Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Mary Visits Elizabeth, Humility
Volume 7 No. 449 December 1, 2017
 
Foreword: The Faith and Humility of Virgin Mary

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Chief Editor, Malankara World

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.
Psalm 136:1,26 NKJV

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving Day with your family and loved ones. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving signals the beginning of the Christmas Shopping Season. Santa arrives at the end of the Macy's parade on Thursday afternoon and the Santas then move into the malls and shopping centers along with Salvation Army's Bell collectors. At least that was the way it used to be. Now, the majority of shopping is done on the web and most people may not even see a physical store. The black Friday used to be the busiest shopping day with all rushing to take advantage of the sales. But these days, the Black Friday starts in July! Of course, the real black Friday still has its own charm.

Although Orthodox Advent started in early November, in western churches advent starts on December 1 with four Sundays leading to the Christmas Day. The first two Sundays look at the second coming of Christ and the last two Sundays look at the events leading to the incarnation of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. We know that, the Syriac Orthodox Church looks at the significant events that led to the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the extended Advent.

We already looked at:

The Annunciation to Zechariah about the birth of John The Baptist - the forerunner to Messiah
The Annunciation to Virgin Mary

This Sunday we meditate on the Visitation - the Journey of St. Mary to Elizabeth's House

In the following Sundays we will look at:

The Birth of John the Baptist
Revelation to St. Joseph
Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Like in a good mystery, the more we meditate over these events, we get more perspective on the God's plan for the redemption of mankind through the incarnation.

When we meditate on the Annunciation to St. Mary and the subsequent journey of St. Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in the Hill Country, the two things that come into our mind are the faith and humility of Virgin Mary. Mary unconditionally believed that God can do anything and He can be trusted to do the right thing. This strong faith was what prompted her to say "yes" to the angel when he told her about being selected to be the mother of God. Let us take a look at St. Luke's description of the encounter between the virgin and the angel:

The angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible."

38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
Luke 1: 28-38

If we recall what happened when the angel told Priest Zachariah of his wife bearing forth a son, the learned priest just didn't believe the angel or the power of God to do impossible things. He was just thinking of what humans can do; not what God can do. He was punished for his doubts.

Here is Mary, a simple virgin in her teens, with no formal theology training, when told that she will bear the "son of the most high" had no doubt that God can do anything, including things we consider impossible. She was curious how God is going to make her pregnant because she is still a virgin? And when told how the word will reside in her womb by the action of the Holy Spirit, Mary simply accepted it and just replied:

"Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."

She was not moved by the high honor that was bestowed on her, like "highly favored one", "the Lord is with you", "blessed are you among women", "you have found favor with God", etc. All Mary could think about was how God picked her for such an honor and she humbled herself to be a "maidservant" of god. In other words, the she was elevated, Mary elevated lower and lower. That is Mary's humility, a trait most desired by God - the prime reason Mary was selected for being the mother to the son of God.

Further evidence of Mary's faith and humility can be seen when Mary hurriedly went to visit Elizabeth when the angel told her that Elizabeth is now carrying a son 6 months old in her womb. Mary, bearing the son of God in her womb, makes the trip to visit Elizabeth; not the other way around. Later Jesus would say, "I came to serve and not to be served."

Let us take a look at what transpired when Elizabeth met Mary at her doorstep. Back to St. Luke's gospel:

41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said,

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
- Luke 1:41-45

John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah residing in Elizabeth's womb, on sensing Mary's presence, immediately made Elizabeth aware of the fact that it is 'the mother of my Lord' who is in front of her.

She praised Mary for her humility to take the trip to see her. She also addresses Mary in her new position:

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

Was Mary felt pride and felt superior after hearing this? No, she felt more humble. She, inspired by the logos residing in her, sang 'the Song of Mary' popularly known as the Magnificat.

Here it is:

The Song of Mary

46 And Mary said:

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever."
- Luke 1: 46-55

WOW! What a devotional prayer! Mary thanked God for:

"He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;"
(still Mary regarded herself a maid servant of God - not the theotokos)

Mary knew that God's mercy is on those who fear Him and it continues from generation to generation.

Again, Mary is not moved by how big she became due to the action of God. She still felt like the old maid servant, ready to be of service unconditionally for God.

Mary also predicted the nature of the kingdom that will be established by her son; a kingdom where the roles are reversed:

the rich become poor, the poor become rich
the mighty are thrown out of their thrones, the lowly are exalted
The proud are scattered.

This is the "Great Reversal" annunciated in Luke's Gospel about the coming Kingdom.

Mary with her faith and extreme humility and willingness to serve, is the fit queen of such a Kingdom.

I encourage you to read the articles in this edition of Malankara World and the prior issues cited in the issue as well as in the Special Supplement of Mary in Malankara World. For completeness, please read last issue of Malankara World Journal (Issue 448) and the cited issues in that issue too. This will provide you with amble material to meditate on Virgin Mary as presented in Luke's Chapter 1.

The important role played by St. Mary is also recalled in the following Morning Prayer:

Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
life everlasting.

Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

from The Divine Office - Matins (Morning Prayer)

Morth Mariam Bathluth Yoldath Aloho
(St. Mary Virgin Mother of God); Blessed
Pray For Us!!

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