A sermon by Jayan Koshy for the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th, 2022

St. John’s the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Saint Paul, MN.

Mary was a priest.

Now, I don’t mean that she was a priest in the way that, say, Father Craig is a priest. I’m not saying that she was necessarily ordained, ministering the Sacraments and other rituals of the Church. But still, today, on this feast of the Annunciation, we do see Mary as a priest in a very real sense. 

We see this lowly young woman, from a kinda backwater town, lifted up as the kind of priest the whole Church would become. We see her as a minister of that ultimate Sacrament—that fundamental sign of God’s action in the world: Jesus, Emmanuel, God incarnate, God with us. We bear witness today to Mary saying, “Here I am.” And as we listen to that “Yes” that has echoed through time, we hear an invitation: an invitation to join her in this ministry; an invitation to offer Christ to the world, as we offer ourselves to Christ.

“Okay, this is all well and good,” you might say, “but what does priesthood actually mean? If we set aside the trappings, the vestments and titles, what is it that priests do? What does it mean to say that Mary is acting as a priest, ordained or otherwise?” 

At the most fundamental level, a priest is someone who offers sacrifices to God for the sake of the world. In the Old Testament, God establishes the tribe of Levi as the priests for the nation of Israel. They were tasked with praying for God’s chosen people, first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple. Day after day, they offered up the fruit of the fields and the blood of bulls and goats as sacrifices to take away the sins of the people. This was good and holy. But they were human priests, and humans can’t accomplish lasting reconciliation on our own. The sacrifices we offer are marked by the imprint of the very sin and brokenness that we’re trying to heal.

And so, the writer of Hebrews presents to us Jesus—the Great High Priest. Even though he is God, bearing the fullness of the glory of heaven, Jesus humbles himself to be God-with-us. He serves as both the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice, offering his body once and for all on the Cross to eternally unite us to God.

In a couple weeks we are going to celebrate this sacrifice in the liturgies of Holy Week. But it’s also something we celebrate every time we gather for Eucharist. When the priest holds up the Host and says, “This is my Body,” we are remembering; we are giving thanks; we are clinging to Christ’s body, as he is lifted high on the Cross, offering himself up for us.

Today we witness the special role Mary plays in this eternal sacrifice. Today she offers her own special sacrifice in union with Christ’s. She offers up herself—her flesh and blood—to become his. This sacrifice is costly for Mary, and she knows it. Childbirth alone could easily cost her her life. And even if she survives the dangers of pregnancy, her reputation will be ruined by having a child out of wedlock. Her already precarious place in society is made even more marginal if she says “yes” to God.

And yet Mary still offers herself up to God. When she hears that the Most High God has honored her and is with her… When she hears that she will be the mother of the Savior of her people… When she hears that her Creator, who knit her together in Anna’s womb, will dwell in her own womb and feed at her breast… When she hears this astounding announcement, Mary says, “Yes. Here I am. I am your servant. Let it be so.” 

Now, although we should and do honor her highly as the Mother of God, Mary ultimately makes this sacrifice not for her glory, but for God’s. The Annunciation is a shining example of how God invites us to participate in his plan, his healing action in our broken world. God could have saved us from afar if he’d wanted, never becoming human, never entering the mess. He could have become incarnate by creating Christ’s humanity from scratch, without Mary’s involvement. But that’s not what he chooses. That’s not what he desires. He chooses to weave us into his work of salvation He chooses to heal the world—to make it new—in and through us. He chooses to offer himself up through Mary offering herself up. He chooses to take away our sin for good, by drawing us in to offer ourselves as a sacrifice with him.

This is the priesthood each and every one of us shares. This is the ministry—the mission—that we have been given in baptism. Baptism knits us into the Body of Christ, the Body of our Great High Priest, the Body of the Lamb that is sacrificed. And as members in the Body of Christ, we are called to present ourselves—our souls and bodies—as a living sacrifice to God. We are called to approach the altar saying, “Here I am; I have come to do your will.” We are called to go out into the world saying, “Let it be with me according to your word.”

Offering this sacrifice can be costly to us, too, just as it was for Mary. Maybe not in the same ways. But presenting ourselves to God to be joined to Christ on the Cross is scary. It’s understandable to be daunted by how radical our self-offering really is. But Mary leads the way. Today she guides us by example. In the Annunciation, she demonstrates what this beautiful and baffling priesthood can look like. She hears God’s call, and she says, “Yes.” She offers God her whole self, her very body—to become Christ’s body offered on the Cross for us, to become his body offered to us today on the Altar, to become his body offered to the world in our lives as Christians day by day.

Franciscan sister Irene Zimmerman reflects on Mary’s priesthood in a poem title ‘Liturgy,’ which starts like this:

All the way to Elizabeth

and in the months afterward

she wove him, pondering,


“This is my body, my blood!”

“Beneath the watching eyes

of donkey, ox, and sheep

she rocked him crooning

“This is my body, my blood!”


In the search for her young lost boy

and the foreboding day of his leaving

she let him go, knowing

“This is my body, my blood!”


Under the blood smeared cross

she rocked his mangled bones,

re-membering him, moaning,

“This is my body, my blood!”


When darkness, stones, and tomb

bloomed to Easter morning,

She ran to him shouting,

“This is my body, my blood!”

But friends, before that—today—Mary lifts her eyes to heaven. She presents herself to God saying, “Here I am, your servant. This is my body, my blood!” As we approach the altar today, will we follow the Mother of God and offer ourselves? Will we join her in saying, “Yes. This is my body, my blood. Let it be with me according to your word”?

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