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From the Vicarage May 2019

JEMMA SANDER-HEYS 05-2019as published in Great Yarmouth Parish Life


Rev Jemma Sander-Heys  


From pre-Christian times, in the northern hemisphere, May was always a month to celebrate the new blooming of the world, the seasons finally leaving behind the cold and frosts of winter and new life and fertility appearing everywhere.  Pagan festivals honoured Greek and Roman fertility goddesses and, in communities everywhere, new couples got together in the warm spring weather, and new families began.  In the Christian era, in many communities a different kind of blooming was marked, particularly in the Roman Catholic church, as many Christians chose to honour Mary, the mother of our Lord, calling May ‘her month’
Though cultural commentators might sometimes argue Mary usurped the place of pagan Artemis and Flora in seasonal celebrations that mark the blooming of the year, that would be to diminish Mary’s very solid and courageous humanity, and in her we see an entirely different character from the glamourous and vacuous pagan creations of the ancient idols
Mary was a devout Jewish daughter, whose quiet obedience to her parents might have led to a very unremarkable life – if not for the fact that her faithful trust in God, her knowledge of his promises, and her courageous response to his call, put her outside the norms of society when she said her courageous “yes” to Gabriel’s heavenly greeting
Saying “yes”  to following God’s call put Mary at risk of being ostracized by a traditional community, at risk of losing her future planned marriage to a respectable carpenter, it forced her to go on the road and then even become a refugee in Egypt. Ultimately it led to her becoming the most amazing witness to the life of the Messiah – the thoughts ‘treasured in her heart’ becoming embedded in the Gospels’ witness. Before the apostles, Mary carried Christ, the Word of God, and brought his Light into the world of men and it is no wonder that her unparalleled importance in the history of humanity’s salvation is marked by so many, with celebration and devotion; she can accurately be called, as the Orthodox love to do: ‘Theotokos’ : ‘God bearer’

So let us never imagine Mary as anything less than fully, wonderfully, bravely human. Let us never diminish her true memory to one of those pretty and vacuous pagan forms whose month she overtook. In Mary we see full humanity in real solid womanhood – brave and daring and true to God above all: an inspiration to all the women and men whom God calls to go against past expectations in answering His call
Revd Jemma

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