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Dedication of the New Santa Maria Virgen Church Building (1)

On December 6, our sister parish in El Salvador dedicated their new church building. Our rector, Peter Chase, travelled to El Salvador at the invitation of Bishop Martin Barahona, Primate of the Anglican Church for Central America, to give the sermon at the dedication service. Here is the text of the sermon:

It is an honor to be here with you on this great occasion of consecration, as we dedicate a new sanctuary in the name of our matron, Saint Mary the Virgen.

I come from your sister parish of Saint Mary’s in Newton, Massachusetts and bring greetings to you from our members. We often get telephone calls meant for other churches with a similar name in Newton like: Saint Mary’s, Immaculate of Lourdes, Our Lady of Help, and Saint Mary’s Chapel. In our telephone book the following churches are named after Saint Mary: The Church of the Annunciation, The Presentation, The Assumption, and The Visitation. In our area there are chapels called Our Lady of the Mountains, Our Lady of the Sea, Our Lady of Victories, Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, and Our Lady of Mercy. There is even an Our Lady Cafeteria in the Boston, and Our Lady of the Good Voyage Chapel at the airport.

In Los Angeles a poet summed up the importance Saint Mary has had in the lives of people by listing the many ways she has provided support: Mary of the Broken Hearted, Mary of the Shut Ins – Our Lady of the Addicted, Mary of the Infirmed, The Madonna of the homeless, Our Mother of Orphans. Yes, there are places like Los Angeles, Guadalupe, Fatima, Lourdes, Newton and San Bartolo. which all hail the name of Mary.

Mary’s name has been used more often than any other person in the New Testament because she means so much to so many. Mary is a gift to the whole world, an example of God’s gracious purpose in caring for our needs.

When my son was five years old he would ask me when I went to work, “Are you going to Mary’s place?” Mary’s place is a wonderful name for a church because it signifies that she also has a place for us in her heart. Today we not only dedicate this sanctuary in her name, we re-dedicate ourselves to her purpose of bringing Christ into the world. The name of this parish becomes our commission to make Christ known and his presence felt to a world in need.

In the Hymn, God Himself is with us, are the words, “Come abide within me; let my soul, like Mary’s, be thine earthly sanctuary. This is the theme of today’s service. Christian consecration is made by the sign of the cross in the name of the Holy Trinity. Blessings come in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit not only to this church called Saint Mary’s, but to us who are Baptized. What happens here today goes beyond this building.

I was told a story about the Temple in Jerusalem. You know the Old Testament books of I Kings and II Chronicles describe the building of the Temple as a magnificent structure dedicated to God. The Temple was made up of large courtyards each leading into an area of deeper sanctity ending up in a place containing the Holy of Holies. But unlike other great temples of that time, this inner room did not contain statues. This space instead was a reminder of a more miraculous presence. The symbol was that God cannot be contained or boxed up into a room. God is everywhere. God is the creator of all that is.

In a sanctuary of an Anglican seminary in Canada behind the altar there is an inscription of the words from Mark’s gospel. “He is not here. He is risen.” You know an altar is both a full table and an empty tomb. The Latin word Mass comes from the word to leave. We are here to leave to go into the world rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are here to go out and serve others in Christ’s name, to treat each person as a sacred being of worth, as if he or she was Christ. We are here because Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world.

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