St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church Service Times

You are invited to join us for Anglican Catholic Holy Communion / Mass on:
Every Sunday, Maitland NSW Australia. Venue: St Marys School Chapel in Victoria St. Mass at 11am.
Fr Matthew Kirby for further details.
Check here for any additions or cancelations of services.

Saturday 31 August 2013

Raising Gods children

The image is "Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus" 
by Guido Reni, c 1635.

Why are we showing this image???
Have you forgotten??
This weekend 1st Sept, is Fathers Day in Australia...

Heavenly Father, you entrusted your Son Jesus, the child of Mary, to the care of Joseph, an earthly father. Bless all fathers as they care for their families. Give them strength and wisdom, tenderness and patience; support them in the work they have to do, protecting those who look to them, as we look to you for love and salvation, through Jesus Christ our rock and defender.  Amen.

The following is a prayer by Kirk Loadman.

Let us praise those fathers who have striven to balance the demands of work, marriage, and children with an honest awareness of both joy and sacrifice. Let us praise those fathers who, lacking a good model for a father, have worked to become a good father.

Let us praise those fathers who by their own account were not always there for their children, but who continue to offer those children, now grown, their love and support. Let us pray for those fathers who have been wounded by the neglect and hostility of their children.

Let us praise those fathers who, despite divorce, have remained in their children's lives. Let us praise those fathers whose children are adopted, and whose love and support has offered healing.

Let us praise those fathers who, as stepfathers, freely choose the obligation of fatherhood and earned their step children's love and respect. Let us praise those fathers who have lost a child to death, and continue to hold the child in their heart.

Let us praise those men who have no children, but cherish the next generation as if they were their own.

Let us praise those men who have "fathered" us in their role as mentors and guides.

Let us praise those men who are about to become fathers; may they openly delight in their children.

And let us praise those fathers who have died, but live on in our memory and whose love continues to nurture us.

This weekend is a time for all of us to remember and appreciate our fathers.
If your dad is still alive, phone him, and tell him his is appreciated.
If he has passed, then embrace his memory.
None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes. But when you become a parent, although you may not always succeed in being the best, you do try hard. Spare a prayer for all the dads, ask God to guide them in the most important job they will ever have, raising His children.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Who is St Helen Of The Cross ?

 So... What is a "Saint" ?

It is written that a Saints' "surrender to God's love was so generous an approach to the total surrender of Jesus that the Church recognises them as heroes and heroines worthy to be held up for our inspiration". A Saint is someone who has managed to become "Christ-like" in some aspect of their life,  "someone through whom we catch  a glimpse of what God is like". Saints are not thought to have power of their own, but only gifts and mercy granted through God.

Who is Saint Helen ?

Saint Helen also known as Helena Augusta, St Helena of Constantinople and St Helen of the cross, is credited for her success in locating relics of the true cross upon which Jesus Christ died.

Helena married the Roman general Constantius Chlorus around 270AD and they had a son, Constantine. They had been married for 21 years when Constantius took advice to divorce his wife. He abandoned Helena and Constantine to remarry into higher nobility. Helena was a woman of gentleness and integrity and was deeply hurt. Constantius married the stepdaughter of the Emperor Maximus under whom he was named Caesar until he died in 306 AD.

In the early 300's Helena's son Constantine become the most powerful military figure in Rome and was finally declared Roman Emperor.

At age 63 Helena converted to Catholicism with the support of her son. She had experienced a dream about the true cross of our Lord and she felt divinely appointed to find it. She took to the task with enthusiasm but on arriving in Jerusalem she discovered that Christians no longer visited the holy sites, as they were covered by pagan Roman shrines and false idols of the previous 180 years. Christians in Jerusalem rejoiced as, in the name of her son, she had the pagan monuments torn down and the land cleared in preparation for erecting Catholic churches. Helena was responsible for uncovering the true cross on which Christ was crucified along with nails, rope and other artefacts. Tradition states, in proof of it being the true cross of our Lord, it was responsible for raising a dead man when they touched him with it, and a grievously sick woman was instantly healed when the shadow of the cross fell upon her.

