The Annunciation: To Feast or Not to Feast????

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annunciation-John Collier

The Annunciation by John Collier 

 

Last week I was visiting the FB page for a conference I’m helping to organize for June of this year.

In the midst of commiseration discussions surrounding the stress and anxiety that Lent can provoke, my attention was caught by the following thought from one of my colleagues and fellow event-organizer:

Having a baby in the middle of Lent kind of throws off the tone. Hard to be penitential and abstain when there is so much to celebrate.

Indeed! 🙂

Having a baby often turns lives upside down. Everyone is excited to welcome the newest family member. People take time out of their schedule to visit the hospital, to bestow adorable onsies, gifts, kisses and smiles and hugs all around. If ever there was a time to say Alleluia! I’m pretty sure this is it. 😀

The regular rhythm of life for the family is also interrupted. If there are kids already in the picture, they now become siblings. Mom and Dad are now instantly “on call.” Diapers must be changed, cries attended to, and feedings to provide at all hours of the day or night. Sleeping patterns are temporarily dashed to pieces…..and a whole new way of life begins.

Which brings me to a reflection about the Feast of the Annunciation. This day in our Christian calendar–when Mary finds out that she is carrying a precious baby boy–typically falls in Lent.

The Good News which we remember and celebrate today, is the message of a child who will not only provide the Blessed Virgin’s family with love and fulfillment…..but will in fact carry that love and grace to the whole world; becoming our brother, our friend and our Saviour.

During the 40 day fast, it is customary to bury the Alleluia altogether. Mind you, I have seen parishes in which the custom is to break out the “A” word for this feast and also for the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19th)

So……what is a young priest to do??? 😛

The Feast of the Annunciation is all about the unexpected. Can you imagine being a 13 year old girl who has an angel show up at your doorstep??? Not only that…..but this scary-ass angel is telling you that you’re PREGNANT?!? :P…….

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Mary’s life was forever changed…….whatever way she hoped to observe the Jewish calendar probably fell apart, especially on account that being pregnant meant that she could not fast, even on Yom Kippur.

After getting over the initial terror and shock…..I can picture tears of joy coming from Mary’s eyes……crying Hallelujah! as she goes to immediately share the Good News with her cousin Elizabeth. Excitement and anticipation accompanying every step….. as her soul magnifies the Lord and rejoices in God her Saviour.

Just like Mary, our lives and our plans are interrupted. Our initial intention to observe the fast thrown out the window….at least for today. Today we praise God, the maker of heaven and earth. Alleluia! ❤ +

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A Brief History of the O Antiphons…..

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Today (Dec. 17th) marks one week until the Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity and the celebration of God’s coming among us. One of the traditional ways in which the Church prepares itself for this miraculous event is to recite the O Antiphons one by one in the lead-up to Christmas.

Usually attached to the Magnificat during Vespers (or in my case, Evening Prayer), the antiphons–which is a fancy word for “response”–helps the faithful to remember the promises of God made in the Old Testament…promises which are revealed to be eternal and kept faithfully by God through the sending of his Son into the world.

Each response recited invokes a different title and role of the Son who saves us….not only looking forward to the hope of Incarnation and advent…but in looking back through salvation’s history to see the loving face of our Father.

Since my schedule is busy this upcoming week and I don’t know how often I will get to post my thoughts on the Daily Office readings, I have decided at the very least to offer a short reflection on the O Antiphon appointed for each day :). I hope you enjoy, and that it offers some light to your path as we move ever-closer to threshold of the manger. +

Evening Prayer: December 15th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 50, 59, 60
Old Testament: Zech 4:1-14
New Testament: Rev 4:9-5:5
Gospel: Matt 3:1-12
Reading from the Magisterium of the Church: An excerpt from The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from those who work evil;
from the bloodthirsty save me.

Even now they lie in wait for my life;
the mighty stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. (Psalm 59:1-4)

All of this week, I’ve been in a particulary reflective mood; in part from contemplating the picture above. This image of Mary shocked over the results of a pregnancy test has been put up on a billboard in New Zealand and portrays the Theotokos in a very human light.

As I read Psalm 59 tonight, I imagine that some of the feelings described would definitely popped through Mary’s mind…especially in those first few months.

Sometimes we forget the true scandal of the Incarnation…and the fact that Mary likely would have been stoned if Joseph had truly desired it.

I can imagine Mary’s horror and uncertainty of her own future when she realized that God had indeed kept his promise and she was carrying a child.

Sure we get the story of the Annunciation in Luke…but saying “yes” to something is very different from being faced with the reality of social rejection, gossip, and religious alienation.

Unfortunately, the stigma attached to unwed mothers has not completely disappeared from our culture….and millions of women throughout the world must deal with unfair labels, insults, and degradation.

Yes…we get Mary’s song in which she proclaims that her soul magnifies the Lord….but that’s not until six months after the whole ordeal begins….when she is comfortable with her mission to the world, and her vocation to be a blessed and loving mother.

For tonight….we wrestle with the doubt and the worry……tonight we are made distinctly uncomfortable. :S +

Evening Prayer: Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th)

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Psalm: 45
Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:1-14
Gospel: John 19:23-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27)

You know what’s amazing??? I’ve spent more time and energy talking about Mary on this blog than in the whole 20 years I was Roman Catholic lol :P. Can you say irony???

Anyway…..tonight I want to talk about something that doesn’t get discussed in a whole lot of Anglican circles..and that’s the idea of intercession

In and of itself intercession describes the process of “intervening on behalf of another.” This process can pertain to many different activities, in a variety of different contexts. A lawyer may step in as a legal advocate for their client. A social worker serves on behalf of a child within a troubled home. A co-signer on a loan can act on behalf of the sponsored person to cover debts.

