The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER, the readings for Monday, of Proper 4, p. 969
Psalms 41, 42 (morning) 44 (evening)
OR, the readings for the Visitation, p. 997)
Morning Prayer: Psalm 72; 2 Samuel 1:1-20; Hebrews 3:1-6
Evening Prayer: Psalms 146, 147; Zechariah 2:10-13; John 3:25-30
I chose the readings for The Visitation
Today the church celebrates the faithfulness of Mary, who accepted her vocation to be the mother of a child announced to her by the angel. Mary welcomed her calling, along with the suffering that it entailed. Our lectionary invites us to remember Hannah, the mother of Samuel, as a forerunner of Mary. The barren woman prayed for a child, promising that if her prayer were answered, her child would live under a nazarite vow, consecrated for service to God. We also read from Hebrews of the faithfulness of Jesus, who served in God's house as a son.
It is a good day to remember all who wish to have children but find childbearing challenging or impossible. It is a good day to remember all who expect a child, joining with them in anticipation and promise.
It is also a good day to embrace faithfulness. As Mary accepted her vocation to be Godbearer with her simple "let it be," so we are to accept God's call in our lives. May we let it be, accepting the circumstances of our own lives as the context that God would use to bear fruit in the world through us.
It is also Memorial Day, when we give thanks for the faithfulness of those who have served our nation, accepting their calling, along with the suffering that it may entail. We remember those who serve under the vows of the military, and ask that they be protected and effective in their calling to defend freedom and to create peace.
I'm drawn to the psalm appointed this morning, Psalm 72. It is a royal psalm, possibly used as a prayer on a day of coronation. It celebrates God's intention for justice and righteousness. Power when exercised rightly, will defend and enable justice and righteousness. As we hear repeated so often in the scripture, the focus of God's attention for justice is upon the poor. When our political power functions rightly, in accordance with God's will, the powers "shall defend the needy among the people; ...rescue the poor and crush the oppressor." In this ideal scenario, there is prosperity for all and "abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more."
Again the psalm describes the king's responsibilities. "For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress and the oppressed who has no helper. He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy. He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight." The psalmist says that the consequences of such a just rule, with relief for the poor and release from oppression as the ruler's focus, the consequence will be prosperity: "abundance of grain on the earth, growing thick even on the hilltops" with fruit that flourishes "like Lebanon" and "grain like grass upon the earth." Such a king would have an everlasting name.
On a national holiday as we observe today, it is good to be reminded of our own highest values as a people. At our best, we are a nation that serves the common good. We are a nation that welcomes and upholds the poor and oppressed in the words of Lady Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
At our best, we are a nation that delivers the poor who cries out in distress and the oppressed who has no helper. At our best, we are a nation which redeems the lives of the needy from oppression and violence. At our best we are like Mary, faithful to our vow to bear a new creation of God, a nation committed to freedom, justice and righteousness.
We have made vows and we have consecrated ourselves to the reality that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." We have consecrated ourselves to a high purpose: "...to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."
When we go wrong, we lose our focus upon our common responsibilities for the equality and welfare of all, we allow power to be concentrated in ways that promote exploitation, and we tilt our systems to favor the wealthy rather than the poor.
May the angel visit us again with the message of our calling to be a people of service and holiness. May we like Mary also say, "Let it be unto me, according to your word."
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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
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Lowell Grisham, Rector