Posted by: Fr Chris | November 20, 2017

Presentation of Our Lady, 21 November

This is the sermon I am giving at the vigil service tonight:

Image result for presentation mary

Glory to Jesus Christ.

Today’s feast comes from a popular book written in Syria in the mid-100s – The Protoevangelium of James. That book created stories and traditions that the author wrote in order to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the lives of Jesus, Mary, and St Joseph outside of the gospel. But it does have valid theological points – the early  Church firmly believed in the specialness of the conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, the virginal conception of Jesus on Mar 25, the celibate union of Mary and St Joseph, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the bodily assumption into heaven of Our Lady after her death, and that she had a unique role in Christian life as the Theotokos (Mother of God) . From these roots our full understanding of God’s working in the Second Eve has grown.
In particular, the story claims that as a little girl Mary is placed inside the temple sanctuary, in the Holy of Holies, the spot where the high priest only went once each year. Obviously that did not take place – no child would have been allowed in there. But it is making a theological point – she who would become the living tabernacle of God is worthy of being in the holy place where the Ark of the Covenant once stood. The Ark held the Ten Commandments – she is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, through Whom the Father gave the Commandments; the Ark held manna from heaven – Jesus in her womb is the Living Bread of Heaven; the rod of Aaron that blossomed was in the Ark – Mary has life inside of her through the power of the Holy Spirit.

She is the new temple – and through the redemption achieved by her Son we are living temples also. Humanity is redeemed through the incarnation of Jesus in her womb, through His passion and resurrection.  Mary points the way in the icons – her hand points to the child Jesus in her arms, her head bows or turns toward Him. Her life is most especially given for her only Child the God-Man Whose birth we are preparing for.

Another aspect of the story is Mary living apart from the world, the first cloistered convent. The point the story makes is for us – we must live apart from the world’s temptations. We live in the world, but we do not have to be of the world. The world has many good things about it – but there are also fallen things, things that can look extremely attractive to the human mind and human desires.  But for the Christian, living out our destiny in Jesus Christ has to be the most attractive thing to do – our churches are beautiful to both glorify God and draw us into Him. Our calendar is filled with various holy days and customs to renew us, year after year, in God’s love and great mercy.

Mary did not look back on her hidden, quiet life in Nazareth. She looked forward: to the birth on Christmas, to raising God’s Son, to supporting Him with her presence on Calvary, testifying to the power of God on Pentecost, and supporting us with her prayers from heaven.

Image result for mary at pentecost

So also for us – we have to look forward.

Our sins are forgiven – let us work not to sin more; we are called by God Who is Love -let us strive to bring His love to others;

we are invited to this heavenly banquet at every Liturgy  – let us work at appreciating its power and the immense gift given to us by Jesus in His Body and Blood.

And let us use this feast as an opportunity to keep the rest of the Christmas Fast as a time of thinking, pondering, praying, loving, acting so as to bring joy to Christ’s Heart, and thus help further His work of redemption.  Christ is among us.

Image result for pregnant virgin mary

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