Being asked to preach about Mary is a double-edged sword. On one hand – what a huge honour – to preach on the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, Our Hope, Our Love, Our Mother… on the other hand… what more is there to say that you have not already heard?
It was in that conflict that I started to pray about what I should say this evening. As I sat with my rosary it occurred to me that one of the central truths of Our Lady in all our lives is that she is never dull or over-preached or over-talked about. She is fresh and current and engaging at all times. When she touches us, appears before us to guide us towards Her Son, she is always radiant and loving and – to use a horrid word – contextual. She is always relevant; she is always present, and she always points us to Our Lord.
There is no danger that I can stand here this evening and preach about Our Lady in a way that you could possibly receive as ‘well I’ve heard that before’. Because as you sit here this evening open to her guidance she will touch each one of you in a different way – and therein lies her most powerful gift to us – her ability to reach past the layers of defensive crust we place around our hearts and point us towards Christ.
I often ponder on the Sacraments and I was once asked to define exactly what a sacrament was. I immediately responded that worship was where we reached for Christ and a Sacrament was where Christ reached for us. Where he reached right into our souls and bodies and grabbed hold of our heart and claimed it for Him. He does this over and over and over and over again and this constant flow of earth trembling love should floor us to our knees in love and terror. But… we forget this awesome love, this awesome action and over time we become blind to it. We approach the altar rail with hearts cloaked in darkness, in sin, in perhaps in sheer defence of the flooring awesome Love that we know is ours.
Our hearts are encased in steel. Our beating Love for Christ is diminished and hidden and throttled to within an inch of its life through indifference, through lack of prayer, through sin without thought of repentance and through the slow draw and the flashy lure of secular culture and so-called progress.
Week by week we approach the altar with our hearts hidden from Christ and week by week he still claims us, but we feel that claim on our lives in ever diminishing ways. Our fault. Our failure, Our Loss – not His.
And this my friends is why Our Lady is so so important in our lives. She is as necessary to the redeemed as she was to the Redeemer. Her goodwill, her obedience and love and consent was required before mankind could be elevated to eternal beatitude.
The sanctification of our souls is more dependent upon Our Blessed Lady’s continuous care and maternal love than upon any other influence.
The whole world is filled with her glory and in particular England is considered her dowry. It has been a wonderful and joyous year as we have watched the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham take her image around England to be venerated and to re-ignite a national devotion to her. More churches are dedicated to Our Lady in England than in any other nation on earth. There is no good church in our good land that does not have an altar dedicated to her glorious honour.
Earlier this year I was honoured to be at Westminster Cathedral as the image of Our Lady of Walsingham from the Anglican Shrine was taken back into the heart of our country. The first time her image had travelled from Walsingham to London since that dreadful day in 1539 when she was taken from her shrine and burnt in London.
Bishop Philip North who preached that day asked the assembled congregation
“What have we just done… We have just carried a penniless peasant girl from Nazareth into this great symbol of