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, β€˜Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, β€˜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! +

Evening Prayer: April 1st

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Psalms: 91, 92
Gospel: John 8:33-47
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that our redemption in Jesus Christ is exactly that, a redeeming. In the true sense of the word, to redeem something is to buy it back…..to get full value out of something….to bring it out of one state of being into another. That is what Jesus is talking about here.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was not simply an act of substitution for sins….it was an active plan on the part of God to gain back the sons and daughters he had lost during the Fall, to pay full price for us, and to claim us as his own.

This is one of the reasons why in recent years, I have come to preach and teach the Christus Victor model of Atonement

In defeating the devil and “buying us” back with his Blood…..God made a profound statement to the world. Human beings no longer needed to be slaves to their own human nature…..but are now free to pursue the good, and to seek union with God.

More than that, God made it clear that there is nothing he will withold from us in order that we might come to love with our whole heart, and to live into our full potential; as stewards of Creation, as a community of faith, and as a people called to love without exception. A people whose transgressions and shortcomings have been utterly forgotten and put away :). +

Morning Prayer: April 1st

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Jeremiah 11:1-8;14-20
New Testament: Romans 6:1-11

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:5-6)

Today I’m going a little off-script….at least according to he Western calendar. πŸ™‚ April 1st is a day when the Eastern Orthodox Church venerates one of my favourite saints; Mary of Egypt.

Mary was a prostitute who went around Egypt seducing men and living the life of luxury. Tradition tells us that she was not sold into the sex-trade, but rather chose to go into it because she enjoyed the power and control it gave her. At times, she even refused the money gained through her services, and gave in to lust purely for the pleasure of it.

One day, she sailed with a client to Jerusalem, and–as it was the Feast Day of the Holy Cross– she went to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and found herself unable to enter by a mysterious force.

In that moment, Mary realized that she was denied access because of her sinful ways and became distraught. Gazing upon an icon of the Theotokos, she begged Holy Mary to allow her inside to repent and partake of the Sacrament; promising that if this happened, she would retreat to the desert in repentance and austere living.

Her prayer was granted, and after being fed with the Eucharist, she retreated to the caves of Egypt….not even worrying about food or extra clothes….she eventually took to wandering the desert naked…..living the life of a hermit.

After many years of solitude, she runs into Fr. Zosimas….who himself is a monk in Egypt. He is amazed by her story and asks if there is anything he can do for her.

She requests to have the Eucharist, which she had not shared in since leaving Jerusalem. Fr. Zosimas agrees and Mary is once again fed the Body and Blood of her Lord….miraculously walking over water to reach Him. πŸ™‚

After this exchange, she asks that Zosimas return again in one year on Maundy Thursday. He agrees, and–one year later– finds her dead body perfectly preserved in the place by the river where they had shared Holy Communion.

I love this story for several reasons. For one it has all the elements that make a saint’s story great. Intrigue, flashy sin, and brazen attitude. Mary of Egypt was very much a woman in control…..and who made no apologies for her action.

And then, the focus shifts to the gift of grace and mercy……of a sincere desire to repent….and the courage to run away from all worldly distraction.

What I find fascinating is that Mary of Egypt’s life was one of a recluse……She was not actively involved in reaching out to the poor, or spreading the Gospel to those on the streets……but rather making up for the mistakes of her past by living in holiness.

Hers is also a story that upholds the transformative power of the Eucharist without having it as a main focus of the story. It places the emphasis on the desire to change, and the way in which the Sacrament can strengthen us to take on the challenges of true conversion and a true turning to Christ.

May Mary of Egypt….our desert Mother pray for us..and serve as an example to us of what it means to truly repent, and to be made Holy even in spite of our sinful past. Amen, and thanks be to God for her witness to us. πŸ™‚ +

P.S. For those of you who wish to read the account itself, here is the link.. Enjoy!

