Today is the feast day of Saint Mary the Virgin, mother of Christ, in Greek Orthodox tradition theotokos, God-bearer.
Two days ago, much of the Anglican Communion commemorated the life and work of Florence Nightingale. Although upheld as the pioneer of modern nursing, based upon her experience and work in the war-hospitals of the Crimean War, she was much more. Restricted in her nursing endeavours by illness contracted in the Crimea, she campaigned relentlessly to improve the lot of the poor in late 19th century Britain. All that she did was underpinned by a strong, Christian faith.
For Florence Nightingale, worship with faith in action was like “so many burnt offerings,” to quote or paraphrase the disdainful observations of several prophetic voices. She wrote that like Samuel, humankind must say, ” Here I am,” in response to the presence of God, who, like Christ approaching his disciples over turbulent waters, says, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
“Here I am,” is Mary’s response of obedience to the presence of God. “Let it be with me according to your will.” Christ, in a perfected model of human obedience, spends his life saying, “Here I am.”
Teresa of Avila, in the sixteenth century, captured the essence and rationale of the obedient life in these words:
Christ has no body on earth but yours
No hands but yours
No feet but yours
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out for the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.