This coming Sunday we will celebrate one of the more festive traditions at St. Mark's - the May Crowning. At some point in history the month of May became associated with Mary and with mothers. Churches that celebrate a catholic devotion to Mary, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran, will often have some manner in which to celebrate the Mother of God during the month of May. At St. Mark's we usually crown the Mary statues with lei on the first or second Sunday of May, depending on how Sundays fall in the liturgical calendar. Since last Sunday was Rogation Sunday, we will have our May Crowning this coming Sunday. Interestingly enough, many churches choose to have their May festivals on the first Sunday of May no matter what Sunday it is. As well, many American churches deliberately do the May crowning on Mother's Day, or the second Sunday of May, but this was not the reason for our decision at St. Mark's. In any case, it is a happy confluence.
Why shall we adorn Mary with lei this coming Sunday? Mary is unparalleled among the saints. Her willingness to say "yes" to bearing God's Son, her steadfast devotion to Jesus throughout her life, and her presence at the first Pentecost have resulted in the church honoring her as the Queen of Saints. You may have noticed that during certain Eucharistic Prayers the celebrant may insert the names of saints. The tradition of the church is to always say Mary's name first among the saints. As we seek to follow Christ, Mary has shown us what perfect sainthood is about - always directing our life to Jesus Christ. As Mary has been so consistent in her devotion to the Word-made-Flesh, she receives the riches of God's grace. When we crown Mary with lei, we witness the blessings that are crowned upon all of us by following Christ. It is a celebration of the resurrection. As Christ crowns Mary, so Christ shall crown all who follow him and love him. Mary's life demonstrates this truth.
Many of you know that I was raised a Lutheran. There is often an assumption that Lutherans do not honor Mary. There is also often an assumption that Anglicans of a more reformed tradition do not honor Mary. These assumptions are precisely assumptions. The reality is that the more I have reflected upon the story of Mary's life in scripture, and the more that I have pondered the realities of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the more my devotion has grown to Mary's witness to the Christian faith. She shows us a very evangelical way of following and honoring Jesus Christ.
Father Paul Lillie