Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Tuesday of 6 Easter, p. 962
Psalms 78:1-39 (morning) 78:40-72 (evening)
OR the readings for the Visitation, p. 997
Morning Prayer - Psalm 72 / 1 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
The Feast of the Visitation is a celebration of anticipation and hope, yet within the celebration there is a shadow, anticipating how what is coming into being will interact with the threats and challenges of the present time to bring hope and deliverance.
Although in the Daily Office we don't read the story of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56), we do have the option to use the Magnificat as one of our canticles. Within the pastoral scene of two expectant women enjoying their shared joys of motherhood, Mary speaks a prophetic poem of revolutionary reversals. As she contemplates the gestating child she imagines God working to scatter the proud and put down the mighty, to lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things, leaving the rich empty. Like generations of peasants, Mary longs for God's justice to reverse the roles of power and wealth. She prays that her child will be God's means to fulfill that promise.
In our first reading, we have another biblical story of a barren woman. So often in the scriptural narrative, God works through the offspring of a woman who has mourned her infertility. Like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and the unnamed mother of Samson, Hannah is barren, a sad burden, particularly in a culture that equates a woman's fecundity with her blessing and worth. During the family's annual pilgrimage to the temple at Shiloh, Hannah pours out her heart in fervent prayer to God. Foreshadowing the story of his impotence, the priest Eli cannot tell the sacred from the profane, and thinks she is drunk. But God hears her prayer and blesses her with a child whom she will dedicate as a Nazirite. Hew child Samuel will become Israel's first prophet, and he will participate in the fall of the house of Eli as well as the anointing of Saul and David.
Our reading from Hebrews speaks of Jesus' glory as God's son, a glory greater than that of Moses. Jesus shares the divine glory as the inheritor of God's house, and Hebrews says, "we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope." We are to understand ourselves as the very temple of God's dwelling, an understanding that brings confidence and hope. Yet woven within this passage is the dark, coming conflict between Christian and Jew, in the assertion of Jesus' superiority to Moses. We know in the future that those who follow Jesus as their Messiah will be expelled from their family house, from synagogue and temple. We know of future horrors of retribution that Christians will commit toward the children of Moses and his house.
What is coming to birth? In all of these stories it is something wonderful and hopeful. Yet there is also a hint of conflict and political upheaval. When God does a new thing, God is often acting to overthrow an old order. In each of these anticipated births there is the hope of reversal of injustice, growth of power and justice for God's people. The new order will bring salvation and deliverance from exterior threats and from the political and economic injustice that oppresses the weak and the poor.
The Visitation is the feast of fellowship and camaraderie among allies for the new vision. Elizabeth and Mary meet like underground insurgents, they dream and plan for a new world, a world where the weak and the poor are raised up and the oppression of the rich and powerful is unraveled. They dream of a movement, and they anticipate that God is moving within their wombs to raise up leaders to restore justice and hope.
Whenever a small committee gathers to plan a new way, a group convenes to commit to a greater vision, friends join in prayer and hope for the coming of God's will, especially on behalf of the poor and burdened -- there is the quality of the Visitation. The Holy Spirit joins imaginative hearts in anticipation, and something wonderfully new grows silently hidden in the quiet womb of hope.
May there be many meetings of Visitation today and in our generation, to bring about new hope, new justice for our future. May the seed of our deliverance be coming to birth in homes and laboratories, in friendships and digital Magnificats, in fervent prayer answered. "To shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."
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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 missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
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 -- Click for Divine Hours
Discussion Blog: To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.
The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.
See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org
Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church