Friday, May 8, 2020

Mary's Month of May

The procession of Our Lady during the Society of Mary’s May Devotion, 2010, 
at S. Silas, Kentish Town and Holy Trinity, Kentish Town, London
(Photo from the Society of Mary Website)

In Australia, where May is not spring but autumn, our experience of “Mary’s month” is in conflict with the season, and some of the folkish hymns we like to sing in “Mary’s month” always seem a bit incongruous with what is happening around us. (A bit like singing “In the bleak mid-winter . . . snow had fallen, snow on snow” as the Communion Hymn at Christmas Midnight Mass in a heatwave with perspiration running into our eyes and down our backs and legs!) In England, of course, with all the blossoms and flowers of spring, when creation has come gloriously alive after the cold darkness and gloom of winter, as if itself celebrating Eastertide, Mary’s month is very different. The exuberance and joy of the season makes the May devotion to Our Lady a natural part of parish life for Anglo-Catholics. 

And so, one of the great joys of being part of St Luke’s Kingston from 2012 to 2018 was the Annual May Merrie, a wonderful party for the children of the neighbourhood and their families which began in the church with the crowning of Our Lady’s image, and the enthroning of the May Queen [and King . . . an equal opportunity gesture!], and then finished with a procession to the Vicarage Garden where the activities included the children doing old-fashioned maypole dancing. Each year, during the service in church, the children’s choir, under the direction of parish organist Mr Chris O’Neill, would melt my heart as they sang in praise of Our Blessed Lady:     

Bring flowers of the rarest
bring blossoms the fairest,
from garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
our full hearts are swelling,
our glad voices telling
the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Their lady they name thee,
Their mistress proclaim thee,
Ah, grant that thy children on earth be as true
as long as the bowers
are radiant with flowers,
as long as the azure shall keep its bright hue

Sing gaily in chorus;
the bright angels o’er us
re-echo the strains we begin upon earth;
their harps are repeating
the notes of our greeting,
for Mary herself is the cause of our mirth

Here are two May processions at Walsingham, 
the little Norfolk village known as ‘England’s Nazareth’. 
This year, of course, there are no such pilgrimages -
‘social distancing’ simply wouldn’t work! 


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