1. What special recognition is given to Mary in the Church of Ireland?
Mary’s special position within God’s purpose of salvation as ‘God bearer’ (theotokos) is recognised in a number of ways. The Church of Ireland affirms in the historic creeds that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and retains in the Church’s calendar the following days on which Mary is especially honoured:
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also called The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin – 2nd February. Jewish law required a mother to offer a purification and thanksgiving sacrifice forty days after the birth of a child. Mary fulfilled this law when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple.
The Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary – 25th March. On this day the Church commemorates the choice of Mary to be the Saviour’s mother. This message was conveyed to Mary by the Angel Gabriel, and she humbly accepted her role: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word’.
The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 31st May. This day commemorates the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The gospel reading includes Mary’s song, the Magnificat, with the words ‘henceforth all generations shall call me blessed’. The Magnificat is appointed for daily use in the Church of Ireland.
The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 8th September. Because of the importance of Mary’s role as the mother of Jesus, the Church celebrates her birth.
2. Does the Church of Ireland pray to Mary?
The liturgical tradition within the Church of Ireland has been to honour the saints, including Mary, without invocation. In other words, while we honour Mary, our prayers are offered only to God.
3. How does the teaching of the Church of Ireland about Mary compare with the teaching of other churches?
The Church of Ireland shares with all Christian churches a common faith in the Incarnation. Mary is honoured as the person through whom the one who is both divine and human was conceived and born. As the Church of Ireland does not consider belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and her Assumption to have an adequate basis in Holy Scripture, these feasts are not observed in the Church of Ireland.
Father, almighty and everliving God…
You chose the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son
and so exalted the humble and meek;
your angel hailed her as most highly favoured,
and with all generations we call her blessed:
Preface of the Annunciation,
Book of Common Prayer (2004), p.234.
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© 2002 APCK