

“We can never be tired of hearing about the crowning of our Lord, and least of all in this most holy Golgotha…. Let none be weary. Take your armor against the adversaries in the cause of the cross itself; set up the faith of the cross as a trophy against our opponents. For when you are going to dispute with unbelievers concerning the cross of Christ, first make with your hand the sign of Christ’s cross, and the gainsayer will be silenced. Don’t be ashamed to confess the cross, for angels glory in it, saying, ‘I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified’ (Matthew 28:5)….

“Now Golgotha means ‘the place of a skull.’ Who prophetically named this spot Golgotha, where Christ the true head endured the cross? As the apostle says,

  • ‘He is the image of the invisible God’; and a little after, ‘He is the head of the body, the church’ (Colossians 1:15, 18).
  • And again, ‘the head of every man is Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:3);
  • and again, ‘who is the head of all rule and authority’ (Colossians 2:10).

The head suffered at ‘the place of a skull: O wondrous prophetic name! The very name also reminds you, saying, ‘Do not think of the Crucified as of a mere man. He is the head of all principality and power. He who was crucified is the head of all power and has for His head the Father, for “the head of every man is Christ…. and the head of Christ is God” ‘ (1 Corinthians 11:3)”(Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.22-23).

Heavenly Father, Your servant Cyril steadfastly proclaimed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be one person, fully God and fully man.  By Your infinite mercy, keep us constant in faith and worship of Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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The Old Testament Reading for the Day: Isaiah 7:10-14

The Gospel Reading for the Day: Luke 1:26-38

In exactly nine months from today, March 25th, is Christmas.  On this day the Church rejoices that the angel Gabriel announced (and so, annunciation) that the Virgin Mary would conceive and bear a Child:  the Son of God.  When Gabriel announced this, Mary responded, Let it be according to your word.  So the Annunciation is the Incarnation. The Word became flesh.  The Feast of the Annunciation is always in Lent.  His birth is our death, our death to sin.  His resurrection is our life, our life in Him. There is more than one annunciation. We will hear again the glad announcement, even more wondrous than the first to Mary:  He is risen! We will yet again the last Annunciation:  He comes again! In the midst of death, there is life (Luther).  St. Gregory Thaumaturgus  (died circa A.D. 270-275) wrote this on the Annunciation:

Most of the holy fathers and patriarchs and prophets desired to see Him with their own eyes, but did not. Some of them by visions beheld Him in type, and darkly; others, again, were privileged to hear the divine voice through the medium of the cloud and were favored with the vision of holy angels. But only to Mary the pure virgin did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself in brilliant light, bringing her the glad address, “Hail, you who are highly favored!” And thus she received the Word, and soon, in time, through the body’s natural process, she gave birth to the dear Pearl. Come, then, you, too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody that has been taught us by the inspired harp of David and say, “Arise, 0 Lord, into Your rest, You, and the ark of Your sanctuary.” For the holy Virgin is truly an ark, made with gold both within and without, who has received the whole treasury of the Holy of Holies.

For the holy Virgin is truly an ark…the Ark of the Covenant, not made by human hands.  As it was written when Israel entered into the land of promise:

Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3:11

The Virgin Mary for nine months was the first Church for our Savior was in her womb.  The first Ark of the Covenant was eventually placed in the Temple in Jerusalem.  When the Christ is born, He becomes the true Temple, not in Jerusalem or Gerizim (see John 4: 20-24) or any man-made ‘mecca’.  In John 2, when the disciples marveled upon seeing the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus responded that tear this Temple down and in three days I will raise it.  Others standing nearby were aghast and said it took 46 years to build it and you will rebuild in three days!  

But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

He promised that as 2 or 3 are gathered together in His Name, so He is there (Matthew 18:20).  He said, This is My Body and This is My Blood. Even the Piovano Community Room at the Rockbridge Library is where and when we are called to so meet and are so met by Him. Christ our Ark can alone keep us afloat in these tumultuous seas (see Matthew 8:27 and  Ephesians 4:13-15),  This is our Annunciation of His grace and peace for us sinners. He was announced to us when we were baptized.  The Church needs the Annunciation of the Word weekly and daily. This then so leads to the  reason of the Incarnation as so well said by St.Gregory Thaumaturgos:

Mary laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for irrational animals, the Word of God lay, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the true reason and understanding. In the manger from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide men who live like the beasts of the earth with spiritual food.

O  Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  (The Prayer of the Day)

 

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