Before Helena took the cross to Cyprus the country had been without rain for 36 years, becoming desolate, drought ravaged and deserted due to hardship and famine, it also becoming overrun by poisonous snakes. As the Cross was brought into the land, so the rains came bringing with them a material and spiritual renewal. To help rid the area of snakes Helena imported a boatload of  cats which were released at Cape Gata. Constantine's governor erected a Monastery on this peninsula. The monastery is now known as St Nicholas of the Cats.

We all encounter various physical limitations and weaknesses of human nature, at times becoming fearful, emotional, tempted, distrusting and unfaithful. Saints are not angels or Gods, they people like us, who with Gods grace have overcome some of the problems or limitations that we all face. They are role models of holiness to be imitated, strengthening and encouraging the believer within us, during the times of weakness in our spiritual journey. They remind us of the level of dedication and success achievable through the mercy and grace of God.

Helena suffered the rejection of her husband and a break-up of a 21 year marriage, seeing her family unit shatter. As Constantius replaced her and gained more power, Helena managed to find direction and strength through the Lord. She found her focus in God, who obviously had bigger plans for her. She used her wealth to restore the holy landmarks and to locate the life-giving symbol of hope and victory. Converting to Catholicism at age 63 reminds us that regardless of age we are all useful in serving God.

St Helen Inspired Prayer: 
O life-giving God of peace and victory, the inspiration of our blessed St Helen. Enrich our lives through your gracious love, inspiring our forgiveness and respect to others, especially through times of our own pain: Stir within us the passion for truth so that we cast off false idols, always seeking the presence of our true Lord: Inspire us with your wisdom while strengthening our desire and commitment to succeed in the tasks you place before us: Grant us the strength and devotion to rise up to your call during our daily struggles, to follow the light of the precious cross to victory.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen

The artwork and prayer of St Helen is used with the permission of the artist. 
Archival art-prints are available for sale. Link for More Information.

Don't forget this weeks St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Communion / Mass on Sunday 25th August 2013 will be held in Taree NSW Australia. Join us for prayer and worship. Contact Fr Matthew for time and venue.

Friday 23 August 2013

The Collect

Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee, true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain  thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pg 231 of The Book Of Common Prayer Canada

This Sunday 25th August 2013, our St Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church worship will be held in Taree NSW Australia. You are invited to join us for Christian prayer and Holy Communion / Mass. 

Please Email Fr Matthew Kirby to confirm address and time.

God Bless!

Monday 12 August 2013

In all things give thanks

I thank you Lord
For being patient with me,
For seeing past my human frailties,
For encouraging my potential.

I thank you Lord
For allowing me a fresh start with each new day,
For inspiring me to please you more.
For walking with me when I feel alone.

I thank you Lord
For the gracious gifts that you lay before me,
For your love that envelopes me,
For the direction that you have given my life.

I thank you Lord
For your protection even when my trust wavers,
For your lessons you have shown me through hardship,
For your wisdom and guidance granted to me.

I thank you Lord for allowing me to see you.

Thursday 8 August 2013

St Hilda Inspired Prayer

O God of peace and the inspiration of our blessed St Hilda.
Stir within us the passion for creativity and learning so that we may grow and mature.
Inspire us with your wisdom while strengthening our desire and commitment
to succeed in the tasks you place before us.
Grant us the grace to respect and love our fellow Christians with whom we disagree,
that our common life may be enriched and thy gracious will be done.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Thought of the day

"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." Revelation 5:8 (KJV)

We're told by John that the incense (odours) offered were the prayers of God's holy people (the saints).
Consider:  If one of the elders were to open YOUR vial before God....
How full would your vial be ? 
How sweet would be its aroma ?

Friday 2 August 2013

Our Ecumenical Lady

From Fr Matthews' Presentation for “At One with God”, 
Held at Maitland Uniting Church's Ecumenical Service, 31/7/2013. Note that this Church was Methodist before it became part of the Uniting Church. Methodism was founded, in a sense, by John Wesley, though he never left the Anglican Church.

Our Ecumenical Lady

For a long time the devotion of Catholics to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord, has been a stumbling block to many other Christians. While Roman Catholics are best known for this devotion and for theological expression of it, other Catholics such as Anglo-Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have similar or identical beliefs about her, and matching devotion. Protestants, on the other hand have tended to look at all of this as unnecessary and excessive at best, or unbiblical and idolatrous at worst. There has, in addition, been a perception that such Marian devotion was a relatively late accretion to the Faith. 

