|Published by Hannah Currin on Wed, 25 Mar 2020 09:00|
There are only nine months till Christmas!
I know, I’ve mentioned Christmas and it’s not even Easter but let’s be honest, it’s nice in this present climate to have something to look ahead to with hopeful anticipation!
With this in mind, today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Gabriel’s visitation to Mary, a lowly maiden, spotless virgin, a young girl. Mary was going to make a choice that would bring salvation to every single one of us and it started with a three-letter word: Yes. This choice would not be an easy one, it would bring with it heart ache and loss. But in her reply, Mary displayed her total devotion to the will of God. She knew that He would be beside and within her from that day forward. In that moment, God took on human form.
Today we'll be looking at an artist's interpretation of the character of Mary. The St. Mary Window by Tony Holloway at Manchester Cathedral is maybe something you have glimpsed in passing but not looked closely at. It stands central in the huge victorian tower, its abstract imagery standing out against the formal gothic stonework. It tells Mary's story from rejoicing to sorrow. Click the blue link to look at the image.
-You will see a huge blue orb in the upper window representing Mary: circular perhaps as a reminder of both the pregnant expectation of the baby Jesus and the fact that Mary’s baby would be the Saviour of the World.
- The Magnificat, sung daily at evensong, Mary’s song of joy sung shortly after the Annunciation, has its words scattered throughout the five bottom sections of the window. We hear echoes of this song in Hannah’s exultation, read this morning. Both women gave their offspring back to God. When you hear the words of the Magnificat once more, try to listen for two things: The cries of injustice for the poor and marginalised, and the message of salvation. Mary knew that her son was central to this work and as his mother was the first to teach him these things. They became the basis for Jesus’ work and message; they should be the focus of all Christians today.
-There is a golden crescent encircling the blue orb, perhaps signifying Mary’s special place in the story of salvation alongside a contrasting crescent of blood red symbolising possibly both Mary’s bodily sacrifice and devotion to delivering her child, and Christ’s ultimate human sacrifice.
-Maybe the most poignant aspect of this image is what appears to cut straight through the centre of the blue orb. A white cross points to the crucifixion and a long silvery sword-like shard: reminding us of Simeon’s chilling prophecy to the young mother in the temple (Luke 2:35 “a sword shall pierce your own heart also”) that Mary would feel the true heart ache and gut wrenching awfulness of the loss of her son. She still said yes to God’s plan.
Those of us who have had our own sufferings know what it is to feel that heartache, and to yearn for better things. Life cannot always be easy, even when we follow God’s will. I wonder whether perhaps as Mary stood at the foot of the cross she was comforted by these four words from her girlhood: 'Do not be afraid!' In these times of anxiety and fear of the unknown, take these words for yourself. Like Mary we can say yes to God and know that through it all, he is with us.
Questions to ponder
-When you recite/sing the Magnificat at evening prayer today, consider the words afresh. What stands out for you today?
-How, even in this present climate, can you help to lift up the lowly and fill the hungry? How can you spread the Good News of salvation?
-What is God asking of you and your vocation? Look to Mary as both example and inspiration for how to respond.
God of impossibilities, you chose to enter human flesh through the one who called herself lowly. Teach us who daily receive announcements of Christ's coming to live as Mary did, trusting in your power to bring your desire to fulfillment. Amen.