Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weston Garden Dedication







On Sunday, 24th October 2010, the new Weston Garden was dedicated to the glory of Almighty God and blessed by yours truly at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church. This beautiful memorial garden was named in honour and loving appreciation of the Reverend Canon William R. and Valerie Weston. A delightful reception celebrating the many contributions of Father Bill and Val to the Parish was held after the dedication service.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Brian Marsh


A truly pastoral, charitable and Christian statement on the current processes under way in the ACA...

ANGLICAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
Diocese of the Northeast
Rt. Rev. Brian Marsh, Bishop

October 12, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This pastoral letter comes to you after a very busy period of time. Our diocesan synod was indeed a blessing and I want to thank all who participated in that wonderful gathering. Since my last major pastoral letter of June 3, many events have come to pass that require our prayerful discernment. Accordingly, I commend the following to you for your thoughts and prayers. I request that this letter be shared with every parish in the diocese.

OF UNITY AND CONVERSION

Few of us would argue against the principle of Christian unity. The unity of God's people is something that we earnestly pray for and eagerly seek. Indeed, on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born, all were gathered together in one place and "with one accord." It is that quality of being in accord with each other that makes the church a healthy, functioning home for God on earth. That spirit of accord is also one that we should endeavor to create and celebrate in our parishes.

We all wish in our heart of hearts to be of one accord, in unity with each other in a bond of love that replicates the very bond of love between the Father and the Son.
I am very happy to report that most churches in our diocese are indeed of one accord, particularly as it relates to our desire to worship God in the Anglican tradition. While we are far from perfect, we do recognize the necessity of continually aspiring to join with each other in closer bonds of unity. It is clear that God has called us to be together in unity and serve His church faithfully.

Above all, we must remember that unity begins at home. Just as a family should stay together in unity, so should our parishes and diocese remain unified, committed to each other and to our common life and mission. We all know that divorce and separation causes pain and disruption to family life. Similarly, any splits or separations within the Christian family will cause pain and disruption to the lives of God's children. It is vital that we stay together.

What does seem clear to me is this: breaking our diocese and parishes apart for the sake of some imagined unity makes no sense. We must be of "one accord" as we seek a way forward. For that reason, I discourage any parish "votes." Any such votes seem certain to produce winners and losers. Children are often placed in difficult decisions during divorce proceedings when asked to vote whether to go with their Mother or Father. How wrenching such decisions must be for the hearts and souls of vulnerable children. We must never allow this to happen to us. Rather, I ask that all parishes seek to reach consensus about the future direction of their parish. Consensus requires a parish to be of one accord. This is the Godly thing to do. Just as all of God's children are loved by God, we must love each other and seek to prevent hurt and separation. This is certainly a much more challenging task than taking a simple vote. But I do not believe that God asks us to take a simple path; God asks us to take His path. That will mean that we treat all of God's children with love and respect. It will mean treating all parishes with love and respect, creating Christian communities where no one is voted in or out. God, I believe, would have it that way.

Since the Apostolic Constitution was released nearly a year ago, many of us have sought to discern our way forward with regard to its provisions. Should we accept the Vatican’s offer to become Roman Catholics and enter an Ordinariate or should we maintain our present course? Entering an Ordinariate requires that all who do so convert to Roman Catholicism. Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop in charge of Ordinariates in this country, has made this very clear; entering an Ordinariate requires that all who do so must convert to the Roman Catholic Church.
Should any individuals be moved to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church or Ordinariate, there are three basic options: one, you may simply join a Roman Catholic parish; second, you may write your bishop a letter seeking entry as an individual into an Ordinariate; or third, should your parish as a whole wish to join an Ordinariate, you may write to me and make that request. Should your parish be of "one accord" in seeking to join an Ordinariate, that path is clearly open. To date, I have received several letters from parishes that are indeed of one accord in seeking to remain with the ACA and the Diocese of the Northeast. These parishes have decided against entering an Ordinariate. I have not asked for such letters, but the parishes felt moved to send them along. I received one letter from a group that does seek admission to the Ordinariate. That body had reached a complete accord in its desire to accept the Vatican's offer. I asked that they send a letter to me in that regard. Upon receiving the letter, I forwarded it on to Archbishop Falk. He was, until recently, the person who collected all such requests.

