On August 15 we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, the principal feast of Mary in all branches of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church. Because she is regarded as the greatest of the saints and the first Christian, today marks the chief Saint’s day which the church commemorates year-by-year.
Today is a celebration of the grace and power of God in a human life, of what extraordinary and truly marvellous things God can do in a life that is yield to Him and receptive to His will.
It is a celebration of faith and trust — Mary’s total faith in her Lord and Saviour who was also her Son and Child. It is also a celebration of our own faith in Jesus who has promised that if we serve Him here on earth we shall reign with Him in glory.
Mary was the first Christian, the first to follow Christ, the first to trust in His Way. Common sense tells us that she was chosen by God for this vocation. We, too, all have our specific vocations, callings, works – chosen by God and tailored for us in His great plan for our lives. Mary’s was to be the first Christian. God never gives anyone a job or vocation without help to do it. God did the same for Mary. The help He gives always is the grace to live up to our vocation. Since Mary was the first, extraordinary grace was given her “full of grace,” the angel declared her to be.
As the first Christian, as “Mother of the Church,” she goes before the whole Church giving us and all the baptized a perfect model of what it means to follow Jesus, to walk in His steps.
Her example for us and all generations is clearly set out in the New Testament. – at Cana in Galilee, she told the waiters, “Whatever He says, do it.” Across the centuries she continues to say the same, her life a proof that she practiced what she preached in a life centred upon God and not herself; obedience in which she found total freedom from always trying to control everything and everyone, a freedom found in letting God be her ruler and her guide.
Then at the Cross as she shared completely in Christ’s suffering and death, she and the Beloved Disciple are committed one to another in a relationship of mutual dependence in Christ, one which Christians still have with her in Him. It came about because her life had no meaning without His, her life’s identity is caught up in her Son’s death and resurrection. Sound familiar? It should. It is the goal and purpose of our baptism. What is ours to do is to go and live it every day, in every relationship and circumstance, just as she did.
Text adapted from the Episcopal Church (text no longer available)
Image from Anthony Cole