We recently held a devotional evening at St Chrysostom’s celebrating in readings, music and images the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Anglican tradition. It was a delightful evening as we reflected together. We began by listening to a recording of Howell’s glorious setting of the song of Mary, the Magnificat, composed for king’s College Choir in 1945.
We then turned to the Book of Common Prayer and discovered how our Lady is celebrated there and heard beautiful readings from 16th and 17th Anglican writers and teachers such as Joseph Beaumont, Thomas Traherne and John Cosin. The evening was interspersed by hymns relating to Mary written by Anglicans – including the rarely sung extended version of Bishop Thomas Ken’s Her Virgin eyes say God incarnate born, and Fr George Timm’s Sing we of the blessed Mother.
Some of the readings were by well known writers such as John Keble and Donald Coggan. We also gave space to lesser known items, for example we included a lovely poem The Annunciation by Digby Mackworth Dolben, and cantors had rehearsed a seldom heard Salve Maria of Sabine Baring Gould.
We heard radical Anglican voices as well as challenging poetry and inspirational verse.
Images enhanced the evening. We saw images of statues of Mary found in Cathedrals and churches, we looked at how Mary is represented on Mothers’ Union banners, in stained glass, and by Anglicans from different cultures and outlooks. One section looked at Mary and pilgrimage and shrines in the Anglican world.
We agreed that there is a rich vein though the centuries in Anglican devotion, liturgy and prose honouring Mary and it was a delight to honour and celebrate this.
Words from a sermon of Fr Arthur Stanton, Curate at St Alban’s, Holborn, preached on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
God was imprisoned in her womb, whom the heavens cannot contain. God was nourished at her breast who giveth food to all flesh. God lay in her arms, Who bore the world. God obeyed her, Who sendeth forth his commandments upon earth. God lived in her house, Whose home is above the heavens. She was the mother of Redemption, and when Redemption was accomplished, and her mission over, she retires. And that is why it is that the Motherhood in Holy Scripture is what is presented to us especially about the Virgin Mary.