As I have traveled around the diocese, I have noted that there are presently few parishes seeking entry into the Ordinariate. There may be one or two. If so, I simply ask that the parish reach full consensus with ALL parishioners before requesting admission. As I mentioned in my June pastoral, those parishes that do not wish to join an Ordinariate need do nothing.

You also should know that, as your bishop, I remain committed to Christian unity, which certainly includes the traditional Anglican Church bodies whose practices and beliefs are consistent with our own. I remain also firmly committed to the Anglican Church in America. But, even more, I remain committed to the people of the diocese I have been called to serve. May we seek always to be of one accord in our lives within God's holy church.
Your Brother in Christ,
+Brian

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On the Inspiration of Holy Scripture


Inspiration means ‘God-breathed,’ in-spiritus, in-Spirited, Spirit-filled.

‘The Holy Scriptures are able to make thee (empower into wisdom) wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration (Theopneustos = God-spirited, God-breathed) of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.’ II Timothy 3.15-16

‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost'. II Peter 1.20-21

‘I believe the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation in Jesus Christ.’'Are your persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?' (Ordination of Priests in the Anglican Ordinal).

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (Article of Religion VI).

We Anglican Catholics believe in the full, or plenary, inspiration of Scripture: every word and syllable in Scripture is inspired by God and meant to teach the Church. Interpretation of the Church’s Book is properly done by the whole Catholic Church in all ages, East and West, universally, anciently, consentiently, which reads Scripture according to her own mind. The Undivided Church is the living Voice which gives articulation to the meaning of the Scriptures, through the Creeds and the Holy Tradition. The Church guarantees the authenticity and inspiration of the Canon of Scripture, and for this reason, how particular books may teach or who wrote them are of secondary importance. Canon is canon because the Church is herself guided and inspired so to teach, relegating questions of personal authorship or history to the background. The inspired Biblical Canon rests on the authority of inspired Spirit-possessed Body of Christ, the Church. We are not bound to any particular theory of how Scripture is inspired, as long as we affirm with the Church that the Canonical Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and have been inspired in their totality by the Spirit of God.

Various theories exists as to how Scripture is inspired:

1. Verbal inspiration - God immediately and directly caused the writers to set their texts to paper, being thus oracles, secretaries of the Holy Ghost. This view was held by most of the early Church Fathers. This process is a totally supernatural explanation.

2. Natural inspiration - God worked within the naturally occurring histories of his people, permitting men of particular interests, talent and ability to write what would later be reckoned Holy Scripture. This view may be called ‘historical emergence.’

3. Mixed bag - a) God, in some cases, directly inspired by providing infused knowledge or a direct supernatural vision, and in other instances, God inspired through man's natural talents and abilities. b) God used pre-existing materials, inspiring their collection and edition into biblical books. c) God directed the general course of human history to lend towards a particular creation of Scripture.

In the end, inspiration is a mystery, and various theories are permitted, so long as one affirms genuine inspiration of Scripture by God. God chose certain men and made use of their own faculties and powers to write Scripture. They really wrote the Bible; they were not ‘puppets.’ They wrote exactly what God wanted, as he wanted it. The Bible teaches, therefore, without error, the truth of God we need to possess for our salvation.

God is the divine author of Scripture because He inspired the human authors; he acts in, with and through them. He guarantees in His Church that their writings are free from error, communicating His divine truth rightly. Hence we 'rightly divide the Word of Truth' (II Timothy 2.15). The Bible is not a collection of human authorship, it is not the word of man, it does not combine truth and error, but is the very Word of God written. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God’ (I Thessalonians 2.13).

God condescends and speaks to mankind in human words; the Creator accommodates Himself to mankind for our salvation, supremely in the Incarnation of the Word of God, God the Son, the Logos-Word of the Father, Who empties Himself and takes on the form of Man to communicate His Divine Life to us - the principle of the Incarnation was at work in the formation and revelation of Holy Scripture - ‘God was made man so man can be made God’ (Saint Athanasius). God conveys Himself to man through human word and speech.

