The large chancel window at the front of Howes Chapel is divided into 6 sections. In top middle is the Risen, Triumphant Christ; in the lower middle is the Garden of Gethsemane; then on the two sides are four beautiful expressions of prayer. Mary and Gabriel; Jesus and John the Baptist; The Emmaus Meal; and the Two Men Praying in the Temple. I have always been touched by the tenderness and the serenity of the Mary and Gabriel Window. Although not in scripture, many artists have put a Lily in the hand of Gabriel as he approaches Mary. The Lily suggests purity and loveliness and singularity of purpose.
What is striking in this window is the expression of Mary. She is reaching out to receive not just the flower, but also whatever it is that Gabriel is offering her through his divine message. There is a deep sense of openness to the divine invitation. Her robe is the traditional blue which artists have used to adorn the Mother of our Lord, but see also the gold suggesting a royal status. Mary was the first one to say “Yes,” to Jesus and took him into herself so that she could bear him forward into the world.
Is our task any less?
We too, are invited to take Christ into ourselves and share him with the whole world. Gabriel approaches us with the same words: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….”(Luke 1:35); and Mary’s response ought also to be our response: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38 )
Garrett-Evangelical looks out through this window today and gives thanks for the faith of Mary:
A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Mary, the Mother of our Lord
O God of Love, We give thanks to you for your servant, Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. We praise you for her faithfulness to your call to receive the power of life, to nurture and bring to birth the child of promise, the son of salvation, the Saviour of the world.
O God of Power, How often have you touched us with the seed of life and we have withdrawn from you because we knew that what would come to life within us might be hard to explain to others, certainly it would take too long to come to be, and of course the birth pangs would be fierce. Forgive us, O God, for refusing you; forgive us for choosing self-gratification when union with you would produce life and hope and peace. Give us the faith of your servant, Mary who said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
O God of Mercy, help us to know that when you approach us, it is not to hurt us or to chastise us, but to heal and redeem and renew us and to fill us with your gift of life. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
O God of Life, teach us to know that as men and women of faith who provide care to your people in this world, it is our responsibility and privilege to bring to birth that which you have brought to life within us; and it is likewise our sacred task to be midwives to our brothers and sisters as we witness the fruits of their labors.
O God of Peace, touch us, claim us as your own and let us praise your name so that we, like your servant Mary, might say, “My Soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Amen.
Prayer by Al Caldwell
By Al Caldwell, Retired Faculty, editor