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Archive for December, 2019

“Mary, She Did Know!”

 Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

 

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.

 Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?

 The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

 Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

 Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?

Mary did you know?

 

 “Mary, Did You Know?”is a popular and thoughtful Christmas carol sung by many artists today. The lyrics are by Mark Lowry (1984) and the music was composed by Buddy Greene (1991). I found many renditions of the song on YouTube. I chose to link to this one that is sung beautifully by Mary J. Blige. I hope you enjoy the song.  I would like to answer the question, “Mary, did you know?” with an answer – “Yes, Mary did know”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_k63Oec7LY

Yes, Mary knew. Maybe she did not know the details of her Son’s life, such as walking on water, but Mary did know that her baby boy, Jesus was the Savior of the world, that he came to “save our sons and daughters” and “make you new.”

How do we know that Mary knew?

When the angel came to see Mary, she knew Who God was and what He had promised and was ready to obey God.

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:34-38).

Mary joyfully and willingly submitted to God’s plan for her to bear the Savior. We find out how much more Mary knew when she visited her cousin Elizabeth and proclaimed her praise for God in her song, known popularly as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. We can see from Mary’s words that she grew up in a godly family. Listening to and reciting or singing the Scriptures was a big part of her every-day life. Girls did not go to the synagogue as boys did, but that doesn’t mean that Mary, who loved God with all of her heart would not have loved to hear the stories of God’s mighty works and would have lifted her heart in songs of praise to Him.

Did Mary know that Jesus would come to save sons and daughters and give them new life? Yes, Mary said in the Magnificat, “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Luke 1:47). Mary learned about salvation from many places in the Scriptures including Psalm 9:14; 13:5; 35:9; 48:11; 68:3; 97:1; 149:2, and Isaiah 61:10, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; My soul will exult in my God.”

Mary could anticipate that Jesus would do many miracles. She knew from the Scriptures that Jesus would bring restoration and healing such as sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. The song writer wonders if Mary knew that her sleeping child was the great I AM. Yes, Mary knew that as God, Jesus is the great I AM, even as He would affirm later “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58).

 Did Mary know that when she kissed her baby boy, she kissed the face of God? Yes, she did. Mary knew that Jesus is God and her“baby boy is Lord of all creation” and that her baby boy“would one day rule the nations.”


Mary’s faith is an example to us. She proved her faith by responding with humble obedience. Her cousin Elizabeth confirmed this when she said, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Mary knew that the child she carried was the Savior that everyone had been waiting for. Jesus is the promised king, the promised son of David.

A blessed Christmas to all!!

 

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Saint Frideswide – (650 – 727)

There are thousands of amazing stories of women who lived during Medieval times. For most people living today the history is just too far in the past. The cultures were so different from our democratic, individualistic society that it is hard to relate to the people who lived then.

But as we study the lives of women who lived in the fifth through fifteenth centuries, we find that apart from the outward circumstances, they were very much like ourselves. Women prayed, taught, preached, traveled, administered in organizations, founded ministries, and took care of the poor. Like their female forebears in the Patristic Era these women contributed greatly to the Kingdom of God, not so they could be remembered, but so they could serve the Lord Jesus by serving others.[1]

We can relate only of few of the many stories of women throughout history who were called and gifted by God to serve Him. We began by looking at women in the Patristic Era, then we moved on to a journey through the Middle Ages with stories of women in the 5thand 6thcenturies – Genovefa of Paris (423-502), Clothilde, the Queen of the Franks (470-545), Brigid of Kildare (451-523), Empress Theodora (497-548), and Queen Radegund (520-587).

We then turned to the 7thand 8thcenturies to talk about Queen Bathilde (630-680) – the last of the rulers of the Merovingian Era (480-751 AD).

Things really changed for women in the 6thand 7thcenturies, so we took a look at how women began to be barred from the freedom of ministry that they exercised in the Patristic Era and Early Medieval Era. We saw that ideasabout women changed. For a number of worldly or unbiblical reasons women’s status was continually lowered until men saw them as impure, sinful, and unable to function in church service.

One of the chief ways that women were able to serve was in the cloister. We continued with our accounts of women in Medieval times with the stories of godly abbesses. We related the stories of Gertrude, Abbess of Nivelles and a distant relative of Gertrude’s – Anstrude of Laon.

This week we continue with the story of Saint Frideswide. In the fall of 2016 I had the opportunity to travel to Oxford and visit Christ Church which is the site where St. Frideswide founded her chapel. I posted a story on her when I returned to the States and find that I cannot improve on it. I hope you enjoy reading about her.

Saint Frideswide 

 It is virtually certain that Oxford developed around a mid-Saxon monastic church (the predecessor of the present Cathedral) at a major crossing over the Thames, and that the first head of the church was a princess named Frideswide.

John Blair: “Saint Frideswide: Patron of Oxford”

In the fall of 2016, I had an opportunity to visit London and Oxford. While in Oxford I toured the famous Christ Church. Harry Potter fans will recognize the Great Hall. The pictures in this post were taken by me during the tour.

But even more exciting to me was the fact that the church gives credit for its original founding to a woman – St. Frideswide. Our tour guide emphasized St. Frideswide during our entire tour. Frideswide established the original monastery there around the turn of the eighth century.

