When I was a small boy, about 4 or 5 years old, My paternal grandmother, who had been a Presbyterian missionary to the American Indians for about 40 years, told me that when God wanted his Son, Jesus, to be born into this world as a human baby, God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, and made her to be born pure; without sin.
Some years later I realized that this is the meaning of the Roman Catholic title of this feast, The Immaculate Conception.
In the Anglican Communion we prefer not to define the meaning of this feast quite so precisely. It is possible that my Presbyterian Grandmother was instinctively led by her faith in God to accord a place of honor to Mary even while giving highest honor to Jesus, Mary’s Son.
From the earliest days of the Church Mary has been given a place of high honor for her role in the incarnation of Jesus, as the truly human, truly Divine Son of God.
Even though we Anglicans prefer not to define the exact nature of Mary’s conception and birth, we can give honor to Mary on this day partly because those two feasts, the conception and the birth of Mary had been restored to the calendars of the Church of England at least from the time of the Elizabethan Settlement in 1562, having been repressed earlier in the Reformation period.
Here at the Monastery of St. Mary and St. John we keep this feast, also Mary’s birth, September 8, and the other feasts of Mary and of Jesus, to honor the dedication of this church to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In doing this we also honor the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus which has come to us from Johannine writings and the devotion of our Founder, Fr. Richard Benson.
In Luke’s account of the announcement of the angel to Mary, today’s Gospel reading, we hear Mary’s “Yes” to God when God’s angel called on her to become the mother of God’s only Son, by whom we have salvation from our sins.
As you honor Mary today and pray to Jesus in this Eucharist, in what way can you respond to God with “Yes” as he calls us to love him and to love one another in his name?
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