16 August 2010

The Dormition of St. Mary, the Mother of God

Let us arise and go to a city of Judah, and enter a priestly house, and rejoice in God our Savior.

And let us do so on this day in the remembrance of His mercy, with thanksgiving for His maidservant, the Blessed Virgin Mary, by whom He has become one with us, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood.

She is, with us, a member of His Church, and in a special way she is an icon of that Royal Bride of Christ, that Holy Mother of God’s sons and daughters. In giving thanks for His grace and mercy upon her, we give thanks for His great mercy upon generation after generation, and upon us.

Because He is conceived and born of the Woman, this new Eve, this dear St. Mary, He is conceived and born for us, the sons and daughters of the first Adam and the first Eve, that we might receive the new birth of water, Word and Spirit, and the adoption of sons of God our Father.

So has He accomplished for us, first of all by becoming like us in all ways, save without sin, and then also by His Cross and Resurrection in our flesh. Born under the Law, and submitting Himself to the Law on our behalf, He has kept and fulfilled the Law for us, in perfect faith and love. Precisely in that same faith and love, He has suffered the judgment and punishment of the Law, the shame and humiliation of our sin and death, and has thereby atoned for our sin, defeated our death, destroyed our enemy the devil, redeemed us for Himself, and reconciled us to God forever.

All of this He has done, once for all — for St. Mary and St. Elizabeth, for Father Abraham and all his children, for Adam and Eve and all their children, and therefore, also, no less for you. It is an accomplished fact in His own flesh and blood, in His own Body and life, in His own Person, in the Kingdom of His God and Father, even now on earth (in His Church) as it is in heaven.

It is already true — it has been accomplished, and it is finished, complete, perfected — solid as a rock, never to be undone. So tightly has He bound Himself to us, by His Incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and so tightly are His Cross and Resurrection united in Him, in His Body of flesh and blood like ours, that, even though you are small and weak and poor, lowly and mortal, dying and wasting away a little more every day, yet are you resurrected and ascended in and with Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Mary’s Son. In Him your life is already hidden with God, seated on high in the heavenly places, exalted far above all angels and archangels, above the cherubim and seraphim and the whole heavenly host.

But surely you do not see or feel or experience that heavenly glory and reality now. It is by faith in the Word of God, which you hear, and not by human sight. What you see and feel and experience in your life on earth is hunger, want and need; sickness and death; hardship and pain; ridicule and persecution; disappointment and despair; suffering and sorrow. You bear the reproach of your neighbor and the world, the assaults and accusations of the devil, the humiliation and shame of your own sin and guilt and faults and errors.

You hear that your sins are forgiven, and yet, you still suffer many of their consequences; not all of them, but many.

You hear that the Lord is with you, that He loves you, that His gracious favor is upon you, yet you often feel lonely and unloved, out of favor and forgotten.

You hear of the great blessings of Christ, but, as they come by and with and through His Cross, they are blessings often hard to bear.

You hear that God feeds and clothes you and preserves your life, but you still have to manage and juggle your finances, and work for a living, and pay your bills, and day by day you find yourself slowing down, getting tired and sometimes getting sick, wearing out and wasting away.

Against all of this harsh experience, the Church in heaven and on earth sets the incarnate Son of God, Christ Jesus, crucified, risen and ascended in our human flesh and blood. Here is the true Man, conceived and born of Mary, who is our sister and our mother; and He, the Lord Jesus, her Son, our Brother, has been tempted in all ways as you are tempted; He has suffered in all the ways that you suffer; He has borne all of your sins in His own body, and He has carried all the sins of those who trespass against you, so that by His stripes and holy wounds you are healed.

He has shed His blood for you, for your redemption and atonement, and He has suffered and died in your place, on your behalf. He has gone through hell on your account and for your benefit.

And God raised this same Jesus, the Son of Mary, from the dead. This One who humbled Himself, even unto death, God has highly exalted above all heavens and has bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name.

That is why we make the crucifix a beautiful work of art, finally crafted and often of polished metal. It is why we use the finest vessels we can for the Holy Communion, and adorn the Church in splendor, and reverence the crucified Lord with deliberate ceremonies. It is why we clothe the newly baptized in white garments, even though they may be crying or screaming or messing themselves as we do so. It is why we clothe the ministers of Christ with colorful and elaborate vestments, though they are mortal men, poor miserable sinners like anyone else. It is why we sing sturdy hymns of substance and great confidence, even in the face of sin and death.

And it is why we say of this young girl from Nazareth, that she is rightly called and truly is the Mother of God. For her dear Son, the blessed Fruit of her sanctified womb, even as a tiny Fetus hidden within her body, is the very Lord, our God.

With all these things, with our lips and with our lives, we confess before the world that the Lord has had regard for the humble state of His servants. We confess that in His great mercy He has done great things for us; that with His mighty arm, His hands outstretched upon the Cross, He has done truly mighty deeds for us.

With St. Mary, with St. Elizabeth and all the faithful (in heaven and on earth), we exalt the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. Which is to exalt and rejoice in the Son of Mary, for He is true God, and she is the Mother of our Lord.

In remembering her Dormition on this day — that is, her falling asleep in Jesus, in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection — the Church rejoices and confesses that Mary’s Son is not the God of the dead, but of the living. In giving thanks to God for St. Mary, we believe, teach and confess that her Son, Christ Jesus, has fulfilled all that God has spoken and promised.

In considering that she who was humble has been exalted, in counting her blessed among women, we confess the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, our Lord, and count ourselves also exalted in Him. Even in the midst of lowliness and grief, in the midst of darkness, burdened by sin, threatened by death and destruction.

Even here, we do not fear.

We trust that, just as the Son of God was conceived and born of Mary by His Word and Spirit, so have you been conceived and born of His Church, as sons of God by grace through faith — in the same Word and Spirit that came to the Blessed Virgin.

We trust that, just as the Son of God became flesh and blood of her flesh and blood, and dwelt within St. Mary’s body, so does the same Son of God with the same flesh and blood come to dwell in your body in the Holy Communion.

As you eat of His Body and drink of His Blood, and as you have been united with Him, in His Cross and Resurrection, by your Holy Baptism, so are His Resurrection and Ascension surely yours.

So surely are they also St. Mary’s.

For the Lord our God, Christ Jesus, her Son, our Brother in the flesh and the Savior of us all, feeds the hungry with good things, in the remembrance of His mercy, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

1 comment:

Untamed Shrew said...

This is good stuff, as is "Don't Worry. Be Ready." Eloquent and edifying.

Joy (friend of many friends on fb, and wife to Rev. Dr. Kevin Golden, pastor of Village, Ladue.)