Fr David's Sermon
13th August 2006
If you went to mass in a Roman Catholic Church until a couple of generations ago you would have seen many devout ladies telling their rosary beads, It was part of popular catholic devotion and linked to the cult of Mary whose feast we celebrate today.
In Catholic Europe the Feast of the Assumption celebrated on 15th August is usually a public holiday .The Feast of the Assumption celebrates the Catholic doctrine that after her death Mary was assumed bodily into heaven. To our Anglican minds the Assumption is problematic; a ‘big assumption’ as on wag put it. Instead we play safe and keep today as the Fest of the Blessed Virgin without particular doctrinal insistence.
As rosaries are to popular Catholicism then hymn singing is to the popular expression of Anglican Christianity. We are more comfortable when our Mariology is expressed unofficially in song. We find it easier to sing of Mary than to speak of her. Today we will be singing the hymn, ‘Sing we of the blessed mother.’ It was written by the late George Timms, a former Archdeacon of Hackney, who wrote many hymns. It is a meditation on four episodes from Mary’s life, a kind of abridged Rosary or a series of pictures or icons. As with all icons depicting Mary our attention is directed to her Son Jesus. We are also led to respond in faith to the Gospel message.
Thus in an Anglican way we are drawn to reflect on the person of Mary as we sing. The hymns we sing are rooted in the scriptures and in the tradition of the Church. Most of us will be more comfortable with this approach than with the papal proclamation of the Assumption as a dogma to be believed by all Christians.
It is well known that music affects us at a far deeper level than the spoken word. Good music, good hymnody can take us beyond the rational to God who is both knowable and yet unknowable. In singing of Mary, the blessed Mother we pray that with her we may be drawn more closely into the joyful and sorrowful mysteries of God. We pray that like her we may come to know him more fully through his Son Jesus Christ Our Lord.
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