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The mystery of faith, out of sorrow rises joy

by davesandel on September 15th, 2021

Wednesday, September 15, 2021                               (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

The mystery of faith, out of sorrow rises joy

On the grounds of Marytown, outside the chapel, is a garden of Mary’s mysteries. For several years I spent four weekends a year at Transforming Community retreats which were held at Marytown, and I learned how to pray the Rosary in the midst of our Protestant retreats.

You can say the Rosary words quick and careless, or you can dwell on the words so you never quite get finished. For me, finding a middle ground was easier outside, in the chapel garden on the Heavenly Walk, where there are paths and benches, straw sculptures and bas reliefs set into wooden stands for each of the five parts of each set of mysteries. There are four, and today, of course, the Catholic Church focuses on the Sorrowful Mysteries.

  1. Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
  2. Jesus’ scourging at the pillar with whips
  3. Jesus’ being mocked and crowned with thorns
  4. Jesus’ carrying of his crucifying cross
  5. Jesus’ crucifixion and death

Mary watched most of these agonies, she knew her own sorrow and perhaps that of God, and she must have remembered the words of Simeon thirty three years before. Not long wed, forty days after Jesus was born, she and Joseph came to the Temple in Jerusalem to present their son and fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses.

Simeon was there, an old man, righteous, devout, and on that day moved by the Spirit to come himself into the Temple courts. He took Jesus into his arms and spoke at first to God, in gratitude and praise He thanked God, who had promised him he would not die before he met the Messiah. In the Lutheran Church of my childhood, we sang his prayer (his nunc dimittis) as our post-Communion canticle:

Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy Word.

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people,

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Simeon spoke also to Jesus’ parents, and blessed them, and said to Mary, the mother of joys and sorrows:

Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel,

And to be a sign that will be contradicted

And you yourself a sword shall pierce,

So that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Mary watched the suffering of Jesus through tears, her eyes closed almost to slits, wanting to close them altogether but she could not. The sword was piercing her yet again, as it would Jesus soon, killing him if he was not already dead. Over these years Mary must have died a thousand deaths as she watched the people of God’s creation turn against their savior.

Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion,

Who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels,

Proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world,

Taken up in glory.

Paul spoke out of his visions and faith, never having met Mary, who personified this “mystery of devotion.” While he talked the talk, she walked the walk. Long before I spent time at Marytown I was fascinated and captured by the way she honored her son, the Son of God, the Messiah. Jesus learned from her, and then she learned from him, and I want to learn from them both, how to live in the world but not of the world.

The Lutherans said it this way:

The mystery of faith:

When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again. The peace of the Lord be with you always.

Jesus told his friends, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. And you shall find rest for your soul.“ We sang each night at Marytown, in the evening as the sun set, as part of our vespers, Jesus calling us to rest. Come to Me.

And you shall find rest for your soul.

(1 Timothy 3, Psalm 111, John 19)

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