But all is not as it seems. I want to suggest to you that St Mary is a treasure for the all Christians, and that another, closer look at church history and the Scriptures will illustrate this.

First, I will begin with some interesting facts about the Methodist tradition, which seems particularly appropriate, given where we are. One of the best books ever written about the Rosary, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, was written by a Methodist, J. Neville Ward. (The Rosary when prayed includes the “Hail Mary” as an important component, of course.) There is evidence John Wesley used the Rosary. Speaking of John Wesley, few realise that he believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. And the Book of Common Prayer that he loved as an Anglican clergyman (he pronounced it the finest document of biblical and rational piety in the English language) calls her “Our Lady” in its liturgical calendar. So, a special respect for and love of the Blessed Mother is a native though quiet part of the Methodist heritage, a hidden jewel, if you like.

The original great Reformer, Luther, also accepted that Mary was properly called the “Mother of God”, and remained a virgin throughout her life. He taught that she was preserved from all sin by grace so that the fruit of her womb, Jesus, would have a pure human nature. Similarly, the Books of Homilies written by the Church of England during the English Reformation referred to her “undefiled substance” and said that the rest of us “in comparison to her are most base”.

Now, Calvin was another story entirely, I admit, but it was also Calvinism that John Wesley specifically and forthrightly rejected. So, for the rest of the classical, Reformed traditions, Lutheran, Anglican and Wesleyan/Holiness, a surprising Marian dimension is there at the source.

Theological reflection on Mary and a special honouring of her can be found in the very early Church Fathers. In particular, she was considered the New Eve from the second century onwards. Her life-long purity, unique blessedness, intercession and heavenly glorification were affirmed increasingly explicitly and virtually universally throughout the Church within the first four centuries.

That's all very well, one might say, but what about the Bible. What does the Scripture say? After all, neither the Reformers nor the early Church Fathers appealed to their own authority as individuals, treating it as determinative. They all taught that doctrine must conform to Scripture.

What is it that made Mary special, apart from the bare fact of her being chosen to bare God in her womb? Is there anything in Scripture to indicate she was chosen for a reason, prepared for this role in our salvation? The answer is yes.

Luke gives us the most detailed portrait of the Blessed Virgin. The key features of her character he shows are purity; a bold, yet sincere humility; and a faith that spoke of a total reliance on God’s grace and, importantly, directed the glory to God and his Son, not to herself.

Let me read the key passage from Luke 1:26-45
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art [1]highly favored, the Lord is with thee [2]. But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be.  And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found [1] favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob [1] for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also [1] the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that [1] was called barren. For no word from God shall be void of power.  And Mary said, Behold, the [1]handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit;  and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?  For behold, when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that [1] believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord.

Purity: unlike Zacharias (and many OT saints), she did not cower at the angel’s presence, she was overawed by his words (which praised her)! “Who am I to be greeted so? Why did he call me that?” as it were. Note also the calm straightforwardness of questioning and answer afterward. Only a pure heart could so converse with the angel of the Lord. Remember, the angel added she had “found favour with God,” and yet no particular deeds were mentioned {cf. Daniel, or Cornelius in Acts}; it is a matter of who and what she is — the angel named her “full of grace” or “highly favoured”.

As I said before, Mary was not afraid of the angel but WAS troubled by the honourable salutation. A little later she declares herself to be God’s servant, but notice the “behold”! Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; And yet, again, she doesn’t say “Yes, all right, I’ll DO it” be it unto me according to thy word.: she knows she can do nothing but receive. “Let it be DONE TO ME according to thy word.” The combination of boldness and humility reminds us of Jesus saying “I am meek and lowly”!

NOTE: The Magnificat is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn. Its text is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55) where it is spoken by the Virgin Mary upon the occasion of her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth.
My soul doth magnify the Lord :  
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : 
the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : 
all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : 
and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him :
 throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : 
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : 
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : 
as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

We see the same paradox in the Magnificat, Mary's song “all generations shall call me blessed”, “he has exalted the lowly”. Now, it is very rare in the Scriptures for people to prophesy about themselves, other than in Jesus' case. But that is what Mary does here. The important thing to note is that her prophecy has been fulfilled. Note that this word, “blessed”, is the same one Jesus uses in the Beatitudes. For example, “Blessed are the pure in heart”, “Blessed are the meek”. Sounds familiar.

