The Marian Moment
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The Virgin Mary - El Greco - 1594-1604
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Many years ago I was an invited guest at a celebration of the life and ministry of an evangelical Protestant leader. It was a "black tie" affair, accompanied with all the fanfare. I was one of only a few Catholics who attended the event and I was glad to be there to pay tribute to this man. Back then, evangelical Protestant and Catholic collaboration was not all that common. Thank God, things have changed.
At the end of the evening, Reverend Jack Hayford, another prominent evangelical Protestant, gave the concluding tribute, address and prayer to conclude the nights' festivities. Pastor Hayford's message, (to the surprise of some present), was that we are living in, what he called a "Mary Moment." With genuine insight he broke open the meaning of the life and mission of the Mother of the Lord as a model for all in that room and beyond who wanted to follow her Son Jesus.
He offered the life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as a model for all Christians. He encouraged all those present to follow her way of simplicity, humility and obedience. He emphasized the particular words spoken by Mary at the Wedding Feast of Cana when, after imploring her Son to perform His first public miracle (ah, the powerful intercession of a mother!) she directed those who were serving to: "Do whatever He tells you."
In preaching thatÂ message, he was participating in what the early fathers of the Church did so often and so beautifully, breaking open the deeper mystery of Mary as a gift to - and type of - the Church. For Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Mary has always been at the heart of our understanding the meaning of the mission of the Church. In fact, the early fathers regularly drew the connection between Mary and the Church.
Over the last two decades a recovery of the significance of the life and witness of Mary has occurred among many Christians, even those who descend from the communities of the Protestant reformation in the West. They have rediscovered that she was not just any woman, but the woman specially chosen by God to cooperate in His loving plan of salvation. Jesus Called her "Mother". Catholics and Orthodox honor Mary as the "Mother of the Lord," the woman singularly chosen in the eternal plan of God to be called "mother" by Jesus. Mary wasÂ specially chosen to bear God Incarnate in her womb for nine months and then to give Him to the whole world. That womb of that mother was a "temple of glory," an "ark of the Covenant" and a new "tent of meeting" where heaven touched earth!Â
In many circles where Christians stand together today, such as in our joint efforts in the fundamental human rights struggle of our age, the Right to Life Movement, Christians of all traditions and communities are recovering an insight into the significance of Mary. There was a redeemer in the womb. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, dwelt for nine months within that holy sanctuary. During every moment of the earthly ministry of Jesus, he was saving the world. When Mary visited her kinswoman Elizabeth, the Redeemer in the womb caused John the Baptizer, in the womb of Elizabeth, to leap for joy (Luke 1:41-44).
Catholic Christians point to manyÂ appearances of Mary in this age. Could this also confirm that we are living in a Marian moment? In every one of them, the message is simply the message of the Gospel, turn away from sin and turn to Jesus Christ. That should come as no surprise. That is Mary's message and mission. She is the handmaid of the lord. She always points to Jesus.
Mary shows us how to participate in the ongoing redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of God's Love for the sake of world. We are called to bear God to an age in need. In living this kind of surrendered life of love we are transformed and participate in the mediation of God's love to others. The ongoing creative and redemptive work of God's love continues through us. That is, if we learn to respond the same way Mary did: "Behold the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word." Pastor Hayford was correct, we are living in a Mary Moment.
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