Beauty and Brutality: The Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday 2017

For those of us who live our lives according to the liturgical calendar, there can be both felicitous co-incidences and awkward disjunctions. The latter are more thought-provoking because they call in question many of our unexamined assumptions. Take today’s feast. I have often waxed eloquent about its beauty, as shy and lovely as the Autumn Crocus called ‘Naked Lady’ from its association with this feast. At other times, notably in this post for 2015,  I have been at pains to reflect on Mary as the archetypal mulier fortis, not at all the idealised milksop of much conventional piety. But I have not often drawn attention to the fact that we are sometimes confronted with a huge gap between what we are celebrating in choir and what everyone around us is experiencing. This morning that is especially marked. We sing of beauty but those devastated by the floods in South-East Asia or Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean know only the brutality of the disasters that have engulfed them. If we look further afield, we see more and more human suffering in the endless bloody conflicts and mass movements of people that characterize this century. How difficult it can be to go on affirming the promise of Micah 5. 1–4 or the confident assertion of Romans 8.28–30! Shall we really live secure, does God actually turn everything to our good?

I think the only honest answer to these questions is akin to that which Mary gave to the angel at the Annunciation. We do not know how, but we give our assent, we trust in the goodness of God. To those who have not tried it, that response will seem pathetically inadequate. It admits that we do not have any explanation (who could know the mind of God . . .); it acknowledges that there is no easy solution, no quick fix, no soothing balm (our wound is incurable . . . ). It simply says, God is God and as such he can be trusted; we cling to that knowledge with a wisdom wiser than we know, for it is faith and faith alone that can lead us. I love St Bernard’s image of Mary as the aqueduct that brings us the Water of Life. This morning, however, I think it is the image of Mary as a new-born child, unaware of her tremendous destiny, that both comforts and challenges me. It is not power or wealth that determines the outcome but love. There’s something in that for us all to ponder.

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4 thoughts on “Beauty and Brutality: The Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday 2017”

  1. The feast of the BVM is something celebrated by Anglicans as well, particularly those in the Catholic Tradition.

    For me, she represents her role as Mother of our Saviour,and one whose intercessions can be relied on with her Son.

    I had some difficulty coming to this view, as I had spent a good portion of my life decrying the sometimes ‘maudlin’ veneration of her, almost placing her on a par with Jesus himself.

    I can see in retrospect that I was in error, and such devotion can be acceptable, if it is sincerely and heart felt by those who celebrate her feast today and during the Church Year.

    And, I as a good Anglican am recalling prayers like the Memorare, which I now use unashamedly.

    Sometimes we go through cycles of faith, and even changes in denominations, in dotage, I can see how the discipline of a catholic upbringing informs my Anglican faith and life.

    Praise God forthat.

  2. The painful episodes of Mary’s life help us bear our own burdens. Early on the prophecy of Simeon foretold of the sorrow to come. But I am sure there was joy in her life as well. Mary is a blessed companion.

  3. God’s love for Mary was evident from the Annunciation and possibly even from before then. He chose her to bring forth and nurture our Saviour, a miracle borne of, from and for eternal love, blessed forever.

  4. Mary said yes. Goethe’s Mephistopheles says he is the spirit eternally saying no. She, pure and simple, stands against all the cunning wiles of complex evil. Her immense and blind trust is, for me, the example to follow. And anyway, God writes straight with crooked lines, so what’s not to trust?

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