Welcome to Mary’s month of May. The month when everything in the countryside, and of course our gardens, bursts into colour. Life in the hedgerows is beginning to awaken from the long winter months, and the birds are returning from their winter break in Africa – my swallows arrived on 4th April (Easter Day) and flew straight into the nest they made four years ago. The trees are in bud and gradually turning green, and this spring the flowers are looking splendid.
For over 700 years, the month of May has been dedicated to Mary, and we join with her in celebration of the glorious Resurrection of Christ. Traditionally, Mary is honoured as the ‘Queen of May’, and throughout the western world parishes have often crowned an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with flowers (often Hawthorn also called May Blossom or Spring Rose). This ceremonial crowning is to signify her as ‘Queen of Heaven’ and the ‘Mother of God Incarnate’. Although this practice lapsed in the 1970’s, it is now making a comeback. We look forward to its return here at S. Mary’s. Between Easter and Pentecost we sing the Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven):
(sung to the tune of ‘Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia)
Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven, Alleluia!
He whom thou wast meet to bear, Alleluia!
As he promised hath arisen, Alleluia!
Pour for us to God thy prayer, Alleluia!
There are many celebrations throughout May, one of the most important is the great Feast of Pentecost – 23rd May (the birthday of the Church). Pentecost means the fiftieth day, which represents the fifty days of Easter. In the Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11 the disciples were huddled in the upper room, afraid of the Jews and terrified of the unknown. At the Last Supper Jesus told the apostles that he was leaving them. He said, “It is for your own good that I go away, because unless I go, the Spirit will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you.” Jesus had to go – it was important that he left his apostles to carry on without him. Only when the Holy Spirit came upon them are they transformed from ordinary people into fearless missionaries.
A prayer for Pentecost: Breathe in me, Holy Spirit, that I may think what is holy. Move me, Holy Spirit, that I may do what is holy. Attract me, Holy Spirit, that I may love what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may guard what is holy. Guard me, Holy Spirit, that I may keep what is holy.
(S. Augustine of Hippo – 354 – 430 AD)