minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “mary”

Obsecro Te

After the Gospel readings it was common to have a set of prayers to the Virgin Mary. I have completed the first and longest of the two prayers. This is the Obsecro Te, which translates as “I beseech thee”. Devotion and prayers to The Virgin Mary date back to the earliest years of Christianity and so it’s not surprising to find these in a book of hours. The prayers to the Virgin were sometimes personalized toward the intended owner of the book of hours. I have opted to represent the prayer as translated.

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Birth of Mary

Nativity of Mary

There are three nativity feasts which are celebrated in the church. The most popular and well known is, of course, the Birth of Christ. After all, the center of worship our worship in the church is that of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist also holds a feast day which celebrates his birth and is celebrated six months before that of Christ. The other is the Nativity of Mary, which is also known as the Nativity of the Theotokos.

The Feast is celebrated on September 8th,  9 months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8th), which is the belief that Mary was Full of Grace from the moment of conception. This peculiar belief has caused a lot of grief and drawn much criticism from many post reformation sects, possibly because of a lack of understanding about the churches stance on Mary. Nevertheless, in the church it is another milestone in the liturgical year, reminding us, not only of the woman who would say “yes”, but of the sanctifying grace which would fill all followers of Christ in Baptism.

Tradition holds that Mary’s parents were St. Anne and St. Joachim, and that Mary was born at home, which is demonstrated in the art and iconography depicting her birth.

Our Lady’s Nativitye

Joye in the risinge of our orient starr,
 That shall bringe forth the Sunne that lent her light;
 Joy in the peace that shall conclude our warr,
 And soone rebate the edge of Satan’s spight;
 Load-starr of all engolfd in worldly waves,
 The card and compasse that from shipwracke saves.
 The patriark and prophettes were the floures
 Which Tyme by course of ages did distill,
 And culld into this little cloude the shoures
 Whose gracious droppes the world with joy shall fill;
 Whose moysture suppleth every soule with grace,
 And bringeth life to Adam’s dyinge race.

For God, on Earth, she is the royall throne,
 The chosen cloth to make His mortall weede;
 The quarry to cutt out our Corner-stone,
 Soyle full of fruite, yet free from mortall seede;
 For heavenly floure she is the Jesse rodd
 The childe of man, the parent of God.

Robert Southwell (1560-1595)

The Visitation

The Visitation from the Book of Hours for Rouen Use

The Feast of the Visitation continues the story which started with the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th), when the Angel told Mary that she would bear the Saviour. After a time, the pregnant Mary goes into the country to visit with her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with John the Baptist. As the women meet, Elizabeth proclaims:

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

It is interesting how women always know when someone is going to have a baby. Even more interesting when another child senses a pregnancy. In any case the point is that there is something important going on here which relates to the idea of Mary as the “New Eve”.

Missal of Bernhard von Rohr,
Archbishop of Salzburg

Many will recognize the above portion of this scripture that makes up part of the “Hail Mary”. It is a pivotal verse, not only in the prayer but in the Sacred Scriptures. In both prayer and scripture it points to the reason there ever was a Blessed Virgin, which all has to do with the fruit that this “New Eve” bears. Not fruit stolen in pride from a desire to be like God, but by her simple and pure faith, she has accepted the fruit of the tree of life and offers it to all the lost children of Eve. The whole story of the Fall of Man is turned on its head! Reversed! Re-born! Instead of plucking forbidden fruit, she will offer the Fruit of her womb to be hung from the branches of a tree; specifically a cross. No serpent, but the Son of Man, will hang in its branches, and Mary will behold her Son and know that fulfillment has come to the prophecy given to Eve that her seed will crush the serpents head.

Is it any wonder that John would leap in the womb of Elizabeth? Is it any wonder that Mary is still hailed and called blessed?

Humilitatem Ancillae


Beliefs about Mary, the Mother of God, are one of the biggest sore spots between the ancient church and the post reformation denominations. Having been a convert from Catholicism to Evangelicalism and then back to the Catholic faith, I have been on both sides of this argument and maybe that is why I am a little more cautious about blogging about the May Crowning. However it is Mothers Day, and in many Catholic churches the May Crowning will take place today.

The Catholic beliefs about Mary, especially when terms like Queen of Heaven are invoked, appear to place Mary in an almost God-like position; this is where the arguments begin, and for catholics where it ends. Because the fact is that no catholic ever thought Mary was God, even if they called her Mother of God. It might be a possible outcome to assume that the term Theotokos would place Christ as subordinate to Mary, but in reality the term is meant to uphold the very Christ-centered belief we call the Incarnation, the belief that God took on humanity.

In a similar way the title of Queen of Heaven could mean several things. Often it is tied to other “queens of heaven” from mythology and pagan belief, and implied that the term makes a god of Mary, placing her above Jesus. But in fact it is the opposite. Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus to the christian is the King of Kings. This makes Mary a Queen Mother.

The point about Mary that is so often missed is that she is the first to have faith in Christ. The angel announces the birth and Mary accepts. Mary states in the sacred scriptures “for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” and this is what the church has done. It has given the place of honor to a woman. Above all men, all popes, kings, prophets, martyrs, and all other humans it is this “second Eve”, who trusts God and bears the fruit of the Tree of Life. We may be accused of worshipping her, we aren’t.  We get accused of being patriarchal, then why accuse of worshipping a woman? We are accused of pagan influence for beliefs about Mary, and I say if it is a pagan idea then the idea was made new and born again the same way all pagans have been, through Christ; however beliefs about Mary are all easily explained from the influence of the Hebrew Scriptures and the women of faith mentioned there. Eve (Mother of all) , Sarah (Laughed at her annunciation), Bathsheba (Queen Mother to Solomon).

A crown will be placed on a statue of Mary, in other traditions, flowers will surround images of Mary, Icons will be crowned, all to remind us that God has regarded the humble handmaid ( humilitatem ancillae)  and done great things. Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, and Mother of the Church.

The Magnificat

Luke 1: 46-55

 My soul doth magnify the Lord.

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;

 for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name.

And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.

He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy:

As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

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