Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The Visitation, like the Ascension, is one of the many festivals of the church that receives little to no notice in many parts of the church today. One of the benefits of this blog for me has been the opportunity to share these forgotten festivals with others despite the fact that many churches like mine will not gather for any act of worship in honor of the occasion.

The more modern three-year lectionary places the date of this minor festival on today, May 31. However, the older lectionary places it on July 2. I have to admit that I do not understand the shuffling of dates that has occurred between the calenders in the last century or so. Certainly there is a good reason, but it will require more research. This festival is also a relative newcomer to the church calendar. According to The Christian Calendar by Cowie and Gummer, "It was the Franciscans who first observed it in the West and their devotion was confirmed at the Council of Basle." They also note that the Eastern church does not observe this festival, which I find perplexing.

The lection for this day is Luke 1:39-47, which includes not only the actual visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth and her familiar greeting, but also the first two lines of the beautiful canticle of Mary, the Magnificat. The Christian Calendar (Cowie and Gummer) catches a sense of the significance of this event:
"It would have been a difficult journey which Mary undertook and the Visitation has always been seen as symbolic of the homely kindness associated with the Virgin. Just as Christ later will go to be baptized of John, even though infinitely greater than he, so His mother goes to visit Elizabeth whose child leaps in her womb as if in recognition....the natural affections of cousins are caught up in the eternal mission in which they both share." (200)

The greeting of Elizabeth to Mary has become a well known phrase to many readers of the Bible due to its inclusion in the familiar "Hail Mary" prayer of the Catholic church. However, the importance of Elizabeth's greeting also highlights the blessedness of Mary as the Mother of Our Lord, an honor truly unique of all women. Elizabeth recognizes that God himself has come close to her this day. And the reaction of the still unborn John demonstrates the power of our Lord's presence as he leaps in the womb for joy as Mary enters. Mary receives this exclamation of faith and celebration humbly and meekly, as her canticle demonstrates so beautifully.

The Collect for this day, as recorded in Lutheran Worship reads:
"Almighty God, as you dealt wonderfully with your servant, the blessed virgin Mary, in choosing her to be the mother of your dearly beloved Son and thus graciously made known your regard for the poor and lowly and despised, grant us grace in all humility and meekness to receive your Word with hearty faith and to rejoice in Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

5 comments:

318@NICE said...

Pastor,
Great Post and a good reminder. Although we may some differences here (although we are very close), and we both agree that Mary is the Mother of God.
Yet the great significance of this is that God defeated Satan by the faith of a humble, poor, young woman named Mary.
Satan with all his might and influence of worldly powers is defeated by the most unlikely of heroes. And yet it was done because of her faith.
Today for SSPX Catholics it is the "Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary." At the Priories there will be a votive Mass in commemoration of the Blessed Virgin.
Luke 1:28 in the Latin Vulgate reads, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."
Here are the prayers that will be said all over the world in this Mass today in SSPX priories:
"Let us all rejoice in the Lord and make a festive day in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary our Queen: at whose solemnitythe Angels rejoice and give praise to the Son of God."
"Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to those who are celebrating thsi solemnity of the blessed Virgin Mary our Queen: that safe in her protection we may deserve to enjoy present peace and future glory. Through our Lord."
"Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed art thou, O Virgin Mary, who didst take thy stand beneath the cross of the Lord. Alleluia. Now with Him dost thou reign for ever. Alleluia."
"He hath on His garment and on His thigh written: King of kings and Lord of lords. The Queen stands at His right hand, decked with gold from Ophir."
"Alleluia, alleluia. Hail, Queen of mercy! Do thou protect us from the enemy, and at the hour of death receive us. Alleluia."
"That Mary springs from royal stock shines out: with most devout mind and spirit do we beg the help of her prayers."
"Accept, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the gifts which Thy Church in her joy doth offer Thee: may we receive in return, through the merits and intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary our Queen, all help for salvation. Through our Lord."
"O Queen of the world most worthy, Mary, Virgin perpetual, intercede on behalf of our peace and safety, thou who didst bring forth Christ the Lord, the Savior of us all."
"WE have reached the end, O Lord, of the solemnities for this festivity of holy Mary our Queen: in her honor exultantly we performed them: may her intercession be salutary on our behalf. Through our Lord."

The readings for the Mass: Ecclesiasticus 24:5-11, 30-31; Luke 1:26-33.

