Here’s an unexpected discovery. As I’ve been getting to know Simon Patrick in preparation for our first class paper, I’ve come across the name George Bull a number of times. So tonight rather than read the assigned reading I decided to read a little Bull. (shush up there in the peanut gallery)
George Bull (1634-1710) studied at Oxford, was secretly ordained C of E prior to the Restoration, and was a contemporary of Patrick’s. The author of the text I’m reading calls him a “progressive traditionalist” — interesting way to describe a person! Bull was “high church”, that is, as Roman Catholic in worship style as an Anglican can get, and therefore he had more to say about the Virgin Mary than Protestants normally do. Here’s a quote:
“The blessedness of the Holy Virgin is not so altogether proper to her, or incommunicable to others, but that the meanest sincere Christian may share with her in the better part of it. […] Indeed, the Virgin herself was more blessed by conceiving Christ in her heart by faith, than by conceiving him in her womb. And in this her chiefest blessedness the meanest Christian, that is a sincere one, may be a sharer with her. […] [T]ogether with her we shall be indeed blessed beyond all generations, even for ever and ever.”
Paraphrasing from the early English, basically what Bull is saying is that Mary is not the only human being who is blessed — that even the poorest and most insignificant of believers can receive the Lord in their heart by faith, which is an even greater blessing than having carried Him for nine months.
Bull supports his comments with two scripture verses. In the first one, a woman in the crowd says to Jesus: “blessed is the womb that bare thee…” and Jesus answers “rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” In the second passage Jesus says: “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hands towards his disciples and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! for whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Looking at the scripture passages in this light sparked far too many ideas to write here. I’ll just say my meditation for this evening started with the realization that I am now probably about the same age as Mary was when Jesus was crucified. To look at the events of Good Friday and Easter from her point of view, and from this vantage point, I begin to understand just a little of the heart of this great woman.
She has much to teach us.