Blessedness

This might be the first year I’ve made it through the week leading up to Advent 3 without hearing someone call it “Mary Sunday.”  This seems to happen because the candle we light on the Advent wreath for Advent 3 is pink or rose colored, which people associate with girls, and since Mary was a girl, it must be her candle.  Gender stereotypes aside, in congregations in which the color of Advent is purple, this makes little sense as both purple and pink have been the favorite colors of my daughters at times (as have black and teal, and mine was once purple, not bishop “purple” but lavender, but that’s for another post).  The candle of Advent 3 is pink or rose because Advent 3 is traditionally known at Gaudete Sunday, which is Latin for “rejoice,” and the lesson last week, which I should have written about, but didn’t, were focused on joy.  (Are you still with me?  There have been quite a few asides in this paragraph, I’ll try to focus).  As our focus moves to the quick-to-be-overlooked Advent 4, we note that the lessons here point us to Mary’s story.

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While I hope to dive into the Magnificat later this week, today I’m drawn to Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary’s arrival in our Gospel lesson.  As a more Protestant leaning Episcopal priest, I’m not one to use the Roman rosary or say the Hail Mary very often.  It is, however, a part of colloquial Christianity, and so I’m sure many of you are familiar with Elizabeth’s ecstatic praise of her cousin Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”  As I read those words his morning, the idea of blessedness caught my attention.  I wondered what its underlying meaning was.  I opened my still-new-to-me Bible software and went digging.

The Greek word used on both occasions in Luke 1:42 is eulegeo (Strongs #2127).  It is a compound word, combining eu, which means “to be well off” or “to prosper” and logos, which means “word” or “something said.”  Elizabeth’s pronouncement of Mary’s blessedness, then, literally means that a good or prosperous word has been spoken upon her.  Blessedness isn’t something that just happened to Mary, even in her youthful virginity, she wasn’t just magically someone special, but rather, God spoke upon her a good word.  Just as in creation God spoke reality into being, so too, in Jesus’ incarnation, God spoke grace into being by making a girl from backwater Nazareth into the Theotokos, the God-bearer.

Marian myth and legend aside, I find this image of her blessedness to be very helpful because it reminds me that all of it is under God’s control.  It isn’t only some special person who seems to never make mistakes and always loves their neighbor who is blessed, but rather, anyone upon whom God has spoken a good or prosperous word is blessed.  And, you know what?  Every Wednesday and every other Sunday, I have the opportunity, challenge, and responsibility, in the tradition of Gabriel and Elizabeth, to speak, on behalf of God, that blessedness upon my congregation.  Blessed art thou, Mary, and blessed art you, dear reader.

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Mary as our Archetype

Virgin Mary: World's Best Mom.

While the opening lines of Elizabeth’s proclamation, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” might be more familiar to those who pray the Rosary or are generally Romish-leaning in their practices of faith, the good low church evangelical that I am has me finding deep meaning in the final words of Elizabeth:

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

For many, myself somewhat reluctantly included, Mary serves as an archetype of faith because, despite all evidence to the contrary, Mary had faith enough in God to say, “yes,” when the Angel Gabriel came to announce what was fixin’ to unfold in her life.

Truth be told, my reaction to the amazing promise from God would have probably been a lot more like Zechariah’s than Mary’s. Though Mary protests for a moment, it doesn’t take much convincing before she feels in her bones that the promise of God will be fulfilled, and that though she will live a life of hardship because of it, her yes will open the very doors of heaven.

What do you supposed the world would look like if every disciple of Jesus had the same sort of faith as Mary?  What would it look like if we decided to trust that God is a good? What would it be like if we decided to trust that God is the giver of every good gift, the Creator of everything that is? How would the world be different if we took seriously that God is love, to trust fully that that love compelled God to send his Son to save rather than condemn the world?

Mary serves as the archetype of faith because she trusted fully, not knowing the end results. She reminds us that the world is changed through the faith of one person, and that the Kingdom will come alongside the faith of all of us. As we approach this final Sunday in Advent, may Mary remind us all of what faith in God looks like, faith that trusts in spite of it all.