January 1st, 2020

Deacon Blaine Barclay

This is the feast of ‘Mary Mother of God’. In Greek, Theotokos, God-bearer, it is one of the most ancient titles given to Mary, at the ecumenical council of Ephesus in the 3rd century.

By calling Mary, Mother of God, the Church defended and defends the unity of the person of Jesus. On this Christmas feast of the Theotokos, the Church celebrates the birth of the Word made flesh. A flesh woven from the womb of Mary’s Yes. In the Incarnation, the Divine and the Human are united in one person, the infinite became finite, the universal became particular. The nature of God, and human nature are united in the one person of Jesus of Nazareth. This is why we can say with the Church that Mary is the Mother of God. This most ancient of titles for Mary is therefore a statement about who Jesus was and is.

As such the person of Jesus is the human face of God. This is captured so beautifully in the ancient Jewish blessing contained in our first reading today, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.’ The face, the countenance of God is turned to us in the person of Christ. The Face of God is now also completely a human Face. When we encounter the person of Jesus we encounter God. ‘I and my Father are one’; ‘The one who has seen me has seen the Father’, says Jesus. ‘The Word was God….The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’. God’s face is God’s definitive word addressed to us, written with the flesh of our humanity right down to its core. The deepest center of our human nature is expressed in Mary’s Yes, in her, ‘Let it be done to me according to your Word’. The flesh of the God-man is woven from her flesh, on the loom of her womb and her Yes.

The human flesh of Jesus is henceforth the Incarnate flesh of God, interwoven now with the flesh of all humanity. Is the Church not the Body of Christ? Is the Eucharist which feeds us and empowers us on our pilgrim  journey not also the Body of Christ? Is not the broken body of humanity also not in some way the wounded flesh of Christ. ‘Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers and sister, you do to me’. As one author puts it, ‘the flesh is the hinge of salvation’. The whole mystery of salvation is embedded, contained, and distilled in the Yes of human nature to God’s ever prior initiative. Mary’s Yes.

All our yeses to God are contained and gestated in Mary’s Yes. This is what makes our Lady the ideal disciple, the one who at Cana says, ‘do whatever he tells you’. The one who ‘treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart’. The one who is the essence of the Church, the Mother of the Church. The New Eve, Mother of the new humanity. The one who belonged completely to God from the moment of her conception, the Immaculate. The one whose body followed the flesh of her son into Glory, Assumed Body and Soul into heaven. All these titles and honours of Mary are already contained in the title we celebrate today, Mother of God, God-bearer, Theotokos. A title given to her in the Birth of her Son and our human brother Jesus Christ.

Today is also the beginning of the new year. How appropriate for the Church to set apart this day for this Marian feast. Inviting us to set apart this New Year of 20 20 vision within the cradle of Mary’s Yes. Asking her to gestate the birth of the Word in our flesh. Teaching us by her example, how to say Yes to God.

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.