The Liturgical Home: The Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

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On August 15th, Christians worldwide celebrate the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of Our Lord, honoring the remarkable life of the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a joyous occasion filled with reverence, thanksgiving, and reflection on Mary’s profound role in the salvation story.

The Life of St. Mary

The life of the Virgin Mary holds a special place in Christianity. God chose her to be the vessel through which his Son, Jesus Christ, would take on flesh and enter the world as a human being. Mary’s obedience and devotion to God played a crucial role in the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan.

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God’s Plan for Mary

To fully appreciate Mary’s role, we have to go back to the fall of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobey God and eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When God discovers what they have done, he doesn’t put them to death but instead issues a series of punishments for their sin and a curse over the serpent, who tempted them. God curses the serpent physically and then gives a startling prophecy in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, 
  and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,   
  and you will strike his heel.”

This prophecy is known as the Protoevangellium, which means “first gospel” or “first good news.” In Christian theology, the term refers to the first proclamation or foreshadowing of the Gospel in the Bible. Christians understand this to be a prophetic announcement of the coming Messiah and his victory over sin and death. Mary is the “woman,” and her “offspring,” of course, is Jesus. Satan will temporarily “strike” at Christ’s “heel” through the crucifixion, but Satan’s head will be crushed forever through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Christians understand the Protoevangelium to be not only a prophecy about the coming of Christ but also of the significance of Mary and the role she played in the salvation of humankind and the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Mary’s Fiat

When the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:4), God sent the angel Gabriel to a young girl named Mary (Luke 1:26). Mary listened in awe as she was told that she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit and that he would be called the Son of the Most High and reign over the house of Jacob forever. Mary humbly accepted her role, responding, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). 

This incredible response from Mary is known as Mary’s Fiat. The term fiat comes from the Latin word for “let it be” or “so be it.” Mary’s fiat is a profound act of faith, obedience, and surrender to God’s will. Her acceptance of God’s plan without hesitation has made her a model of faith for many Christians and is a central theme in Christian theology and devotion. Her “yes” to God’s plan contrasts with Eve’s disobedience, making Mary’s “fiat” a critical moment in salvation history. 

The entire event, known as the Annunciation, is also a central moment in Christian belief, signifying the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. At this moment, Mary becomes what is known as Theotokos, or “God-bearer,” often translated as “Mother of God.” The title emphasizes Mary’s role in giving birth to Jesus Christ, who is recognized as fully God and fully human in Christian doctrine. By calling Mary the Theotokos, the Church affirms the belief in the divine nature of Christ from the moment of His conception.

From that moment on, we receive beautiful, detailed accounts of Mary’s experiences. We read about her visit with her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Upon hearing Mary’s voice, Elizabeth and her unborn baby are filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary responds with a joyful song of praise and thanksgiving to God, famously known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary and Jesus

Months later, Mary travels with Joseph to Bethlehem so that he can take part in a census. Mary is in labor when they arrive, and they cannot find a room at the inn. She gives birth to her son, Jesus, in a stable. Shepherds arrive at the stable that night, praising God and telling incredible stories of heavenly hosts and angelic proclamations. The shepherds are there to see the baby, whom they believe is the Messiah. After seeing the baby, they leave glorifying and praising God, while, as Luke says, Mary keeps all these things and ponders them in her heart. 

This is the beginning of a series of remarkable encounters for Mary: meeting Simeon and Anna in the Temple, the Wise Men from the East, the angel warning them to flee to Egypt, finding the young Jesus in the Temple where he was astounding the teachers of the law, Jesus’ first miracle where he turns water into wine, his crucifixion, death and resurrection and being in the upper room when the Holy Spirit fell. These encounters are significant theological moments where Jesus’ divinity and divine power are revealed. Mary’s role in these moments highlights her faith in God, her son, and her unique understanding of his mission. 

The Faith of Mary

Mary’s appearances are relatively few but highly significant. They portray her as a figure of faith, obedience, and humility. She is deeply connected to Jesus’ mission and the broader themes of God’s compassion and justice. Her role bridges the Old and New Testaments, embodies the ideal response to God’s call, and symbolizes the Church as the family of believers. Her unique position as Theotokos (God-bearer) also establishes a profound theological understanding of Jesus as both fully human and fully divine.

I love what Lesser Feasts and Fasts says about St. Mary:

“What we can believe is that one who stood in so intimate a relationship with the incarnate Son of God on earth must, of all the human race, have the place of highest honor in the eternal life of God. A paraphrase of an ancient Greek hymn expresses this belief in very familiar words: “O higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, lead their praises, alleluia.”

Mary’s Remaining Days

According to tradition, Mary lived out her remaining days in the care of the Apostle John, as Jesus had requested from the cross (John 19:26-27). The early Christian writer, Hippolytus of Rome, writes that the Apostle John took Mary to Ephesus, a city in modern-day Turkey, where she lived until her death. During this time, tradition tells us that Mary lived a life of prayer and service to the early Christian community, providing moral support and guidance. 

How to Celebrate the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

Read Luke 1:26-38 and recite the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

Make something with rosemary or gather a bouquet of rosemary and place it in a vase on your dining room table. Legend says that the blossoms of the rosemary plant were white until Mary stopped to do laundry during the holy family’s flight to Egypt. Mary threw her blue cloak over a rosemary bush to dry, and the flowers have been blue ever since.

Plant marigolds or place a bouquet of marigolds on your dining room table. The name “marigold” combines “Mary” and “gold.” Traditionally, the golden color of the marigold symbolizes the golden virtues of Mary, such as purity, love, humility, and obedience.

Decorate your dining table with a blue tablecloth or eat something blue since blue is the symbolic color for Mary. The blue symbolizes purity, humility, and fidelity, all virtues associated with Mary. I love making something with blueberries, like this Blueberry Lemon Tart! 

Blueberry Lemon Tart

Pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, in chunks
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 tablespoons ice water, plus 1 teaspoon

Filling:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pint blueberries

To make the pastry, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles cornmeal. Add the egg yolk and two tablespoons of ice water and pulse again until the dough pulls together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Roll the dough onto the pin and lay it inside a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the edges of the pan and fold the excess dough inside to reinforce the rim. Cover the tart pan with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for another 30 minutes to rest.

To bake the shell, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Cover the shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights. Lightly beat the egg white with one teaspoon of water and brush it onto the bottom and sides of the tart shell; set aside to cool.

Whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, cream, zest, and salt together. Add the blueberries to the cooled tart shell and pour the filling over the blueberries. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The curd should jiggle slightly when done. Cool to room temperature, remove from the tart ring, and serve.

Recipe from The Food Network.

Image: The Virgin Mary in Meditation by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

Published on

August 13, 2023

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

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