The Ecumenical Society
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Guy Jamiesonencourages us to join a society whose activities are aimed at living out the call to unity
Mid -January is the time when we have our attentions re-focused on the Lord’s call that we ‘might
be one’, in the activities which take place up and down the country in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the weeks that follow, we can be inspired to look more closely at the way in which the call for unity runs through everything the Church does. All her prayers and liturgical actions have unity as an inescapable ‘voice’. The person who heard and hears that voice more clearly than any other is Our Lady, and so we look to her.
Societies both gather and scatter. Catholicism in the CofE is notoriously awash with Societies, and Catholic anoraks could cover the whole of their cassocks with badges. So here is another Society which, as far as I know, is badge-free.
Pastoral and evangelistic
I would like the readership to consider the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which I have found to blend pastoral and evangelistic activity, with learning and liturgical seriousness, all of which is directed towards living out the call to unity. The Society was founded in 1967 and aims to show that, ‘in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Christians of many traditions may find a focus in their search for unity.’ Last year I was asked to become the Chairman of the Yorkshire Branch of the Society, and it has been among the most gracious pieces of work I have been involved in.
It has been a cause of repeated hope for me that so many people from such a variety of traditions have glimpsed something of the significance of Mary in their understanding of the search for unity. Active participation in Christian activity which emphasizes the call to unity need not, and rarely is, aimed at some fantasy-fuelled notion of a perfect institutional solution to the problem of dis-unity. What it is, first of all, is gracious. We are helped, and we grow in the way we can address not only the problem of ecclesial separation, but personal, family and community reconciliation – all of which are the first steps towards the greater vision.
Unity, grace and mission are so intimately interwoven that each individual parish, no matter how different, can be stimulated to greater things as a result of ecumenical endeavour. One of the commonly repeated observations of members is that distinctiveness prises open a stronger sense of mission. The Marian dimension to the Society gives us a freedom and safety to recognize this, and the faith of individuals is able to return to source. In other words, ‘renewal’ is found.
Mary shows us Jesus, and discovery is something which should excite us about all we can and will discover. Marian devotion focuses our prayer; increases our vision; reveals the Kingdom – stirs our longingforthe Kingdom – encourages us to build it; makes us gracious to be used in this purpose; shapes our hearts to coincide with that of her Son and so makes us faithful and fruitful.
A clearer vision
Devotion to Mary is given to nurture a clearer vision of Christ, and so in your prayers keep the companionship of Mary close; and her Son; her Lord and Our Lord, the Lord of all creation, will draw us into the companionship of his Kingdom.
As a concluding Collect from the Ecumenical Office of the Society says,
‘O Christ our God Incarnate, whose Virgin Mother was blessed in bearing you, but still more blessed in keeping your word; grant us, who honour the exaltation of her lowliness, to follow the example of her devotion to your will, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever."
Please consider membership of this Society. Contacts can be found on the website <www.esbvm.org.uk> or from 11 Belmont Road, Wallington, Surrey, SM6 8TE.
PRAYER Of THE SOCiETY
God our Father,
through the Blessed Virgin Mary,
you gave your Son to be our Redeemer.
Send your blessings upon the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
so that strengthened by your grace, enlivened by your Spirit, and renewed in the One whom Mary bore, your Church may grow in the unity you desire.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, Our Lord.
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