Garegin Hambardzumyan preaches on holy fear and following the teaching of God.
“And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”
These are the words of St Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, as she shared a thought about God. Today we are gathered here in this magnificent Church of St Magnus the Martyr to celebrate St Mary, the Mother of God. The Universal Church has been celebrating many feasts of St Mary in one way or another for over 19 centuries.
A glimpse of heaven
Going through the life of the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God, we first hear Mary, as a young girl of about seventeen, speaking of God’s love and justice. And then we fast-forward about a half century later when she is taken into God’s kingdom body and soul. She is the very first person to share completely in the promises of the Resurrection. She shared closely and deeply in Jesus’ life and ministry and death. And she shares a special and unique place in Christ’s Resurrection. She is our glimpse into Heaven.
Through her, we hear a very important message. It is a message
most people forget; it is the message that Jesus’ Resurrection is transferable to us; it is the message that eternal life is ours for the taking.
The promise of St Mary
She offers us a glimpse into Heaven. In these words Mary opens up her heart and shows the pure joy inside. She was deemed worthy to become the Mother of the Lord and that filled her with great joy. But about halfway through, Mary’s words change from words of joy to words of advice for others.
She says: ‘And God’s mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation’ – great words, comforting words. These words offer us encouragement in life. They show us that God is with us at all times: In both the joys of life and sorrows of life; in our days of health and our days of illness; in the good days and bad days.
God is with those who invite Him into their lives. This is the promise of St Mary.
Fear and respect
Now what does it mean to ‘fear God? ‘The mercy of God is on those who fear Him,’ says St Mary. The word ‘fear’ in a biblical sense can mean more than ‘being afraid.’ For St Mary, ‘fear’ means to respect the ways of God, to do as God expects, and to simply obey His teachings.
In other words, follow the teachings of God and you will enjoy His mercy in your eternal life. It means taking a look at the people God has placed in your life – your family, friends, children, spouses, parents, co-workers, whoever it may be, and take the storms in their lives and bring out a rainbow; help turn their tears into a smile; for every trial they face become a blessing to them; and for every sigh they express, be for them the sweet song they are looking for.
The Light of God
The words of St Mary are as relevant for us today as when she first spoke them. We are to use our time in this world, no matter how long or short that is, for the glory of God; to help meet each other’s needs, and to spread His Light everywhere we walk in this world. Through our words and actions, we can participate with God, as did Mary, in bringing truth and peace and justice to our world. As the Church, the Body of Christ, we model Mary’s motherhood. And how do we do this? Often it is in the simple, ordinary things of life.
Our gathering today in this Church is a great example of the desire to follow the words of God, to praise His glorious name together and to share the joy of Christ’s everlasting presence amongst us. This is also a beautiful occasion for making even stronger the already strong friendship and brotherhood that the Anglican and the Armenian apostolic Churches share. Love and fear of the
Garegin Hambardzumyan preaches on holy fear and following the teaching of God. of inter-ecclesiastical and ecumenical relationships as well. We have a tradition of calling the Church, the mother of all the baptised, those who have been born in her womb in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Now, if there is one mother and not many, then her children cannot be alienated, but they must look after each other and pray for each other. St Paul in his first Letter to the Thessalonians says: ‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing’. Mutual encouragement and mutual love, this is what matters. The role of the Mother of God is crucial in this. Our belief about the Theotokos is expressed above all through the medium of prayer and worship. Our faith is disclosed through, and conditioned by, the way in which we pray. As the famous Orthodox Theologian Georgiy Florovsky says: ‘Christianity is first of all a worshipping community. Worship comes first, doctrine and discipline second.’
For Orthodox Christianity the Mystery of the mother of God is a liturgical mystery. I am sure the same understanding of the mystery was and still is in the core of the Fraternity of Our Lady de Salve Regina. One of the main objects of the Fraternity has always been The Daily recitation of the anthem of Our Lady and the Salve Regina but as we read in the history of the Guild, it has always had an objective to be with the poor and afflicted and to treat others as one would treat Christ himself, the heavenly promise of everlasting happiness. Mary is mother of the promise, mother of us all. It is interesting that the root of the word ‘promise’ comes from the Latin for ‘sending forth.’ For God in unconditional love sent forth the Word, made flesh, through Mary. It is from her womb that Mary sent Jesus, God’s promise, into the world. She gives us Jesus the Christ, so that, through his death and resurrection, we may be saved that we might live as daughters and sons of that unbroken promise.
Promise and hope
As children of God, we are called to make known the promise, to send forth this message of hope to our world. As St Augustine once said: ‘Christ is truth and peace and justice, conceive him in faith, give birth to him in works, so that what Mary’s womb did for the flesh of Christ, your hearts may do for Christ’s law.’ Until the last minute of her earthly life Holy Mary was a real source of encouragement for the apostles who were being persecuted for their mission. Being between heaven and earth, Mary still continued praying and rejoicing in the presence of angels.
When on the cross Christ called Mary and John setting a new closer relationship between them, Christ gave all of us to the matronage of Holy Mary to be comforted by her sweet voice. ‘My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’. We call the Mother of God, a tool of Salvation, an example of love and humility. By her blessed example until the present day she encourages us in our faith to be light where there is no light and to spread love where there is absence of love: ‘The mercy of God is extended to all who fear Him from generation to generation.’ May we all take the time to think about how we personally ‘fear’ the Lord in the way St Mary says we should ‘fear’ Him. ND
This sermon was preached by Fr Garegin Hambardzumyan
at St Magnus The Martyr, London for the
Annual Festival of the Fraternity
of O.L. de Salve Regina
21 September 2013