January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. If you read these pages you know I have been very Mary-ish of late. Of late? I am *always* very Mary-ish. Once I had a Protestant boyfriend who wanted me to join his church and my constant reply would be “No Mary? No Fran.”
It’s not idolatry, but I can see how some might see it that way.
Today I read a heart-stoppingly great post by Eileen at Episcopalifem in which she shared some thoughts about Mary. One of the things that comes up is the image of Mary that we are given, which is so disturbingly saccharine and one-dimensional.
In any case, I have written/spoken about Mary twice recently – here and here, if you wish to have a look. Both times I address some of this perceived weakness, if that is the right word. It is easy to get caught up in that and give up on Mary, but Mary is the one who spoke to me when I was returning to Church and I stick with her.
I mean let’s face it – God could have gone down a lot of roads to find ways to enflesh the spirit. Even going the traditional pregnant woman route – he could have chosen a woman from a higher class… but no. God, being God – used the unlikely and goes with a very young woman who comes from Galilee. That is a theological statement- anything that comes from Galilee and not Jerusalem is “lesser than.” This was no mistake.
So he calls upon this young girl, one from the margins and that is how God is made human. When people question my love of Mary and my Roman Catholic faith I want to point them here and say – “Are you kidding me? This is so outrageous! Extreme and unlikely and how could I not be completely in love with all of this?”
Which brings us back to our feast day on New Year’s Day… This feast, once again celebrating Mary the Mother of God, the Theotokos – the God bearer. All the sweet little images can come and go; this is a woman of some serious substance and the way that God is made manifest in human form, through her. Wow.
It is completely radical and subversive in so many ways! All hidden in plain sight – amid the little lady dressed in blue devotional materials. No offense to those by the way- I had to enter in through that door. I bought the whole thing hook, line and sinker. However, like any meaningful, intimate relationship some level of maturation is required. You can’t stay where you were when you met if you expect to be in relationship in an authentic way – right?
So I think of Mary as many things – sweet, subservient and meek is not among them. As for the virginal – I will quote myself here, referring to one of the links from above:
We are all called to give birth to the Christ in some way, from our own virgin territory. Oh – that. It doesn’t matter, we all have virgin territory, those places in our souls, however seemingly tiny and shrouded, where we have the tender untouched, flesh given to us by God.
If I distill this down it is that we all must find our inner virgin. The very word is so loaded in our culture – enough for a whole other post sometime. Face it – we disdain virgins in our culture, we do. And by doing so, we disdain a very essential part of our own inner being.
Our virginity – and I am speaking very broadly here – is not something to quickly rid ourselves of and be done with, like an old and slightly embarrassing piece of clothing. Think about this and reflect on what this might mean.
In any case, if we get lost in the little lady, the virginal as expressed through the context of patriarchy and oppression- well then we might lose the thread of Mary. And if we do, we lose something essential. She is the golden thread that really pulls the true Golden Thread into the weaving.
Before I go, I must point you to another post that is must-read material. Michael Iafrate is an amazing young Catholic writer who blogs at Vox Nova (a blog I often have trouble reading) and at his own place, catholicanarchy.org. I highly, highly recommend reading his work.
In any case, he did an end of year post that pointed me back to something he wrote in September, about the Rosary. You can find that here. It is a rich piece of writing and he shares this post from Brother Vito, a Capuchin, who suggests the Subversive Mysteries for the Rosary. Oh my – go read this, it is amazing!
Well I have gone on far too long – no wonder someone I know calls me “Ramblin’ Rose.” Anyway, it is the Feast of Mary the Mother of God and I am delighted to begin this year celebrating her.
Happy New Year to all.