On the 950th Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

Homily, Sunday, September 25 2011

Bishop Lucien Lindsey

Our Lady of Walsingham is one of many titles used for the Blessed Virgin Mary. The history of its use dates from three appearances of Mary in a vision to Richeldis de Faverches, a devout Saxon noblewoman, in the 11th Century in the village of Walsingham in Norfolk, England.

In these visions, Mary showed Lady de Faverches the house in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to the Son of the Most High. The Blessed Mother asked Lady de Faverches to build a replica of her house in Nazareth. This replica was to be dedicated as a memorial to the Annunciation to Mary and of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary promised:

“Let all who are in any way distressed or in need seek me there in that small house that you maintain for me at Walsingham. To all that seek me, there shall be given succour.”

It is no coincidence that Our Lady of Walsingham would be so spiritually prominent in the formation of the Anglican Ordinariates. Those of us who have weathered the recent ecclesial storms within the Anglican Church certainly are in need of a place of refuge and succour. What better symbol can we find of that than the simple shrine at Walsingham?

The very simplicity of the place reflects so beautifully the humility that Mary so authentically exhibited - not only in the Annunciation - but throughout her life. Surely that authentic humility is something we Anglican Catholics must emulate as our Lord gives us His grace in building the Ordinariates. Humility is a word derived from the Latin “humus”  which means earth, soil, or dirt. Humility signifies a recognition of our human origin in the dust of which Adam was made. The virtue of humility, therefore, consists in the living out of a realistic appraisal of our comparative insignificance as creatures who are totally dependent on God. Humility, by directing us towards the earth, enables us to recognize our littleness and our poverty, and by living in its way, enables us to honestly and authentically  glorify the majesty of God - so that we can say with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

It is that blessed gift of humility that will keep us from the arrogance and pride that are always such a scandal in the Lord’s Church and among the Lord’s people.
The Blessed Apostle, St. Paul, in our Epistle reading from Philippians 2 gives us some helpful guidance for living in the way of humility:

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy...”

St. Paul is asking if the Philippian Christians it they had experienced encouragement, love, fellowship or compassion since becoming believers. He was, of course, expecting them to say “yes”.

In spite of all their many struggles and suffering, God was always with them, and it is the same for us. God is with us - wanting to help us.

“...complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” 

As believers and followers of Jesus, we must be in unity - with Him and with each other.

The Blessed Apostle points out three areas of this unity:
1) Being like minded – united in our thinking. 
2) Having the same love – united in heart.
3) Having the same spirit and purpose – united in action.

“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,”

The biggest enemy of unity is pride. We are to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Earlier in this Epistle, St. Paul talked about those Christians who acted out of selfish ambition. Whenever this happened, the result was always division in the Church. The very opposite of being united in mind, heart and purpose is to be selfish. Living a selfish life as a Christian is to do what we want to do and not what God calls us to do. This is to completely disregard the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit and to base our choices merely on what we want. In doing this we, in effect, chose not to use the gifts that God has given us. When this happens, none of our efforts will glorify the Lord.

“...each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others.”

Who are these “others” that  St. Paul is talking about? The people sitting around you here in the Chapel today are a good place to start. We are to look out for them as well. This is the very opposite of what the world tells us to do. The world tells us that we are number one, that we need to look out for ourselves because no one else will. Jesus didn’t think this way. He had a better way. He was a better way.

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus...”

If we are to have that unity in the Church for which Christ prayed,  we must have Christ’s attitude. We must have Christ’s outlook on life, emulating the way in which Christ viewed Himself and the way in which He regarded others.

“...though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In these verses we are shown the ultimate act of humility. Here St. Paul shows that when we are humble, God can use us to fulfill His plans and to build His Church. Whenever Jesus was humble, God was glorified. Humility brings that unity in the Church which Our Lord can use to bring salvation. When there is unity, there is encouragement.

When the world sees this, they will know God and He will be glorified.

When the world sees this, the Lord can use us to build His Church.