Mary’s Month of May

Protestant doctrine does not favour the feasts of the Assumption, nor the celebration of Mary, Queen of Heaven on 1st May! They are not biblical! The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth on 31st May is a different matter!

The place of Jesus’mother in the overall scheme of things was once a burning issue – burning, as in the burning of heretics! It remains a matter of importance .

Lady’s Smock or Cuckoo Flower

May’s flower of the month is Lady’s Smock, alternatively known as Cuckoo Flower. Pilgrims will find it on the Walsingham Way in damp meadows and conservation churchyards.  Does the alternative name suggest some disagreement around the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? You would do well not to enter into a “Yes, it was/No, it wasn’t ” pantomime argument; be it conducted outwardly, with a companion; or inwardly, with one’s self. More creatively it could be used like the unsolvable problem – a koan – given by a Zen Master. By tussling meditatively with the unsolvable paradox, pilgrims can find themselves lead beyond contradictions, into a deep understanding of of a mystery. It is a mystery at the heart of Christian faith; in which, it is said, God was incarnate, took flesh, became Man, in Jesus.

The actual reality of living in a human body – conception, birth, breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, learning, thinking, working, praying, friend and foe making, enduring through boredom, temptation, betrayal, abandonment, victimhood, threats, bullying, suffering, bleeding and death.

In another age, a fellow pilgrim travelled these roads on route from Lynn, via Walsingham, Norwich and Yarmouth to visit the relic of Our Lady’s Smock, across the North Sea at Aachen.  Relic and flower, Our Lady’s Smock,  provide a symbolic link between the lived experience of women over the centuries – child bearing, feeding, washing, clothing, home-making, caring for others – and that of Jesus’ mum. It reveals a sisterhood that extends across time and space.

 As humans we are loved and touched into being. Such is the way with us humans. For all the love and care we have received from our mothers and other nurturing, caring women; and for the mystery of human- being thank God.

Women supporting one another in the practical aspects of human living and loving happened then and happens now. One imagines it was this common bond that led Mary to visit Elizabeth.   By the end of May,  3 months after the Annunciation, Mary would be beginning to show with the unborn Jesus. Did the two women, an older and younger first time mother, work together to made that smock!?

The Marienschrein at Aachen  contained the smock Mary had worn on the night of Jesus birth, his swaddling bands, the cloth that held St. John the Baptist’s severed head and the loin cloth Jesus wore when he was crucified.

In the days of Margery Kemp, many lay women expressed their spirituality in practical ways by engaging with the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy

feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting prisoners and ransoming captives, and burying the dead

The Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy

Jesus words, ‘…. in as much as you did it to any of these little ones, you did it to me’ ( Matthew 25.40) gave a sense that in performing  practical acts, they were one with Mary, the Mother of Our Lord , Mary Magdalene and the other women who cared for Jesus during his life on earth. The experience of handling the Body of Christ, so to speak,  providing a route towards what might be termed  holy communion.

In 2016 Pope Francis suggested an additional  Act of Mercy – Care for the Creation! 

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