INTRO ‘Your must have no false God’s before me’ … ‘O Israel, there is but one God and you must love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your should, with all your mind and all your strength’. Mary is the first and greatest of the Disciples of Jesus, lovers of God – the great example of living this fundamental command – yet so much of popular devotion to her can distract us, even draw us away in practice from this great command: when we gaze on Mary more than God, when we look at her rather than being at her side, looking upon God as she does. This has sadly caused her to be largely ignored in the reformed and Pentecostal traditions of the Church – and our exaggerations have been the cause of this! Why we need to return to an authentically Biblical devotion to Mary. This we will explore in our reflections this coming week. The Icon of Mary – Mariam, Miriam, Woman of Peace grieving for her people.
 Who is this woman? Nazareth’s poverty; land of repression and occupation; constant conflict and guerrilla war. Nazareth in Galilee – religiously ‘unacceptable’. The ‘anawim’ – the humble (humiliated) faithful poor of the Lord, of Israel. She is not alone, but stands in the community of the ‘anawim’ (Luke’s Gospel). Her name – Miriam, ‘the exalted One’ (Moses sister’s name –Exodus 15: 20). A common name in Israel at the time (witness how many Mary’s there are in the Gospel accounts). She stands hidden and ‘ordinary’ among her people. The nature of the incarnation, the importance of the hidden years of Jesus life. Most of us lead ‘hidden lives’ – not known, not famous, quietly living and loving – the hidden yeast that makes the dough that makes the bread that feeds the world! Miriam, Mary the ‘Exalted One’, raised higher than the angels in the Assumption, is precisely the poor and ordinary who have first place in the Kingdom of God!
 But … Importance of seeing her as the Faithful Daughter of Zion. Obedient to the Torah the Law (Luke 2: 22, 27, 39). She replies to the Angel in the Annunciation in language familiar to the Hebrew Scriptures Luke 1: 38) and her Magnificat is filled with references to the psalms and Hannah’s song (Luke 1: 46-55 – see 1 Samuel 2: 1-10). Mary, like Jesus, convicts Christians of the centuries of anti-semitism. She is throughly Jewish, as Jesus is! And as the Faithful Daughter of Zion, she expresses the gratitude of all God’s People for the fulfilment of the Covenant promise, the fulfilment of the expectations of the coming of the Messiah – she goes beyond her personal gratitude ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord …The Almighty has done great things for me! (Luke 1: 46-49), and expresses the joy and thanksgiving of all Israel ‘He has come to the help of Israel his servant…according to the promise to Abraham and his descendants’ (Luke 1: 54-55).
 Where is Mary in the New Testament? Nazareth, Bethlehem, Pilgrim in Jerusalem, in the Temple, a Refugee in Egypt, Cana, Galilee, quietly in the background among the disciples listening to the Word, Jerusalem for the Passion (and presumably the Resurrection – though not mentioned by name), Pentecost’s upper Room. She is the Mother of the Incarnate Word of God, pondering, treasuring. Never in the foreground but always teaching us what it is to be a disciple. Mary is the Redeemed One, but never the Redeemer. The One filled with the Grace of God, embracing the free gift of God’s infinite love, showing us what a life of Grace looks like! Mary is always in the midst of the Church, not separate from or above the company of disciples. Above all she is the one who enables the eternal Son to be ‘born of woman’ (St Paul) – she is the servant always of the Word being made Flesh among us, the servant of the Incarnation.
 Controversy in Vatican II not a separate document but a chapter in the ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (‘Lumen Gentium’) – profound insight! She teaches us what is discipleship, she is the Sign of the Church (see the Woman giving birth in Revelations ch 12). She is faithfulness, thanksgiving, joy, compassion; she is the poor who are the key to the Kingdom, she is woman of prayer, she is one abandoned to God, the ‘handmaid of the Lord’.
 This week we will explore these themes of the Biblical Mary and invoke her intercession for our world in this time of pandemic.