The One Word of God, the Divine Logos, is the one Word uttered throughout Holy Scripture. God expresses Himself completely and perfectly through His Divine Word, the Person of the Son (Saint John 1.1-14). For this reason, the Church venerates the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, honouring the actual physical text of the Bible with incense and kisses, honouring the Person of Our Lord present in the Bible, as He is present even more intensely and objectively in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

‘One and the same Word extends throughout Scripture, the One and same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, for He was in the beginning "God of God."’(Saint Augustine of Hippo, On the Psalms).

‘All Sacred Scripture is one book, and that one Book is Christ, because all Divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and is fulfilled in Christ’ (Hugh of Saint Victor).

‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’ (Saint Jerome).

There is four-fold way of interpreting Scripture, a four-fold method, or as the Holy Fathers call them, the Four Senses of Scripture: Scripture possesses both a literal and a spiritual, figurative, symbolic, iconic meaning. Because Scripture is living and active, it is capable of holding all four senses. Sometimes, in any given case, only one or two are applicable, sometimes all are at work. Indeed, because of the multiplicity of various genres and styles of literature in the Bible, only one sense may be useful and helpful and even operative in any given example.

1. Literal and Historical: ‘All senses of Scripture are based on the literal’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas). According to Saint Thomas, the Church must never establish a doctrine solely on an allegorical reading, but it must be based in the literal meaning of the Bible. One must have the basic literal meaning before the others emerge. Meaning is conveyed by the Scripture itself and discovered by exegesis (reading-out) of the meaning. For example, Jerusalem = a city of Israel.

2. Allegorical: Realities and events discussed in Scripture are themselves signs of God’s presence and will. Allegory is the Scripture's significance in Christ. For example, Jerusalem = the Catholic Church.

3. Tropological and Moral: the Scriptures are written for our instruction and learning, and our moral teaching. For example, Jerusalem = God’s holy people, God’s pure chosen flock.

4. Anagogical and Eschatological: (anagoge, leading, uncovering). Events and realities of the Bible are viewed in their eternal significance, their symbolic meaning as pointing to the end of the world and eternity. For example, Jerusalem = the heavenly kingdom.

The medieval couplet sums-up the four senses of Scripture:

The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.
Lettera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.


Jesus Christ is the lens of Scripture, through whose Incarnation and Paschal Mystery we orthodox catholics read the whole of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. Scripture is inerrant, without error, infallible, never teaching falsehood, because as the Word of God it communicates God’s saving truth of Faith and Morality, and faithfully transmits the intention of God in teaching faith and morals to us. Although specific texts may differ in the purposes of their inspiration, their inerrancy is guaranteed for whatever purpose, by God Himself.

To discover the meaning of particular texts, one must look to the teaching office of the Church, Holy Tradition, the unbroken Apostolic teaching of the Church. The purpose for inspiration itself will go unfulfilled if one does not look to the Body which has been inspired by the Holy Ghost to give the right interpretation of her own Book. We must read Scripture within the Living Tradition of the whole Catholic Church. The Holy Fathers teach that the Bible is written in Church’s heart, in her interior life, rather than on paper or in documents. Inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit, the Church carries in her Tradition the whole teaching contained in Scripture.

‘The Word of God is not just a mute, written word, but is Incarnate and Living in the Church’ (S. Bernard of Clairvaux).

There is but One Catholic Faith, One Deposit of Divine Revelation, but Two Modes of its transmission, Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. The Catholic Church, especially represented by the Apostolic College, the historic Episcopate, is the guardian, transmitter teacher and interpreter of Holy Scripture. In order to retain their proper meaning, the Holy Scriptures cannot divorced from the context in which they were inspired, to wit, the doctrine, liturgy and discipline of that Church which bears the marks One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic. 'Biblical orthodoxy' cannot be realised without or separated from ecclesiastical Tradition. The Church of the living God is the 'pillar and ground of the Truth,'the House of God(I Timothy 3.15).

‘Where there is the Church, there is the Spirit and where the Spirit is, there is the Church. The Church is the place where the Spirit flourishes' (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons).

'But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me' (Saint Augustine).

