Mary: Prayer and Action

Reflections and Prayers for Sunday 23 December

This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 1.39-44) focuses on Mary and her faithful and passionate response to God’s call.

In preparation for this, CTC held a Quiet Afternoon at St Peter’s Bethnal Green – with speakers from four Christian traditions (Anglo-Catholic, evangelical Anglican, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic) offering reflections on Mary as a model of both prayer.

As the speakers recognised, Mary’s “yes” to Jesus comes at a considerable personal cost.  She is an unmarried woman, and so her acceptance of God’s call may affect her reputation – and jeopardise her marriage to Joseph.  She faces the very real possibility of being left with a child, and without a husband, in an age where that would have meant disgrace and isolation.

The speakers also meditated on the significance of God’s choice of Mary.   Mary came from the social and economic margins – a poor young woman living under an occupying power, in a family forced to flee to Egypt as refugees.

So Mary’s humility and obedience provide us with an example – but so do her strength of will, her disregard for the judgements others may form about her.  Mary shows us that meekness is not weakness: her obedience is passionate, committed and courageous.  These qualities shine forth in the Magnificat­ – her great song of praise which follows after today’s reading – and in her constancy in faith – from the events at the start of Luke’s Gospel through to the foot of the cross and the birth of the church at Pentecost.

Finally, Heather Atkinson reflected on the integration of prayer and action in Mary’s life – the way she embodies the contemplative and loving, courageous service, and teaches us not to see these as competing aspects of the Christian life. In Mary we see that the most powerful, transformative action happens when we begin by waiting on God – discerning and treasuring the signs of his action in our daily lives. Then we, like Mary, become ‘God-bearers’ – because the work is His, not ours.

Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming.

Prayer intentions

Pray for those whose witness to the Kingdom requires great courage and commitment today – all who face persecution or disadvantage for speaking of their faith, or acting for social justice.

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