Mary Mother of God

Deacon Blaine Barclay
December 31, 2015
January 1, 2016

Today is the feast of Mary the mother of God of ‘’Theotokos”, literally, ‘God-bearer’. In our Gospel today we have three reactions to the glad tidings/the good news that has burst in upon our lives in Jesus. First, we have the shepherds watching their flock, caring for their sheep. Shepherds as group are not used to hearing such good news, choirs of angels singing, ‘’to you is born a saviour who is Christ the Lord’‘. They are the poor, God’s little chosen ones, not known for their religious devotion or fidelity; not usually showing up for synagogue on the Sabbath; maybe showing up for high holy days at the Temple, but not regular churchgoers, so to speak. Significantly, this is the first group to whom the good news comes. And they are told what to do, “go to Bethlehem”, go to the house of bread, there you find the child….’ What is their reaction? “Let us go.” ‘’ The shepherds went in haste”, they didn’t just saunter over to Bethlehem in a leisurely manner. ’Hey, let’s go check this out’. They went in haste; there is a sense of urgency here. They have been waiting a long time for this good news of the promised Messiah, waiting long for God mercy. God’s anointed King is in town, backed up with a choir of angels, the Messiah has appeared on the stage of history. The shepherds hurried down from the hill country, you can almost hear them out of breath. They find Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, a grain bin for the bread of life. But their excitement and haste to greet the infant Messiah is not the only thing the shepherds do. “They made known to others what they had been told about this child.” We know what was told to them so we know what they said. So we have the reaction of the shepherds. Excitement, going in haste to see Jesus, and based on what they have heard and seen they tell others the good news they have received. These poor marginalized shepherds become the first evangelizers of this new messianic age. They pass on the message they have received, this word that is not their own. Next, what is the reaction of those who hear what the shepherds have to say? We are told, “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” Why were they so amazed? I mean other than the choir of angels singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people of good will”, and the fact that the baby was Lord and Messiah. They were amazed because what was and is still happening is really amazing. God has become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. God’s flesh is lying in a manger, and we, along with the shepherds and their hearers, have been invited to the feast.

But let’s take a moment to reflect on the response of Mary to the events our gospel bears witness to. “And Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. Of all the reactions to the good news, the reaction of the shepherds, the reaction of those who hear the testimony of the shepherds, it is Mary’s response that is most instructive for us. Our Lady is the prototypical disciple, and as disciples let us take our stand within her response. “Mary treasured all these words”, that is to say, she reflected deeply upon them. She has recently given birth to the Christ child, who first came to her in the word of an angel. “Hail, full of grace”. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Now she has heard the word of other angels, echoed in the testimony of the shepherds. Like that first angel, Gabriel, they are talking about her son. The Incarnate Word emptied into the pure vulnerability of a newborns flesh. “Mary treasures all these words” about the Word. But Mary doesn’t just reflect on her experience, and the word of God that comes to her. She is not just storing these words and events in her memory so she can think about them later, or use her mind to make sense of this word event that has come among us to transform all our lives. “Mary treasures all these words, and pondered them in her heart.” For, as the little prince tells us, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Mary is the contemplative par excellence.“ She shows us the sure path of prayer, to treasure and ponder the word of God, not just with the head but with the heart, and in this way to reflect on our experience illuminated in the light of faith; to allow the seed of the word to take root in our hearts, in our flesh, so that our lives too can become the fruit of her womb.

So let us hasten with the shepherds, the echo of the song of angels ringing in our ears, and take up Mary’s invitation to treasure and ponder these words in our hearts throughout the coming year.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.