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Communion of Saints: Our Own Festival Day


At the end of this month arrives All Saints’ Day! The celebration of the Feast of All Saints recapitulates our own redemption in Christ and a joyful contemplation of our own personal and corporate future in the One Who is the Resurrection and the Life. It is the great feast day of the Family of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, that Church of God which is the redeemed human race. What the Saints in glory are, we are promised to be. 1st November reminds us of our present life in the communion of the Holy Spirit and of our anticipated life, to be shared with all of Christ’s beloved, in the age of the world to come, an age transfigured by grace. Blessed be God in His Saints: what the Saints once were, we are now; what they are now, we shall become. All Saints’ Day is the family celebration of the People of God.

The Church exists in three inseparable and organically-united states from now until the End of the world, the Last Day, the Day of Jesus Christ: 1. the Church Militant, alive on earth today, 2. the Church Expectant in the Intermediate State, Paradise or the Bosom of Abraham, and 3. the Church Triumphant in the glory of the Blessed Trinity in Heaven. The celebration of All Saints’ Day is the glorious feast of the whole Catholic Church of God, in glory and on earth, universal across space and time and beyond time. All Saints’ Day breaks through the monotony and banality of this often-dreary era with the splendour and joy of our life in Christ now, and in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The Church on earth prays for all who have died in the Faith of Christ, asking the Lord’s blessing and mercy upon them (Book of Common Prayer 74-75, 268, 332-336, 598). The Church accompanies the death of all Christ’s dear children with prayer for them to the Lord. Simultaneously, when the Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, bears witness to the holiness of certain reposed Christians, the faithful, in addition to prayer made for them, are taught by the good examples of their lives and thus place these souls before themselves as examples to be emulated and followed.

When the common conviction possessed by the Church of the sanctity and heroically virtuous life of a reposed Christian is confirmed by special testimony, such as spiritual gifts of healing, martyrdom, bold confession of the Faith, self-giving love offered in sacrifice for Christ and the Church, and in particular, miracles occurring after the death of the holy person when he is remembered in prayer, the Church then canonises the person in a unique manner. In such a case, the holy person, recognised by the Church as having once been a member of the Church Militant here in earth and now a member of the Church Triumphant in glory, is commemorated in the Liturgy of the Church: ‘canonisation’ refers to the inclusion of the blessed individual in the liturgical calendar and in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the Divine Offices with special collects and scriptural readings.

From that multitude which no man can number, which rejoices on another shore, in a greater light, God deigns to show the Church on earth a select few to be our spiritual elder brothers, sisters, guides and friends. To be canonised is to be placed in the Canon, the order or rule, of the Church’s liturgical life and observance, the yearly cycle of prayer and praise rendered unto God the Holy Trinity, in recognition of the Saint’s eternal destiny in Christ and communion with the earthly Church. Our Common Prayer Book in the American edition contains twenty such feast days for particular Saints, with provision for additional celebrations of other Saints as mandated by Church authority (BCP 258). A Saint, or holy one (Hagios, in Greek), is thus said to have been ‘raised to the Altars’ of the Church, as we on earth are assured by God that the beloved is in Heaven, the Beatific Vision, the Kingdom of God.

The Church, which is the Communion of Saints and the Family of God, honours and glorifies those who are the friends of God in a wonderfully intense way in Heaven (Saint John 15.14-15). Our Divine Lord receives His saintly friends into the heavenly mansions in fulfilment of His promise: that where I am, there ye may be also (Saint John 14.3). In acknowledgement of this grace given by Him Who is Life and Light to His heavenly companions, the Church in prayer praises the struggles and virtues of those so glorified in Christ and seeks their assistance in intercession and example as we determine to grow in the holiness and love of God and in avoidance of sin and advancement in the moral and spiritual life: O God the King of Saints, we beseech thee that, encouraged by their example, strengthened by their fellowship, and aided by their prayers, we may attain unto everlasting life (1929 Scottish BCP).

‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours’ (Revelation 14.13). In accomplishment of the Scriptures, the Church indeed blesses those who have entered into the beatitude of the Risen Lord. The glory which the Father has given the Son forever is granted as mercy and grace to those who reign with Jesus in the heavenly country; and so the Church, still in pilgrimage on earth, moving toward the Promised Land, rightly honours those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith (Saint John 17.22). The Church in her devotion and liturgy receives righteous men and women as righteous men and women; brothers and sisters of Christ in the glory of the Kingdom remain our brothers and sisters in the Church; our communion of prayer with those who have passed beyond the veil reinforces our love for them, our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters in the sacred society of God (Saint Matthew 10.41, 12.50). Our fellowship in Jesus Christ, the Head and Priest of the Body, with the Virgins, Martyrs, Apostles, Confessors and Doctors is never interrupted, and continues for ever with those in the heavenly realm (I Saint John 1.3). The Saints are near to the Throne of God and the Lamb and pray for the Church on earth, praising and extolling the Lord of Hosts (Revelation 5.11).

Our communion with the Saints permanently realises the bond between Christians on earth and the heavenly Church:

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12.22-23).

Or to summarise our faith and life in the Communion of the Saints as expressed in that incomparable 1549 English Liturgy of the Anglican Tradition:

And here we do give unto thee most high praise, and hearty thanks, for the wonderful grace and virtue, declared in all thy saints, from the beginning of the world: And chiefly in the glorious and Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord and God, and in the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs, whose examples, O Lord, and stedfastness in thy faith, and keeping thy holy commandments, grant us to follow. We commend unto thy mercy, O Lord, all other thy servants, which are departed hence from us, with the sign of faith, and now do rest in the sleep of peace: Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy, and everlasting peace, and that, at the day of the general resurrection, we and all they which be of the mystical body of thy Son, may altogether be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: Come unto me, O ye that be blessed of my Father, and possesses the kingdom, which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.

Happy Feast Day! God bless you!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Our Lady in October

In the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we celebrate in the month of October the honour of the one human being who was closest to the Saviour and Redeemer of Man,
the one human person more intimate with Jesus Christ, the God-Man, than any other in all of history and eternity.

She bore Him in her spotless womb, nursed Him at her breast, tenderly cared for Him as a child, raised Him, taught Him, instructed Him, protected and nurtured Him, watched Him teach, preach, and perform miracles; she suffered the pain of seeing Him betrayed, rejected, executed, and finally she enjoyed the beauty and splendour of His resurrection from the dead - yes, of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first and ultimate disciple of Christ, the first believer in the Lord, the first and greatest Christian of all, and now the chiefest Saint in Heaven - the Mother of our Lord, God and Saviour.

Like Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the Ten Commandments, we in the orthodox Christian Tradition honour in a special way the Virgin Mother of Christ as the Mother of our Lord and our Mother: ‘Honour thy father and thy mother.’ Jesus perfectly respected and loved His heavenly Father and His earthly Mother - and our unbroken history of prayer and devotion does the same.

Orthodox Christianity from the beginning of the Faith has honoured and remembered the Virgin Mary as the human Mother of the Incarnate God.

‘Born of the Virgin Mary’ (Apostles Creed)
‘Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man’ (Nicene Creed)

The Undivided Catholic Church honoured and venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary with special feasts in her memory on 15th August and 8th December; Anglicans do today because we too are members of the Holy Catholic Church and we agree with the ancient Christian Tradition ‘when the Church was one,’ the Faith held by the whole Church, East and West, for the first thousand years of the Christian dispensation.

The Church has a special place in her heart for the Virgin Mary because she is so close to Jesus, the closest human being to Him on earth and in heaven.

No person in the history of salvation has been more misunderstood or more made the subject of confusion than Our Lord’s Mother. No one person has been more controversial, loved, or hated than the Holy Virgin. But she, the humble Handmaid of the Lord, remains a quiet witness to the glory of her Son. Mary, with simplicity and docility, did the will of God without question, believing, trusting and hoping in the Lord: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.’ She is the Perfect Woman, the supreme Exemplar.

The Holy Catholic Church honours, venerates, reveres the Blessed Virgin, but never worships her - for adoration or worship is due to God alone. The Mother of God is loved and honoured because:

1. she gave birth to God in the Incarnation, and,
2. because she is the ultimate Christian, completely faithful, obedient to God.

