By the time you read this, we will be out of lockdown number 2 and churches will be permitted to have public worship once again! I am happy to say that our next services at St Alban’s and All Saints’ will be on Sunday December 13th; and we are fortunate that Fr Gregory Clifton Smith will be with us to preside and preach at St Alban’s at 9.30 and at All Saints’ at 11.00.
Next Wednesday, December 8th, the Church of England commemorates the lesser festival of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary or, as the Roman Church calls it, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
This doctrine was declared by the Pope in 1845, saying that Dec 8th should be kept to mark that the Blessed Virgin Mary was “from the first moment of her conception….preserved free from all stain of original sin”; that is to say, she was human like us, but was free from the state of separation from God (otherwise known as Original sin) which we are all in, as a consequence of the Fall.
Although this Doctrine was formulated by the Roman Church, it is important to remember that Mary is an important feature of the universal catholic Christian faith because of her humanity and her proximity to the divine.
She is rightly honoured by the Universal Church but not worshipped; asked for her prayers, but not prayed to; and recognised as having a special relationship with Christ, but never taking his place.
Her role is always to point away from herself and to direct us to her Son. It is worth noting that in our statues of Our Lady of Walsingham in our churches it is not Mary alone that we see, but Mary presenting her Son to us.
It is therefore not a perversity of Catholicism or Anglo-catholicism that we rightly honour Mary as the first follower of Christ. Indeed, both Luther and Calvin held very high Marian doctrines, and the Ave Maria continued to be said in Geneva even whilst the icons were being destroyed.
We need therefore to be attentive on that grace, and to wait in hope and prayer, as we see the model set before us in Our Lady Mary, as she points to her Son and waits with us this Advent Season for the redemption of all humankind.
With my love and prayers,