It is in her fiat [= let it be done] then, that we see Mary’s faith that Elisabeth later commends. She knows God is the doer, and she knows he WILL do it. And, again we see this attitude repeated in the Magnificat.

Allow me at this point to recount part of my personal journey. When I discovered Catholicism through Eastern Orthodoxy at University, a better understanding and appreciation of the significance of the Mother of God was how “the penny dropped”. A paper by a theologian named Vladimir Lossky (Born in Germany, 1903-1958) opened my eyes to the Scriptural riches concerning Mary. Things I had never seen or noticed before became clear, and I saw that this was because I was receiving the benefit of Holy Tradition, the consensual wisdom and insight of the Church through the ages, guided by God, as promised by our Lord. What did I find, as I looked further? That though the Biblical references to our Lady were few in number, they were laden with extraordinary depth of meaning. I found that, in addition to what I have already explained:

The earliest Biblical prophecy about the Messiah also refers to his Mother and associates the two of them in their enmity with the Devil (Genesis 3:15). God says to the Devil-serpent “ I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt  bruise his heel.” Christ is called the “seed” in Galatians 3:19, then St Paul notes that he is “born of a woman” in 4:4. So, Christ was the seed of the woman. But even to talk about the seed of a woman was unusual in the Bible, which generally refers only to a man's seed, so the very idea was suggestive of something unusual. In other words, it was never just a reference to the human race in general and the Devil's hatred of it. It was never just a reference to all the children of Eve, but to the one  who was pre-eminently the seed of a woman but not the seed of a man, Jesus. And that means that “the woman” prophetically refers to Mary as well. Thus, very significantly, the enmity between Jesus and the Devil is paralleled by the enmity between Mary and the Devil. They share as humans in this TOTAL opposition of good versus evil.

Indeed, Mary's “be it unto me according to thy word” and faith (specifically commended by St Elizabeth, as we saw) is in perfect opposition to Eve's disobedience and unbelief (Luke 1: 38, 45 cp. Genesis 3:4-6). Remember, Eve not only ate the forbidden fruit, she did so because she accepted what the Serpent said about God having supposedly misled her in his words. “Ye shall NOT surely die”. Unbelief led to disobedience for Eve. Faith meant obedience in Mary. She said yes to God and his word, boldly and effectively. No wonder the Fathers saw her as the New Eve, almost the anti-Eve.

Jesus, IN HIS HUMANITY , and Mary are again associated, as similarly “blessed”, by St Elizabeth in Luke 1:42, from the passage I read earlier. Elizabeth says to Mary “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB”: the SAME underlying Greek word being applied to both Mary and Jesus. 5 times in the 2nd chapter of Matthew Jesus and Mary are referred to as “the child with his mother” or “the child and his mother”, 4 of these times to do with Joseph’s actions, when we might have expected reference to “his wife and child” 
These examples are:
Matthew 2:11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew 2:13 [ The Flight into Egypt ] Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
Matthew 2:14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,
Matthew 2:20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”
Matthew 2:21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

Other examples: 
Luke 2:34-35 ,Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 

Luke 1:48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
Luke 1:52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 
compared to
Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

[Relevance to Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity: Joseph as protector of THEM, not as normal husband of her. “They” are a “pair” as to human nature, implying her complete moral purity.]

While Jesus “corrects” a woman who cries out how blessed is the womb that bore him by saying “rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it” in Luke 11:28, we have already been told by then in that Gospel that this is exactly what his Mother does (Luke 2: 19, 51: “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”). Thus what seems a diminishing of our Lady, to a superficial reading, actually reveals her true greatness. The woman who cried out saw the physical connection between our Lady and our Lord, but not the deeper, spiritual connection.

Mary is seen as an effective intercessor in John 2, persuading Jesus to perform his first sign, and her last words recorded in Scripture here are “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.” Not a bad summary of instruction for the whole Christian life. Notice how she directs us to Jesus.

