Thursday, August 15, 2013

St. Mary, the Sword, and the Stone

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”  - Luke 2

Now there's a greeting card for you. Congratulations. It's a boy! And a soul will pierce your own soul also. So said Simeon to Mary. Today is the day the Christian Church commemorates St. Mary, the Mother of God, the God-bearer, Theotokos. But Mary would not have us spend the day reflecting on her, but on her Son. And is it so happens, this week's Gospel reading for the three year lectionary also includes talk of a sword, or at least a division (Matthew of course is the one who uses the word, sword). 

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

We know this sword - this dividing point - that Jesus speaks of. It is the same sword that Simeon foretold back in Luke 2. The cross looms large over Christmas just as it did throughout Jesus' ministry. Perhaps the only thing more painful for Mary than watching her beloved Son crucified was knowing that she could do nothing to help him. Nothing to take away his pain and agony. Nothing to sooth and calm the child she once comforted in her arms and at her bosom. She was helpless.  A lot like the rest of us. And so it is that by the tip of this sword, the cross, her soul was pierced. But in that piercing - in that excruciating pain and suffering, in that hell - Her Son was taking away the very pain she felt. He was dying for her pierced soul even as His arms and feet and head were pierced with her sins...and ours. He became our helplessness and our pain, our sin and our death.

Christ's cross is the great divide. It pierces Mary's soul...but also ours. It is a sharp two-edged sword that divides our sin from us. The cross is also the sword in the stone, withdrawn as death is hewn. Christ pierces death and hell from the inside, cuts his way through the earth and hallows the eighth day for all who are likewise cut off from their sin in Baptism and bound in his death and resurrection. In a greater exodus, the waters part and divide leaving our sin to drown as Christ ferries us to everlasting life across death's raging flood, all by blood and water and the Spirit.

Christ's cross continues to divide: families, people, churches, nations - over fifty Christian churches are smoldering in Egypt because of this sword. Let this world's tyrant rage - battle we'll engage. Christ holds the field victorious...forever. For this sword of the cross is also our salvation just as it was for Mary. And now we too are God-bearers - bearing his divine Name in Baptism, bearing the divine inheritance won for Christ's saints, and bearing the title son. God's own child, I gladly say it; I am baptized into Christ. 

Give thanks today for St. Mary and all the more, give thanks for her Son, who is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. For just as Eve was taken out of Adam's side, so too, this man has come forth from a woman and made us His holy bride by opening his side, riven for our salvation. 

Today we join St. Mary in treasuring up these things and pondering them in our hearts, minds, and mouths, even as we join in Simeon's song.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

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