All devotion given to the Blessed Mother redounds to the glory of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. All devotion and honour given to the Virgin Mary glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary - the Incarnate Lord who assumed human nature from her womb. His Body was taken from her body. Mary is honoured by Christians universally in all ages, times and places, because she was chosen by God to be His Mother, she was selected by God to be the agent of the Incarnation.

All devotion and honour offered to Our Lord’s Mother is Christocentric, that is, Christ-centred. Mary points us to her Divine Son, who is Our Lord and God. He is Mary’s Saviour, and ours. In her, God was made Man. Mary was not simply a vessel or a channel through which God became incarnate; she was a true Mother to Him, not only providing a human nature, but offering Him all the love and commitment a Mother gives her Son.

‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.’
Jesus is the saving Lord who has redeemed Mary and all men.

‘Whatever He saith unto you, do it.’ The Immaculate Virgin directs us to her Son.

Mary is the touchstone of orthodoxy; she secures the divine truth that God was made Man, God was incarnate, God assumed human nature. Mary is the supreme witness and testimony to the truth of the Incarnation.

She is Theotokos, Mother of God, Birthgiver of God, God-Bearer, as defined by the Third Ecumenical Council of the Undivided Church held at Ephesus (AD 431), which Council proclaimed as dogma the truth that Jesus Christ is One Divine Person Incarnate, with a true human nature.

Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is God
Mary is the Mother of God


Our Lady is not the cause or generator of the Divine Nature, the Deity of Christ, for that would be absurd, but she is the human Mother of the One Divine Person of the Son who assumed human nature in her womb. Her divine maternity, her birthgiving of God, is the essence of our salvation. The truth of Mary as Mother of God teaches and safeguards the dogma, the divinely-revealed truth, of the Incarnation.

The Church venerates the Blessed Virgin as:

1. THE NEW EVE: Mary reverses the disobedience of the first Eve by accepting her vocation to become the Mother of Christ. The Second Eve fulfils what the first Eve failed to do - she lovingly obeys God’s perfect and holy will. ‘I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.’ As Saint Irenaeus of Lyons says of her: 'By her obedience, Mary unlooses the knot tied by the disobedience of Eve.’‘Death by Eve, life by Mary’ says Saint Jerome. Mary is the Woman of Genesis 3.15, the Woman whose Seed will crush the head of the serpent even as He Himself is bruised. The Holy Virgin is the new Mother of all the living (Genesis 3.20). She is the Mother of all who live in Jesus Christ, presented as Mother to the Church, which is represented by the beloved disciple by Our Lord, in Saint John 19: ‘Behold thy Mother.'‘Mary conceived Jesus in her heart by faith before she ever conceived Him bodily in her womb’ (Saint Augustine). Our Lady is the perfectly obedient Christian, the model and pattern of the Christian life.

2. THE MOTHER OF GOD: Overshadowed by the Holy Ghost as the ancient temple was overshadowed by the shekinah cloud of God’s glory, Mary, the Temple of God and the dwelling-place of the Eternal Word, conceives and gives birth to Him Who is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. She gives our human nature to God the Word, who assumes our nature and therefore redeems it.
‘God can only save that which He assumes.’ Saint Gregory of Nazianzus
‘God became man so that man may become God.’ Saint Athanasius

And 3. THE ICON OF THE CHURCH: According to universal tradition, Mary experiences by anticipation what the whole Church, the Body of Christ, will experience on the Last Day. Her life of grace, her death and resurrection have already been consummated, a sign of the eschatological hope of the whole Church. Mary represents at every turn the Church of Jesus Christ. She is the Bride of God, the Virgin Daughter of Sion, the personification of the Church wedded to the Lord, a chaste Virgin Bride. In the holy icons, she is portrayed as the Church, standing upright before the Lord in prayer, intercessor before the Throne of Grace on which her Son reigns, being herself the Throne of God, the Ark of the New Testament, the Bearer of the Eternal Word. ‘Blessed is she who hears the word of God and keeps it.’ Our Lady is the Sign and Promise of the Church's salvation.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

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