Sunday, 18 December 2011

Missing out on Mary

As a Protestant born and bred, I feel I have missed out on Mary. The Catholics have the BVM (blessed virgin Mary) all sorted - but where does that leave my tradition? That's why I'm glad for the Anglican liturgical reminder of Mary, observed today, the fourth Sunday of Advent (okay, so we actually just had our Carol Service but I managed to get the Collect about Mary in at the end.) When Christians get divided, theologically, historically and politically over some major issue, usually one side claim monopoly of ownership while the other side happilly throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. So I was heartened when the novelist Catherine Fox wrote an article about her (Protestant) thoughts on the mother of God in a National newspaper a couple of years ago, in an article wittily entitled 'The Virgin Mary can test everyone's assumptions' (pun on the Feast of the Assumption celebrated by Catholics in August.) In it she described how she didn't really consider Mary seriously until she herself became a mother and realised that for all her fierce maternal love, like Mary, she couldn't protect her child for ever. The Pieta, a sculpture of Mary holding the body of her crucified son in her arms, is one artist's depiction of Simeon's prophecy to Mary in Luke's gospel, that 'sorrow, like a sword, will pierce your soul also.' I love the words to a WC Smith hymn, which say 'Then the Spirit of the highest/to a virgin meek came down/and he burdened her with blessing/and he pained her with renown.' This fourth Sunday in Advent I look to Mary for a fresh reminder that bearing Christ in the world today might be a costly undertaking, but one which, like Mary, I want to say yes to.

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