Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mary, Mother of the Church- Advent Homily

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

Tonight’s focus, Mary Mother of the Church, picks up where we left off last Wednesday as we hailed the Blessed Virgin as the Theotokos, that is the Mother of God.  You might recall, though it has been a week so we will refresh your memories, that we ended our reflections with a direct comparison between Mary and Eve.  Eve gave birth to sin and death.  Mary to life.  Eve bore a son who would slay his brother.  Mary bore the Son who would redeem and save his brothers.  Eve was kicked out of paradise.  Mary, through the fruit of her womb, made possible our return to paradise.  Now before we make the jump to speaking of Mary as the Mother of the Church and of the Faithful, we must first be grounded in the truth that we also have a first and prior mother, not simply a biological one, and that is Eve.  

Our baptismal rite makes this point abundantly clear for us, “In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are born children of a fallen humanity.”  Each of us, according to the flesh are born as fallen creatures of God.  From the moment of our birth we are conceived outside of paradise, outside of grace, and outside communion with God.  Luther liked to speak of this sinful nature of our bodies as “the Old Adam” in us, but he could just as easily have spoken about the “Old Eve in us.”  For it is from their fall from grace that you and I are from the moment of our conception sinful, fallen, and unredeemed humanity.  We are according to the flesh first born to our father Adam and our mother Eve.     

Because of this first and prior birth humanity is in need of a second birth, a rebirth.  As our Lord spoke to the questioning Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”  And thus our baptismal rite continues, “by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the Church, the Body of Christ.”  It is there in Holy Baptism that we are made a new creation through water we receive a second birth.  Please understand with all seriousness that baptism is NOT fire insurance.  It is not a solitary or singular event, but rather it is through the mysteries of God a bestowal of a new life with a new body and a new family upon each person washed in those waters.  Its a very joyous, sacred, and solemn when we welcome a new brother and sister into the faith.  It is literally watching and participating in their new birth.  

We, Lutherans, have always pointed to the salvific nature of baptism like our Orthodox and Roman Catholic cousins, because of what it does and who is acting in baptism.  It is the reason we baptize infants.  In and through the water the Holy Spirit unites to the eternal Son of God.  As St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”  In this new birth we are united to Jesus.  We are united to the entirety of His life, His death and  resurrection so that we are made to be like Him.  In death and resurrection and in parental lineage.  Children of the Father, brothers and sisters to the Son of God.  

So close is this unity between Jesus Christ and the Church, the second born, that she herself is even called the Body of Christ.  There is nothing which Christ posses that He does not share with his brothers and sisters, not even His own body.  We have already spoken of his death and resurrection, given to us in Baptism.  His being first-born from the dead, so that we might follow after Him.  His Divine and Human natures are given to us each week in the Eucharist, his body and blood, soul and divinity.  His mercy and forgiveness, given to us in eating and drinking that Eucharistic meal.  His High Priesthood he shares with us making us priests in His Kingdom.  His Shepherd-hood, He gives to the apostles, the bishops and priests/pastors He calls to serve.  His closeness to the Father, from which He constantly makes intercession for us in the heavenly temple.  Jesus holds nothing back from us, He gives us His Father as our own and He also gives to us His Mother.  As we heard tonight from John, “Woman, behold son!…Behold, your mother!  And from that hour [John] took her to his own home.” 

Tradition holds that Mary continued to live with the apostle in Jerusalem for the rest of her days.  While John carried out his apostleship, He did so in very close proximity and relationship to the Mother of God.  As Mary mothered Her Son from His earliest days in the ways of the faith, helping Him learn to speak the faith, and to know the prophets and the Law to trust in the Father and to teach Him the prayers, so too did she teach her new son and by extension the Church in the ways of Her Son.   Her relationship to the early Christians and in particular the apostles is one of utterly close devotion and love as mother to child.  She is there as they gather in the upper room to select a replacement to Judas recorded in the Book of Acts and when they receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  She is with them throughout their apostolic ministry and according to tradition they gathered together on the day of her falling asleep in the faith sometime in the mid to late 1st Century.  Celebrated in the Church on August 15th.  

The Church looks to Mary as Mother, because she is the first and chief saint of all the saints.  The highest woman and the noblest gem in all Christianity.  Because still in the Church’s infancy she guided and nurtured them in faith and prayer.  Because she was the first to bear the Word of God in her heart and believe in the Lord.  Her life of faith has and will always be a model of faith for every Christian who dares to claim the title.  Acquiescing to the will of God, the lowly handmade in absolute and pure faith took the Word into her very body saying, “Let it be to me according to your word.”  She bore in herself the Word of God in full faith, devotion and reverence.  As Luke tells us twice in his Gospel, that she treasured all things regarding her Son in her heart.  Mary takes into her very being the fullness of Christ.  Her life is completely and totally consumed by the glory and majesty of His and He gives her the honor and dignity of being a woman forever blessed by all generations.  In her life of faith to the Almighty God revealed in her Son, she is and will forever be the Mother of all whom Jesus would call brothers and sisters.  

In this season of Advent, and in our weekly meditations these past three nights, I hope and pray that you have gotten a chance to get to know your new Mother a bit better.  We all are familiar with our first Mother, Eve, as we know well the affects of sin in our life.  Those we’ve sinned against and those who have sinned against us.  It is a common part of our life, but it is a part of our old life, one which is to be daily put to death.  As Luther writes in the Catechism, “[Baptism] indicates that the Old Adam [or rather the Old Eve] in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  Perhaps that can in part be done by spending time reflecting on the life of the New Eve, Mary, honoring her and treasuring her in our own hearts as did the beloved disciple.  Taking her into our home and being shaped by the witness of the faith that she lived and taught to both Her Son and later to the Church.  For Jesus giving Mary a son in John was not only to see that she was taken care of, but it was to see that the Church would be as well.  Even our own Lutheran Confessions make abundantly clear that Mary to this day, residing in heaven, continues to love and care for the beloved disciples of Jesus by praying unceasingly for the Church.  Christ has given Mary’s Motherhood to us as a gracious gift so that we could have a true, good, and holy Mother to be loved by.  A Mother from whom we can learn true obedience and discipleship as opposed to the disobedience of Eve.  A Mother from whom we can learn and be lead into the paths of righteousness and Godliness as she points all to the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus the Christ.  

It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and Mother of our God.  More honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word.  True Theotokos, we magnify you.


  1. Excellent Fr Ian.

    I am pleased to read a Lutheran devotion to the blessed Virgin Mary.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I really enjoyed putting that little advent series together for my parish. I think we Lutherans have a lot of ground to recover when it comes to learning from the lives of the saints, though our own Confessions direct us to. Luther himself regarded Mary very highly and I think he would be appalled that we seem to have dismissed her entirely from our memory and life of faith.