Although we might not use the word on a regular basis, interceding is an integral part of how any community functions. The Church–the community of the faithful–is no exception.

In our prayer life, we ask for God’s grace and mercy on behalf of people whom we don’t even know. We pray for parts of the world torn apart by war, famine, and disease….we pray for parts of the worldwide Church we will likely never visit….we pray for the poor of society whom we may or may not interact with regularly….but who intercedes for the Church????

The answer traditionally is the saints. The souls of the faithful departed who await the coming of Christ and the promise of God’s kingdom on Earth.

Mary–who is the first apostle to experience resurrection and the one who has a flesh and blood tie with the Son of God–is held up in Sacred Tradition as the primary intercessor for all Christian people; and indeed for the world.

As Jesus hangs upon the cross, he gave his mother Mary to the beloved disciple. In patristic writings, this was seen metaphorically as the Theotokos being given to the Church. In her we find someone who is dedicated, loving and faithful…..someone who is rooting for us even when we think we are horrible; an adoring parent whose care and tenderness for all the baptized will never fail.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One
have mercy upon us

At the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God
O Saviour save us +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th)

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Psalm: 113, 115
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 2:1-11
Gospel: John 2:1-12

I admit it…..I was in a funk last week….partly because I was surrounded by death :(. Responding to pastoral situations over the physical death of a loved one……. and the “little deaths” of addiction and depression took an unexpected toll on my own sense of well-being.

Seems kind of appropriate that as I stumble back to this blog, I am confronted with a Feast that deals with death.

Being of the ol’ school…I celebrate this Feast as the “Dormition” or the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary….This is in contrast to both my current practice as an Anglican and my roots as a good Catholic boy.

Having a Protestant heritage, the Anglican Church tends to shy away from elevating the Mother of God in any way, shape or form. So August 15th is simply referred to as the “Feast of St. Mary the Virgin” in the BAS calendar.

On the flip side, Catholics believe in the doctrine of the Assumption in which Mary is assumed bodily into heaven without tasting death.

As with so many things, I straddle the line between both traditions and embrace Eastern Orthodox teaching. In the tradition of Byzantium, the teaching was that Mary died a physical death but that her body was resurrected and assumed into Heaven some three days later.

Now you may be asking the question of why I split these theological hairs…and my answer is really quite simple. The Feast of the Dormition serves a dual purpose. On the one hand….it reminds us that we will all experience physical death, regardless of how holy we are. It is a day on which we–as Christians–acknowledge and accept that there will be a time when we are called to depart this life and await the next.

But the commemoration of the Church does not stop there….it goes a step further. In recognizing Mary’s assumption, she becomes the first of all Christian followers to experience bodily resurrection.

Death is revealed not to be the final victor…..but rather eternal life triumphing over the limits of sin and human nature.

Mary holds for us the hope that we too will be gathered into the great cloud of witnesses; to anticipate the day when the dead shall be raised, and no tear will be shed. To long for the day when the world will finally know what it means to live in the Kingdom of God..a place where justice, peace, and love overflow in abundance forever.

Through the Mother of God, we live in continual hope for the dawning of a new day. Alleluia! Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22nd)

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Psalm: 116
Old Testament: Zeph 3:14-20
New Testament: Mark 15:37-16:7

Well….one week later, I have finally made it back to the blogosphere :P……All thanks to a feast day and a swift kick in the ass by milady :).

Mary Magdalene is an interesting figure…originally mentioned as a person cured of many demons, she was mistaken for a prostitute by Pope Gregory I in the 6th century….and she hasn’t really been able to shake that reputation since :P.

What I find interesting is the Church’s fascination with her occupation…..all the while forgetting her most important role. She is the first witness to the resurrection…..the one who first brought the good news of salvation to those who believed.

The example we have in Mary Magdalene seems especially poignant in the 21st century.

Like her, the Church bears an unbelievable message of victory and new life. A message that even the Apostles–the closest friends of Jesus–struggled to hear the first time around. Like Mary, we too are often confused for something we are not….as over-zealous followers who just want to force ideology down peoples throats….we are given unfair and undeserved labels.

And yet, Mary–along with the other women at the tomb–proclaimed the Good News anyway…they didn’t care what other people thought :)…In an ancient world that wouldn’t even accept female testimony in court cases, these brave souls became beacons for the Light which never fades, and would illuminate the world.

May we too inherit some of their courage and together proclaim that Jesus is risen from the dead, and that as a result…the world is forever changed. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: June 10th

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Psalm: 107:1-32
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Holy Trinity by St. Hilary

Mary and Martha by He Qi 

So……..this post is gonna read more like a confession than a full-out reflection…..but part of me hopes that a) readers will get something out of it and b) that maybe someone in this universe (or maybe even someone within Churchland) has the same problem I do.

My problem is not the problem of Martha. I’m not always busy….I’m not stressed with my tasks…..in the vast majority of cases, I am very laid back. In fact, for those that really know me……they will tell you–with as much love as possible– that I am one lazy dude :(.

I am a very happy and introverted Mary-type. I could sit and listen to music, sermons and Scripture all day.

The funny thing is….what I hear in those words is not always to my liking. Love my enemies???? Pray for those who persecute me???? Go and make disciples out of all nations???? Be a harvester for God’s kingdom???

Eeew….can’t I just sit and here contemplate God’s love instead??? :S

Many many times I have contemplated monastic life……but for me–assuming I could find a First Order who would accept someone with CP–the contemplative life is almost too good.

For me…the cloistered life is the easy way out. A way to escape doing important work that needs to be done….work that the Spirit in Her Wisdom is calling me to do.

So even though Jesus applauds Mary for listening, I think he would be just as quick to say–as he does in so many parables and teachings–“Come and follow me.”

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