4523 Six Forks Rd. Raleigh, NC 27609
Our Lord Jesus to come into the world
Dear Members and Friends of Saint Timothy’s,
What a great season the Church affords us in Advent. We have time to devote our minds, hearts and souls to prepare for Our Lord Jesus to come into the world, whether He comes at His Birth or comes to us at The Great Last Day. Such an important event in the history of mankind deserves preparation, introspection and prayer and the Church has seen fit to supply us with this opportunity in Advent. In considering our preparation we are to look more into the condition of our souls and how they are fit to “meet the Lord”. Traditionally this has meant consideration of “The Four Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgement”. These are certainly serious topics and considerations. Our plates will be full in considering these over the next four weeks. How do we stand if the Lord were to return from His throne in the next moment? How is the condition of our souls should the Lord come to take us home at the end of our earthly lives in the next moment? We will find our scripture readings and prayers directed toward this preparation all through Advent.
My preparation for Christmas this year has been given more to considering Saint Mary’s role at Christmas. It is difficult to think and pray about Christmas and the Birth of Our Lord without bringing in the Blessed Virgin Mary. After all, so many Bible readings leading up to and including Our Lord’s birth have Saint Mary as the central figure. It’s difficult not to consider the mother when hearing about and praying about the birth of any child. Let’s face it, no one knew Jesus, or was closer to Him, than His Mother Mary. She was even privileged to hear God’s plan for her Son before any other human. So naturally appreciation and devotion to the Blessed Mother of Our Lord comes to the fore in Advent and at Christmas.
Many Episcopalians, being part of the Anglican tradition, withdraw and recoil when hearing about devotions directed to The Blessed Virgin Mary or even any prayers or devotions directed to any of the saints. There is a part of the Anglican spiritual and doctrinal tradition that emerged from a more Protestant and Reformed tradition and rejected any invocation of the Saints or devotion to them. Historically though, Mary, The Mother of Our Lord, has always been part of the Church’s devotion, and within Anglicanism, she is revered and honored for her special place in the history of salvation. Devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary and devotion directed to any of the saints is part of our spiritual tradition and ought to be.
As Anglicans we hold Mary to be The Theotokos. Literally this means she is The God Bearer or The One who gives Birth to God. The Church has taught since the fifth century, at the Council of Ephesus, that Mary is indeed The Mother of God. This is so important because holding to this truth about The Blessed Virgin Mary preserves the perfect union of Our Lord being fully God and fully Man. Mary is the one who brings God to the world in a way that He had yet not revealed Himself. For this reason alone she ought to be praised and blessed. We do well to not only think about her in this role but to ask her for her prayers and her intercessions. She is praying for us and we can pray with her.
The word used to describe the honor and respect we give to Saint Mary the Virgin is “veneration”. Anglicans believe and have practiced that there is unique spiritual prominence in the veneration of the saints and Mary in particular. In Scripture, specifically in the Psalms, in our hymns like “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones”, in the canticles in our Prayer Book, like “The Benedicite” and in our Church’s liturgical calendar with its four feast days devoted to Our Lady we have preserved and still practice the veneration of the Saints. It’s a good and wholesome practice in our spiritual lives to ask the saints for their prayers, their protection and to unite our praises with theirs.
What better person to ask to pray for us, than the person who was closest to Jesus while He was here in the world and is close to Him even now while He is reigning in Glory. This practice is helpful for us in our spiritual lives and is also necessary for maintaining a wholesome and sound teaching of Jesus Christ’s fully human and divine natures. It seems the more devotion we give to Saint Mary, the more grounded we become in showing the truth of Jesus Christ to the world. This is nothing new. Two priests who are considered fathers of the catholic revival in Anglicanism the middle part of the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey, exchanged letters about this doctrine of “Jesus Living in Mary”. Newman writes to Pusey, “True devotion to the Mother is the ‘easiest,’ ‘shortest,’ and ‘surest’ way to union with the Son, and when devotion to Mary grows cold or dies, faith in Jesus as Lord, God, and Saviour is certain to wither away”. According to Newman there is a way in which taking away honor and reverence from The Blessed Virgin Mary produces a blurred and vaguer understanding and presentation of Our Lord. According to the authors of “Jesus Living in Mary”, Newman suggests that the hesitations of some Protestants about Our Lady’s role, under Christ, as intercessor and advocate betray a woefully inadequate Christology. If we take from the Blessed Virgin her intercessory mission and transfer it to Christ, we shall be diminishing, not enhancing, His glory. So for the sake of a healthy spiritual life and teaching that Jesus Christ is all that He says He is, interceding to Mary needs to be maintained and deepened. It is easy to come to this conclusion as we come to celebrate Our Lord’s Birth.
We will indeed celebrate The Nativity of Our Lord at the end of Advent with three glorious services here at Saint Timothy’s. On Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24th we will have two services, one at 5:30 and one at 11:00. Both services will be identical in their ceremonial except the 5:30 will include a pageant offered by the children of our Church School. Please arrive at least a half hour before the services begin (5:00 pm and 10:30 pm) so you can enjoy special contemplative Christmas music presented by our Choir as they are accompanied by an orchestra. On Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25th notice that we will have one said Service of Holy Communion at 9:00 am (not the usual 9:00 and 11:00 o’clock services). Father Carreker will celebrate and preach at this service.
We have so many reasons to celebrate at Saint Timothy’s and it is a pleasure and privilege to celebrate with you and the rest of our family and friends. Know that you are in my prayers to be blessed with a holy Advent and joyous Christmastide.
Yours faithfully, in Christ,
The Reverend Jay C. James