The Catholic contributor’s view

 — May 21, 200521 mai 2005

Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ — How those involved see it

Sr Sara Butler, a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity, teaches dogmatic theology at St Joseph’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of New York.

During Holy Week, one Anglican member of ARCIC sent the rest of us the poem, “Good Friday Falls on Lady Day” via email. The poet, G. Studdert Kennedy, also an Anglican, wrote:

She claims no crown from Christ apart
Who gave God life and limb
She only claims a broken heart
Because of Him.

I knew that the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord would coincide with Good Friday this year, but I did not know the poem, and I was touched to receive it. In a way, this captures something special about the process of producing “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ”.

From the outset, we were aware that our subject had personal implications; that it was bound up with our traditions of prayer and our own devotional life. We could not approach our theme without appealing to some tangible expression – a feast, a prayer, a poem, a hymn, an icon, a pious practice of some kind. When the Seattle Statement was finalised, we celebrated Solemn Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – a joint feast of Our Lord and his Mother.

Throughout the years spent on this text, in fact, an Anglican colleague supplied for our daily offices readings from pre-Reformation texts that spoke of Our Lady’s place in the plan of salvation. We became more acutely conscious, when we sang or said the Magnificat at Evening Prayer, that we were praying it as Mary’s prayer and with Mary.

During our initial foray into the topic, one Anglican friend said he regarded Mary as a “sinner”. I felt obliged to defend her, and had to be told that some Fathers of the Church had said the same thing! Then another asked, in all sincerity, if we could explain exactly what devotion to the Blessed Virgin contributed to our spiritual life, and why we were not satisfied to go straight to Our Lord with our petitions. I felt called upon to bear witness; it seemed I must share something very personal – there was no place to hide and I didn’t want to be dishonest.

Had I not, perhaps, lost some of the fervour of my childhood? Was my own devotion authentic? I found the probing questions immensely helpful. Again, I clung to my experience of favourite hymns, feast days, prayers and images. During one winter meeting at the monastery of Chevetogne, the drafting committee observed with great solemnity the Feast of Mary Theotokos; the graces of that experience were tangible.

To re-receive the teaching of the Scriptures and ancient common traditions regarding Mary, ARCIC had to re-live in some way the Church’s original experience, for Marian doctrine is the fruit not only of theological reflection but also of contemplation, of liturgical celebration, and of love. What was special for me in our re-reception process, then, was retrieving and even discovering together the springs of this devotion, and then feeling its waters wash over us and refresh us in a shared experience of Christian prayer.

Posted: May 21, 2005 • Permanent link:
Categories: TabletIn this article: ARCIC, dialogue, ecumenism, Mary
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Catégorie : TabletDans cet article : ARCIC, dialogue, ecumenism, Mary

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