Today is the feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord, or in the language of the ecumenical councils, the Theotokos (God-bearer).  Sticking with the liturgy that we have, and not violating any rubrics, let’s look at some ways we can mark this holy day in the course of our formal worship today.

Morning Prayer

For the Opening Sentence, consider Habakkuk 2:20, from among the extended provision on page 28.  It’s from a lesson that tends to show up around Christmastime, albeit not in the spartan daily lectionary of our new prayer book.  Let all mortal flesh keep silence, an awesome hymn from an Eastern eucharistic liturgy, is also drawn from this verse, and in many protestant hymnals is considered a Christmas hymn.  Granted, the biblical appearances of Blessed Virgin Mary are not limited to the Christmas story, but it is her most prominent placement.

For the Venite (the invitatory psalm) use a seasonal antiphon.  There are two that work well for this holy day: the one on page 29 for the Presentation & Annunciation (which are both Marian feasts to some extent) and the one on page 30 for All Saints’ & Other Major Saints’ Days.  As the rubric on page 14, above the Venite, explains, an antiphon is used both before and after the psalm or canticle in question.  Time and time again I’ve seen people misuse antiphons… think of them as book-ends to start and finish the song.  Or if etymology is your thing, look at the word itself: anti-phon… opposing sound: use the antiphon on opposing sides of the psalm.

The Canticles should be the traditional two: the Te Deum and the Benedictus.  This makes the holy day feel the same as a Sunday, and has the added bonus that the Te Deum actually does mention Mary briefly (Christ “humbly chose the Virgin’s womb”).

The second lesson for Morning Prayer in the Daily Lectionary is Luke 1:26-38, which is the story of the Annunciation.  ‘Nuff said there, I think!

The Collect of the Day, starting at Evening Prayer last night, is on page 631.  As discussed previously it may be read in light of the traditional (but not official) doctrine of the Assumption if one is so inclined.

Evening Prayer

The Opening Sentence could be drawn from the extra one suggested for Christmas (on page 54) or perhaps one of the standard options – Psalm 26:8 – noting that St. Mary herself was a notable place where God’s “honor dwells”.

The Canticles should be the traditional two: the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.  This makes the holy day feel the same as a Sunday, and has the obvious bonus that the Magnificat is itself the Song of Mary.

The second lesson for Evening Prayer in the Daily Lectionary is John 14:1-14, which although simply part of the lectio continuo (continuous reading) of Scripture from day to day, proves fitting closure to this holy day in Jesus’ proclamation that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, as do all saints of the Church, ultimately points us to Christ.

Holy Communion

Chances are that most of us don’t have the opportunity to host or attend a celebration of Holy Communion today, but you can always resort to Antecommunion.

The Opening Acclamation should be the last seasonal one on page 146 from the song of the saints in heaven (Revelation 4:11).

As this is a festal occasion, not penitential, the Summary of the Law with the Kyrie is a more appropriate choice than the full Decalogue.  The Gloria in excelsis should follow, as this is a major holy day.

The Collect of the Day has already been commented upon.  The Propers from Scripture are:

  • Isaiah 61:10-11 (typologically, Mary is the garden from which Christ springs)
  • Psalm 34 (“let us magnify the Lord” akin to Mary’s Song)
  • Galatians 4:4-7 (Christ’s birth points to our own adoption in Christ)
  • Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat itself)

The Creed should be said, as per the rubric on the bottom of page 108/126.

The Blessed Virgin Mary should be mentioned in the last “N.” in the last petition of the Prayers of the People on page 111.

If there’s an Offertory, consider Galatians 6:10 for the Offertory Sentence (on page 149), since a Saints’ Day (especially Mary!) is an excellent opportunity to reference “the household of faith“.

For the Proper Preface, I’ve seen some lovely Mary-specific ones out there, but since we’re trying to get used to our new prayer book let’s not introduce anything new yet.  The official Preface appointed for this day on page 631 is the one for Christmas (on page 152).

Other Resources & Opportunities

The fourth collect in Midday Prayer (on page 38) references Mary.

Occasional Prayer #125 on page 683, the Thanksgiving for the Saints and Faithful Departed, also lists Mary among its several commemorated holy ones.

This Customary’s Order for Daily Hymnody appoints hymn #178 God himself is with us for today (check the index to find its number if you don’t have this hymnal).  Surely there are other hymns for Christmas or the Annunciation (and so forth) that will also be appropriate to adorn this feast day.

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