Rebecca Swyer speaks to General Synod

I’m speaking in support of this motion and welcome the desire it expresses for a period of further ‘discernment’ and ‘enlightenment’ about the role of Mary in the Christian faith. I’m speaking as someone from the Catholic tradition within the Church of England and so Mary is an important figure in the expression of my faith. However, I’m obviously aware that some members of the Church of England and here in General Synod will find such expressions difficult.Icon of Christian service

The motion is important because I believe that Mary is very much relevant for all Christians – not just those of a Catholic persuasion. I’d like to pick up a theme from Archbishop Rowan’s homily yesterday when he spoke of what it means to be a servant of God and the importance of that. Mary should be seen as an exemplar or icon of Christian service.

Mary’s humanity is vital. Her role in salvation history only makes sense in the context of the incarnation. Her humanity is the vehicle of the incarnation, of her being the Theotokos, the ‘God-bearer’.

If we make Mary almost ‘superhuman’ or simply passive we do her a disservice therefore. The New Testament is filled with texts that point to Mary’s role as an icon of Christian service – the calling that is of course at the foundation of every Christian’s life, grounded in their baptism.

Responding to the call

There’s a need in the Church to explore Mary’s place as a role model for Christian service. Mary is called by God. She is filled with grace. She assents and responds to the call and ‘bears’ the Son of God. Whilst our vocations vary, this basic pattern of service is shared. We are called; given the grace of the Holy Spirit; assent and respond to that call and ‘bear’ Christ in our hearts, lives and Church.

Mary trusts God, despite major challenges and not knowing what lay ahead. She proclaims and points to Christ. She shows incredible sacrificial love – for her Son, for God. She also proclaims with joy the good news of the incarnation.

Mary has much to teach all of us about Christian service that is trusting, loving, proclamatory and joyful. This models a pattern of life we as individuals and as a Synod must have. I welcome the report.