Evening Prayer: Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th)

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Psalm: 110, 132
Old Testament: Wisdom 9:1-12*
Gospel: John 1:9-14

β€˜I will not enter my house
or get into my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling-place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’ (Ps. 132:3-5)

The sentiment being echoed here by David matches his earlier desire in 2 Samuel to build a temple to YHWH as a place to store the tabernacle….the place where the tablets of the Law and the Bread of the Presence reside.

Normally you would think that a central place of worship would be something that God would openly endorse…..except….He doesn’t πŸ˜›

In response, God mockingly asks the king if he would build a house for the ruler of the universe?? Acting as though the Almighty could be someone who could be contained.

In Christian theology…..Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer) is said to be the tabernacle of the LORD. In her womb she carries the Word made flesh, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords….and yet that too is temporary.

For nine months our Saviour was cared for by the Blessed Virgin, and yet–like all mothers–Mary had to let go of her identity as an expectant mother once Jesus was born. The Son was no longer inside of her, but was revealed and given as a gift to the whole world. ❀

So I sit here on the Feast of the Annunciation wondering if we are building churches to contain God….or whether we are using church buildings as a place of nourishment, warmth and growth. A place where we are fed with the Word and Sacrament..

Not simply to stay in our wombs of comfort, but to give birth to our own witness of Christ saving the world through the wonder of His cross and resurrection. May God grant us the strength to push past the birth pangs and to rejoice at the arrival of new life. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th)

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Psalms: 85, 87
Old Testament: Isaiah 52:7-12
New Testament: Hebrews 2:5-10

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, β€˜Your God reigns.’ (Isaiah 52:7)

In my parents parish, the choir used the following paraphrase of Isaiah as the Gospel acclamation during Lent:

“How beautiful upon the mountaintops are the feet of those who bring you Word, and how beautiful in the city streets, are the lips of those who speak your peace”

Kind of appropriate that we hear these words today, the day when a messenger from God harbingers our salvation to a lowly peasant girl in Judea.

But why is Mary important??? What is her significance???? Couldn’t God have manifested himself immediately without having to go through the messy process of birth…or the tedium of getting Mary’s consent??? After all, this is God we’re talking about…y’know…… the one who rules the universe?!? πŸ˜‰

But God chose to do it differently….God chose to take on the flesh so that all flesh might be healed through Him and brought to God. If the unassumed is the unhealed, as Gregory Nanzianzus argues…..then there was no other way God could act in this situation…..at least…not without redemption being a complete scam.

God spoke to Mary and sought her consent, because he wants all of His children to be free moral agents. One cannot truly love God if they have no other alternative. in that scenario, we are nothing better than automatons :(.

Today we celebrate the fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….not only as a corrective for sin, but as the ultimate sign that God suffers and loves just as we do. It is a sign of solidarity that God understands our pain, and that–more importantly– He will never abandon the works of his hands <3. +

Evening Prayer: Eve of the Annunciation

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Psalms: 8, 84
Old Testament: Genesis 3:1-15
New Testament: Romans 5:12-21

The Lord God said to the serpent,
β€˜Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’ (Genesis 3:14-15)

As I think most of you know I grew up as a Roman Catholic…….and if you went through the Catholic school system (at least in Hamilton, Ontario) you have most likely seen the statue of Mary pictured above at some point in your life. πŸ™‚

In case you can’t see it all that clearly, it is a serene image of Mary. Her arms are extended in a warm embrace while crushing a snake beneath her feet.

This is a clear allusion to the Genesis passage. Just as Christ is the new Adam who brings abundant Grace and pardon in place of Sin, Mary is the New Eve who resists the temptation to follow her own will…and instead crushes the devil forever. ❀

I will freely admit that I have no particular devotion to Mary but I am starting to appreciate her more as I continue to study systematic theology. πŸ™‚

In Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Annunciation is a dual purpose and (in some sense) a reciprocal event. In becoming Flesh, Christ sanctifies all human Flesh, and yet, in Mary freely accepting the pregnancy, she is the one who gives Christ the tabernacle of her womb…to be nurtured, sustained, and to grow….so that all people might be able to see the face of God. <3. Ave Maria, Alleluia!+

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