Advent Begins Today
Today is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Happy feast day Mary!
If you are like me and new to exploring the meaning behind different feast days celebrated within the Church (yes, the Blessing of the Animals is part of the Feast Day celebrating St. Francis), then the meaning behind today’s feast and what it may mean opens a new world of theological exploration.
The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary recounts Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation. This Feast Day recalls the leaping for joy John the Baptist did inside his mother’s womb.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:41-45, NRSV
The Feast Day also recalls Mary’s hymn, Magnificat, which is often remembered during the second or third week of the Advent season.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. Luke 1:46-56
Those are the events recalled on this day of feasting. Party on!
These two events make me wonder if the the kick-off for the season of Advent should be moved to May 31 instead of four Sundays before December 25.
The Feast Day prior to the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Feast of the Ascension, recalling when Jesus ascended to the righthand of God and in doing so taking all of his divinity and humanness with him. The next BIG day in the life of the church, typically celebrated, is Pentecost - which is not the birthday of the church but that’s a conversation for another day.
Jesus ascends and then we remember the beginning of his journey to the manger before we remember and celebrate the descending of the Holy Spirit upon the ancient church. What many believe to be the jumping off point for the Church today is preceded by the remembering of the angel Gabriel’s visit to the virgin mother.
Advent begins today!
Advent is a season of anticipation. Fleming Rutledge put it like this: “Hope and promise are at the center of the Advent proclamation.”
We, the Church, are a people of Hope and Promise. Not our own hope and promise but instead the Hope and Promise extended to all of creation through Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Advent begins today!
We are beginning to make the turn into the ordinary time of the church. For many this means fun summer sermon series as attendance at church becomes uncertain as families decide between Sunday mornings at church or Sunday mornings at the beach. But today, with the Feast remembering the Hope and Promise of the Messiah’s birth, the ordinary time we approach becomes anything but ordinary.
We are entering into a time of Hope and Promise. The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary offers to us an opportunity to exit the ordinary time we expect and to enter into the Hope and Promise of Advent. This is a time of now (hope) and not-yet (promise). Fleming adds, “We have remained silent the we should have spoken; we have retreated into our churches when we should have acted; we have mistaken a worldly cause for the cause of God.”
We have not acted and now we find ourselves beginning to retreat back into the ordinary time of the world. We assume the ordinariness of the summer life of the church gives way to kick-offs in the fall but Advent begins today! The Hope and Promise of the Incarnation push the ordinary of the world to the side as the Hope and Promise of Christ’s justice and mercy take centerstage.
Today we are invited to step out of the ordinary and into the Hope and Promise extended teach of us. We are invited to experience the Hope and Promise of the fullness of God entering into human form and dwelling among us and that is anything but ordinary.