Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thoughts on St. Mary - Rector's Rambling AND Teaching Notes, August 13, 2017


On Tuesday, August 15, the Episcopal Church celebrates the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin.  The Roman Church celebrates on the same day The Feast of the Assumption of our Lady, and the Orthodox celebrate the Feast of the Dormition (or falling asleep) of Mary.  No matter what the title, it is a major Holy Day of the Church Universal.
Pictured above is the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham here at St. John’s.  It is located in the chapel, behind the grillwork and votive candle rack to the right of the altar.
St. Mary is an important part of the story of our Salvation.  It was her acquiescence to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that set in motion Jesus’ Incarnation (taking flesh).  She was a dutiful mother and as a member of the original covenant helped to raise Jesus as keeper of God’s law.  She was present throughout his public ministry and one of a few of his followers who kept vigil at the foot of the cross where Jesus gave her to St. John for her keeping, and vice versa.  She was a witness of the Resurrection and present on Pentecost.  St. Mary was faithful from beginning to end of Jesus’ earthly life, and beyond.
On Tuesday we will remember all that and give thanks to God for her faithfulness.  And we will pray God to help us to be faithful like St. Mary.  Pray that we will be willing to follow Him, love Him, and do whatever He tells us (as St. Mary said to the servants at the Wedding Feast at Cana).

And just as we might ask our loved ones, fellow parishioners, or priest to pray for us in the time of trial and need, so too we ask St. Mary to pray for us to her Son Jesus Christ.  Just as we are concerned for each other in Love, so too St. Mary desires to pray for us to her Son that we may fully know His Love for us.

The Episcopal Church has had a hot and cold relationship with devotion to our Lord with His mother St. Mary.  Depending on one’s churchmanship (Low Church Protestant on one end, High Church Anglo-catholic on the other) your interest in having St. Mary participate in an Episcopalian’s life of prayer will vary.
The Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, available from Amazon.com, the complete text of which is found on The Episcopal Church’s official Web page, says about this prayer:
[The Hail Mary is a] Prayer addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The first two of its three parts are drawn from the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Lk 1:28, RSV); and Elizabeth’s words to Mary at the Visitation, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk 1:42, RSV).  These verses have been used as a single formula in Christian liturgy since the sixth century.  They were used in the antiphonary in the seventh century as an offertory text for the feast of the Annunciation, for the Ember Wednesday of Advent, and for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  The two verses were a popular devotion by the eleventh century.  The third part of the Hail Mary is the concluding petition, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”  Various concluding prayers for this devotion were added in the fifteenth century.  The concluding petition in its present form has been dated from the sixteenth century.  The Hail Mary is also known as the Angelic Salutation.  Its Latin form is Ave Maria.  The Hail Mary is used in other Christian devotions, such as the Angelus and the Rosary.
The first part of the prayer is a statement from the Scripture about who St. Mary is, and the second half our request that St. Mary pray for us.
Much about St. Mary is biblical and therefore required for belief, such as the Virgin Conception and Virgin Birth.  But asking St. Mary to pray for you is not required for salvation.  If it helps you to grow closer to Jesus then the Hail Mary is available to you.  If not, then find something that does.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Transfiguration on Sunday - Rector's Rambling for August 6, 2017

Last week we got a chance to have a special celebration by having our Founders’ Day.  This week it is the Church Calendar that gives us the opportunity to have a special celebration.
August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, and because it falls on a Sunday this year, we get to celebrate it instead of the 8th Sunday after Trinity.  All Feasts of Our Lord have “Precedence” over most regularly appointed Sundays, such as Sundays after Trinity.  If you want to see which special days have priority then you can turn to pages l and li in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for the Tables and Rules for the Movable and Immovable Feasts.
In June of 1993 I stood on the “high mountain” that tradition says is the location of today’s biblical event.  It is Mount Tabor – overlooking the plain and mound of Megiddo (supposed to be the location of the last apocalyptic battle – Armageddon comes from Har (mound) Megiddo.  Across the valley is the town of Nazareth where Jesus was raised, and from whose precipice Jesus was threatened to be thrown after reading the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in the scrolls of the prophet Isaiah, and proclaiming it fulfilled in their hearing.
On the top of Mount Tabor is a lovely 1920s church that replaced a destroyed 12th century Crusader-built church built over the ruins of a destroyed 4th century Byzantine church.  But it is around back, in the gardens, that one gets a sense of what it may have been like in Jesus’ time, to see Him as His divinity shined through his human flesh.  Jesus is alone with the core group of disciples who get a glimpse of what has been called a pre-Resurrection Resurrection appearance.  Even if Peter gets it wrong (again) they did figure out eventually that it is Jesus alone who is worthy of worship, and we do today.