The Fast of the Virgin Mary – Day 2


On this second day of the Fast of the Virgin we can turn again with value to the Proto-evangelium of St James. It teaches us that Righteous Anna, the mother of St Mary, had dedicated any child which God might give her to the Lord. From the beginning this holy couple had in mind the fulfillment of this promise. On her first birthday they held a festival and invited the priests and chief priests, and presenting her to the priests they blessed her saying…

O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations. And all the people said: Amen, Amen.

And then they presented her to the chief priests and they blessed her, saying…

O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever.

What can we reflect on in this account? It seems to me that the divine promise of salvation was a response, in an unknown manner, to the prayer of Joachim and Anna, as we considered yesterday. But it is also a response in a hidden way, even to the prayer of blessing made by the priests of Israel, and a response to the Amen of the people.

The priests and people were surely not aware of what they were praying for when they blessed the infant St Mary, but God heard their prayers and responded to their prayers, even though the object of those prayers was not clear.

I am often trying to encourage people who feel that their experience of life in Christ in the Church is not as they would hope, and others who think that the Church is in need of a renewal in God’s grace. My own conviction is that I believe we do not need to have some absolutely clear sense of how things should be, and should certainly not think that by our own organising we can fix things for God. What is required, it seems to me, is a greater commitment to the prayers of the people of God and for the people of God, to which we add our own Amen.

There are already enough prayers in the services of the Church asking God to bless and strengthen and renew his own Church. We don’t know what that might mean. But we can make these our own earnest and heartfelt intercessions and God will hear us and will act for our salvation and his glory. At the altar in the Liturgy I pray…

Keep Your holy church, which You founded through them; And bless the lambs of Your flock and make to increase this vine, which your right hand has planted.
And I pray a blessing to which all the people answer Amen.
Lord save Your people, bless Your inheritance, pasture them and raise them up forever.
We do not need to know how God will answer these prayers. And there are many more in the services of the Church. But if we commit ourselves to praying with attention and faithfulness then our prayers will be heard and answered in a manner we cannot imagine, just as the prayers of a childless couple and the blessing of a little infant were answered in the person and ministry of the Virgin St Mary, the Theotokos.

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