Because it is a low Mass, the Mass ends with these prayers:
"Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst womena and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."
"Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy. Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. And after this our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary."
"Pray for us, O holy Mother of God."
"That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ."
"O God, our refuge and our strength, look down in mercy on Thy people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St. Joseph her Spouse, of Thy blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the Saints, in mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."
"Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the wicked spirits, who roam through the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen."
"Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Have mercy upon us."

Although our two traditions may not agree on every point, yet there are some points of agreement, and perhaps our two traditions actually agree on the major points here and disagree on the minor ones.

God bless,
Dave

D. Engebretson said...

Dave,
Thank you for your comments and observations.

However, I'm wondering about one point in particular -
You stated:
"Yet the great significance of this is that God defeated Satan by the faith of a humble, poor, young woman named Mary. Satan with all his might and influence of worldly powers is defeated by the most unlikely of heroes. And yet it was done because of her faith."

Taking my cue from Genesis 3:15, was not the "defeat" of Satan through the "seed" (Jesus) of the woman (Mary)who "crushed" the head of the serpent, and not Mary herself?

I have to admit that as a Lutheran I am uncomfortable speaking of Mary as the one who "defeated Satan." A hero, yes - But one in terms of her humble and meek faith which believed in and trusted the great promises of the One who truly defeated Satan at the cross.

Pastor Engebretson

318@NICE said...

Pastor,
I guess, it should have been better stated that through the faith of Mary Christ defeated Satan. Christ being the eternal Son of God, Satan knows Christ and knew His power. But how God did it was not how Satan nor any human would have expected it.
Think about this, Satan, knowing the time line of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, and the prophecies of Isaiah, etc. knew the approximate time of the Messiah's coming. And in Revelation 12 we learn that Satan did all he could to try to stop the birth of Jesus.
Think of St. Joseph and his faith. How Satan was looking for Christ while Mary was pregnant with Jesus and then their fleeing to Egypt. The childhood of Christ, were not the demons looking for Him?
How St. Joseph was the great protector of the boy Jesus and Mary. How he must have prayed for protection and how the angels must have been fighting off the demons constantly.
Yet, Christ would appear from Nazereth, a place unexpected for someone so great from a poor young woman.
Yes, it was Christ who defeated Satan, but it was God's work and power to defeat Satan through weakness of a young Virgin and her faith and the faith of her spouse Joseph. To defeat Satan in this manner shows the true power of God that is beyond our understanding.
Genesis 3:15 reads like this in the Latin Vulgate, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." Now read Revelation 12 and see the connection.
But since the fall, Satan has been trying to prevent the godly seed to exist so Jesus would not come. Yet Adam and Eve defeat him by having a son named Seth, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, the Prophets, Ruth, Esther, etc. all defeated Satan through the power of God in light of the coming Messiah in the OT. And in the NT Christ defeated Satan through and unexpected way by a young, poor, Virgin.
And even now Christians continue to defeat Satan through the power of God: "And the God of peace crush Satan under YOUR feet speedily" (Rom. 16:20).
Even in Jude St. Michael defeated Satan when disputed over Moses' body by quoting Scripture at him.
It is always God defeating Satan and It is always God saving people, yet through ordained means.
Make sense?

Dave

318@NICE said...

Pastor,
One more thing. You yourself as a pastor defeat Satan and his works more and more every Sunday. When you say the holy Liturgy, preach the holy Word of God, and celebrate the holy and blessed Eucharist, it destroys Satan and his demons. Because you are preaching the and reciting the very words of God, which Satan cannot stand up to, when you recite the Nicene Creed you speak and declare the doctrine of the Church, and when you celebrate the Eucharist Christ comes upon your altar with the whole host of heaven and all the Saints. These things Satan cannot stand up and he must flee.
Yet, not all the Traditional Lutherans have the large mega-churches, yet through the humble means of a Bible, printed liturgy, and bread and wine, you defeat Satan through the power of God because you are using his weapons against him, now matter how humble and poor it may seem.

Dave

D. Engebretson said...

Dave,
Thank you for the clarification.

It is true that the power to fight and defeat Satan lies in the living Word itself, which is proclaimed publicly in the worshipping assembly. In fact, it is the only power we have to fight the evil one. Christ demonstrated its power in the Temptation in the wilderness when he drove the evil one back through only a few simple words of sacred scripture.

Thank you again for your comments!

Pastor Engebretson