Most of the present cathedral was built at the end of the twelfth century as a priory church for the Augustinian Canons who lived there. More additions were completed through the centuries. Christ Church still functions as a college in Oxford.

This shrine to St. Frideswide was built in 1289 but broken up in 1538 when the Reformer’s criticized praying to saints. Parts of the shrine were discovered in a well in the nineteenth century and restored to the church. The beautiful chapel and shrine were finished as we see them in this picture in 2002.

A beautiful stained-glass window (by Edward Burne-Jones, 1858) graces the end of the Latin Chapel – the area in Christ Church commemorating Frideswide’s story.

Here is another of the stained-glass windows of Frideswide.

There is a special chair in cathedrals for the archbishop to sit in when he visits. Above this special chair is another memorial to St. Frideswide. The women seated to her right and left are St. Catherine and St. Cecilia – two women who were also well known for their faithful acts of piety and charity. Both were also persecuted for their faith.

Frideswide’s Story

Frideswide, (also called Frithuswith, or Fritha as she was known to family and friends), was born around 650 AD. She was born a princess to King Didan of Oxford and Queen Sefrida. Sefrida was a very godly woman, known for her charitable works. Her parents, Didan and Sefrida loved her very much.

Frideswide was carefully brought up by a governess, a holy woman named Elgitha. Frideswide began to love and honor God under Elgitha’s teaching and her life took a spiritual direction from an early age. She was a gifted student and within six months had learned the entire Psalter.

After her mother died Frideswide lived in Oxford with her father. She persuaded him to give her some land so that she could build a church.

The period between 650 and 720 was the age of the great monasteries. Many were founded by kings and princes, and in our story a princess. These were “double” monasteries, where men and women both lived and worshipped and served. At this time the monasteries were mostly self-governing. It would be many years before the monasteries were consolidated under the rule of the organized church.

Frideswide and twelve other women formed a convent. Her fame spread not only as a pious woman, but it was known that she was rich and beautiful. This attracted Aelfgar, the Earl of Leicester and he pressed his suit for her hand.

Here is where the story gets interesting. Frideswide refused to get married. She desired only to serve Christ for the rest of her life. This made Aelfgar angry and he decided to take Frideswide by force. He traveled to the forest where she was living. He was struck blind as he neared Frideswide! Only after he repented and asked for her forgiveness was his sight restored. In another version of the story, Aelfgar sent two messengers ahead with flattering words and his offer of marriage. Frideswide rebuffed them and they returned to Oxford to report to Prince Aelfgar. They were struck blind as they entered the city.

Like other “legends” the story is probably embellished, but no doubt there is a kernel of truth in the various accounts of Frideswide’s life. Something certainly happened to convince Aelfgar to leave Frideswide alone. God certainly blessed Frideswide and the community with her service to them.

Here is one account of the story according to William of Malmesbury (c. 1125) from John Blair’s book, “Saint Frideswide: Patron of Oxford” (p. 29, 30).

In old times there was in the city of Oxford a monastery of nuns, where rests the most holy virgin Frideswide. A kings’ daughter, she spurned a king’s bed, avowing her chastity to the Lord Christ. But the king had set his heart upon marrying the virgin, and when prayers and flatteries had been spent in vain he prepared to take her by force. Frideswide learnt of this and fled into a wood. No refuge could be secret from the lover, no coldness of heart could deter him: he followed the fugitive. So once again, when the young man’s frenzy became plain, with God’s help she entered Oxford at dead of night by means of hidden ways. By morning the persistent lover had hastened there too, and the girl, now despairing of flight and too weary to go any further, prayed to God for protection for herself and punishment for her persecutor. As he passed through the town gates with this thegns, a heaven-sent blow struck him blind. Understanding the wrongfulness of his persistence, he placated Frideswide by means of messengers and recovered his sight as quickly as he had lost it. Thus it came about that kings of England are afraid to enter or lodge in that town: it is said to bring ruin, and they all shrink from the danger of putting it to the test. So the woman, secure in her maidenly victory, established a monastery there where she ended her days, submitting to her bridegroom’s call.*

In the time of king Aethelred, the Danes, doomed to be slain, fled into that monastery and were consumed by fire together with the buildings through the insatiable anger of the English. But soon the sanctuary was purified by the king’s penance, the monastery rebuilt, old lands returned, new possessions added. In our own time** only a few clerks remained there, who lived as they pleased so Roger bishop of Salisbury gave the place to Wimund, a canon of excellent learning and no mean holiness. He toiling fruitfully at the task entrusted to him, established there for God many canons to live according to the rule.***

*This “bridegroom” is the Lord Jesus Christ.

** c. 1125

***The canons lived under the rule of St. Augustine.

 

Frideswide lived happily at Oxford for many years. She eventually retired to Binsey, where she built a chapel. She prayed for water and a spring appeared. You can visit that site today. She eventually died on October 19, 727. She was buried at St. Mary’s church.

I was happy to be able to climb up the tower of St. Mary’s. Here is a view from there.

 

[1]See posts on this blog site from January 22, 2019 through June 4, 2019 for “Women in the Patristic Era”.

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