Sunday 16th August 2009
Roman Catholic - The Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady
Anglican - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Methodist -Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
One of the joys of Ecumencial relations in recent years has been the fact that with many churches now using either the Common Lectionary, the Revised Common Lectionary or the Roman Lectionary, the majority of Christians in our town are hearing the same scriptural readings on any given Sunday, at least at the principal service. This has led to some good conversations amongst the clergy/leadership around the lunch table as to how they tackled a particular passage in their preaching the proceeding Sunday. It also means that the pulpit swap in January each year is easier as we are dealing with a common theme and last minute changes of assignment don't mean changes of reading in many cases.
I hope to each Sunday reflect on the Sunday readings in the CL,RCL and RL and think about what they say in an ecumenical context.
Maybe its because of my call for diversity in unity that I choose to start this today, which is one of the few days in the calendar each year, when the Catholic Church is out of step with the other churches in terms of what we are celebrating today ( and of course therefore which readings we will be using today )
For Catholics today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady ( the date is usually the 15th August and Catholics are obliged to attend Mass on that day, however when these days fall on a Saturday or Monday in England and Wales they are transferred to the Sunday. ) Today we celebrate the Catholic doctrine that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life to be at the side of her Son as Queen of Heaven. It's an important feast for Catholics with our special devotion to Our Lady, and is celebrated with much public solemnity around the Catholic world. In Malta its also the day when the people celebrate the miracle of the arrival of the convoy which lifted the seige of World War Two, just days before the Governor was going to have to capitualate.
In the ecumencial context the position of Mary is often one of the issues which can be difficult, and can lead to misunderstanding and perhaps conflict. Its probably worth me as a Catholic trying to explain what Mary's role is within the Catholic Church. WE DO NOT WORSHIP her, we only worship God. We do treat her as an advocate for our prayers. The story of the Marriage at Cana can be used to explain why we think this. When the wine runs out its to Mary that the servants go, to ask her to ask her Son for help. He doesn't feel ready but he does what she asks, he doesn't turn her down. This is why we ask Mary to ask her son to do things for us. It doesn't mean we don't ask Jesus directly for help but in any family its not unusual to ask those closest to someone to ask them to help. Of course, the story is also one of the few times when we hear Mary's own words directly and they give us some extremely important advice in regard to our relationship with Jesus. He will do what we ask but we have "to do whatever he tells us." Its hard sometimes but as Christians we do not have a choice, we must do whatever he tells us and not question it. There is no pick and choose in Christianity.
I'll have a look at the CL readings later but got to get up and out for Mass now !