Mary becomes the Mother of the Beloved Disciple, who represents all of us, at the foot of the Cross, by Jesus decree. (John 19:26-27) “Woman, behold thy son.” [Relevance to Perpetual Virginity: no natural other son available. Yet 'brothers' of Jesus soon with the Apostles!]

St Luke's account from the Annunciation to the Visitation, that is, from the Angel's announcement of her motherhood to her visit to her cousin, contains a number of striking parallels with the OT accounts of the Ark of the Covenant. Luke 1:35 (RSV) And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” The Greek word for overshadow is episkiasei, which describes a bright, glorious cloud. It is used with reference to the cloud of transfiguration of Jesus and also has a connection to the shekinah glory of God in the Old Testament .

Reference to the cloud of transfiguration of Jesus 
Matthew 17:5 "While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 
Mark 9:7 "And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”  
Luke 9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.
Reference to the glory of God in the Old Testament 
Exodus 24:15-16Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain. Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 
1 Kings 8:10 And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, 
Exodus 40:34-38 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys.But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. 
The Greek Septuagint translation uses the same word, episkiasei, in this passage. Mary is, therefore, in effect, like the new temple and holy of holies, where God was present in a special fashion. 

More direct parallels occur as well: 
2 Samuel 6:9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” 
Luke 1:43 “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  
2 Samuel 6:14,16 “And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. . . . King David leaping and dancing before the LORD . . .”  
Luke 1:44 “For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.”  
2 Samuel 6:10-11 “So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; ... And the ark of the LORD remained in the house of O'bed-e'dom the Gittite three months . . .” 
Luke 1:39,56 “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, . . . And Mary remained with her about three months”.  

Then there is the powerful witness of St Athanasius, one of the greatest theologians of the early Church, speaking of Mary: “You are greater than them all O [Ark of the] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides”. Athanasius saw the clear connection between the literal Ark containing the word (stone tablets) and bread (manna) of God and our Lady, who contained in her womb the One who was declared to be the Word and the Bread in John's Gospel. 
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 
John 6:33, 35 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” ...And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 

And then we are told, quite mysteriously, at the end of Revelation 11 that the Ark of the Covenant is seen in Heaven, just before ...

The last Scriptural reference to the Blessed Virgin in the Bible has her crowned in Heaven at the beginning of Revelation 12. This is the image of the heavenly woman surrounded by sun, moon and stars. Is this Mary? John does not spell it out explicitly. Some of the imagery could refer to redeemed Israel  (Genesis 37:9-11 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.) or to the Church (Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. cp. 2 John 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.). But other aspects refer more properly to Mary. This layering of meaning is paralleled in other prophecies in the Bible. The Marian reference is hard to ignore because this woman bears a son who will rule all nations “with a rod of iron”, that is, unquestionable and unbreakable authority, and who rises up to the throne of God. The “rod of iron” phrase is taken from Psalm 2 as part of a section the earliest disciples realised was a prophecy about Christ (Acts 13:33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee., Hebrews 1:5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?). And, of course, the one who John knew to have ascended to God's seat of authority was Jesus, as he makes clear earlier in this book (Revelations 5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.). So, the woman is, at one important level, the very mother of Jesus, Mary. Indeed, twice in St John's Gospel he simply calls his mother “Woman” John 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come., John 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!. [+ escapes from persecution into wilderness, as Mary escaped to Egypt.]

And there is more besides, which I cannot go into now.

But, what we can say from the above is that the ancient belief in Mary's unique purity and glory, her intercession and her deep connection to her son, is firmly grounded in the Scriptural narrative, in Biblical teaching and typology/imagery.

However, Mary is still a very Evangelical saint. She points to her son, not herself, knows that all she has is by prevenient GRACE (“my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour … HE has DONE great things FOR me”) and she lives by FAITH, accepting and pondering and treasuring the words of Divine Revelation.

Let us imitate the Blessed Virgin then by a faith that is active yet entirely reliant on God’s grace, on God as the true “doer”; and by a humility that is bold because it is pure. And let us, like Mary, be centred on CHRIST, having Him living inside us, and pointing others to Him in time of need, as Mary did at Cana.