Little lady dressed in blue. That is an image of Mary that attracted me as a young girl and who seemingly called out to me as a 30 year old woman who needed faith. Mary – sweet, lovely, docile, passive.
Recently I offered a reflection at Evening Prayer where I scoffed at this notion of the little lady dressed in blue and I return to that topic today. It is an image that can invite us, but it might not be the best image to keep with us through all time. I do not say this in disrespect… I say in the face of how we might mature as Christians, especially for Christian women. Sweet, lovely, docile, passive women.
James Martin, SJ offers us some provocative thoughts about Mary in his piece, “Hail Mary, You have more in common with the mother of Jesus than you think,” published at Slate on Christmas Eve.
Martin reminds us that, “Even if you doubt that the narrative is told accurately, you have to admit that buried within this supposedly pious and saccharine Bible tale is the vivid image of a strong, resilient, and self-possessed woman.” Did someone say sweet, lovely docile and passive?
Strong. Resilient. Self-possessed. Now we’re talking, that is the Mary that I have come to know and love. I think she had to be the little lady dressed in blue for me to approach her, but like any relationship, we have plumbed new depths and revealed ourselves to one another. Oh, how I love idol smashing! She is not just some sweet, lovely, docile, passive woman. Nor am I.
First of all, thank God that Martin remembers that Mary did not just sweetly assent to being the Mother of God, but she did ask a question first… “How can this be?” I mean really – how could it be? And yet it was.
Mary asks – and then moves on, saying yes, a yes that changes everything. This is not the work of someone who is only sweet, lovely, docile and passive, thanks be to God.
No this Mary seems to have “active and conscious participation” in what is happening. How could it be otherwise? Mary is not some empty vessel, but a participant in redemption – as we all should be, if we are the followers of Christ that we claim to be.
Full, active and conscious participation is demanding; it is not the work of the docile or of the dilettante. Mary was neither. Mary was obedient however. Sadly, our contemporary use of language has demeaned obedient to mean, well – docile.
The etymology of obedience points us towards an attitude of listening and listening should lead us to action of some sort. Mary’s action of listening leads her to her outrageous complicity in the redemption of the world! One must have quiet, one must listen, one must question if one is to have faith and to bring light to the world. Or like Mary, to bring Light to the world. Sweet, lovely, docile and passive does not change the world.
The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God is approaching quickly; it is an important part of the Octave of Christmas. I hope that you might read the essay by Fr. Martin and remember just who Mary was – and is, in the world.
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.
It is at that place that we bring forth the child, following Mary’s example of obedience that is not necessary the obedience of the sweet, lovely, docile and passive.
Why must we always diminuate the extraordinary? Mary deserves our refocused attention and possibly some adjustments in perception.
Refashion your view of Mary if you can. She is not as one dimensional as you might think. Consider Mary – she’s not just some little lady dressed in blue, sweet, lovely, docile and passive.
Thanks be to God.
She is the Mother of God, she is the Mother of us all.
Let the church say, “Amen”!
Lord, Make Us Channels of Your Peace
(adapted from Prayer Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)
Cecilia- I apologize for the delay in approval of this comment; I thought I had done it. Thanks for coming by and for commenting. Peace.