Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2013
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of His servant.”
For me, one of the most enriching, rewarding, engrossing aspects of Anglo-Catholicism is the opportunity to engage more fully with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In part, I appreciate the gender balance the Mother of our Lord brings to the Christian landscape. The Blessed Virgin brings an unarguably womanly presence to, not the Godhead itself, but at least to the Holy inner circle, the first among people, the only fully human (and only fully human) being born without sin. You know the joke, at the stoning Jesus says, “You without sin cast the first stone,” and a rock comes flying form the back of the crowd and Jesus says , “Mom!” The Spirit, sophia in Greek has feminine implications and connotations, but they are not irrefutable like St. Mary’s. Besides, gendering the Spirit as a riposte to a gendered God the Father is the wrong tack to take anyway, we should be moving to a non-gendered conception of the Godhead not a balanced gender ration. And as for Jesus’ maleness; He was fully human and all humans are gendered in one way or another and our Savior being male is not an injustice, it just is. And Mary’s womanliness is not an example of justice, it just is, and it just happens to be a very good thing, a thing I appreciate deeply.
In part, I appreciate Marian piety for the aesthetic of it all. Marian blue is the richest of colors, particularly when speckled with the golden stars of Guadalupe. Sublime. The icons of Virgin and Child, the simple humility of the posture of repose she is always portrayed in, even the terrible cement lawn statues of Mary, something about it reaches deep inside me. Some years ago Windy, Hannah Maeve and I were in Mexico and in the local market near our hotel was a massive shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, complete with giant plastic flowers, blinking strings of light and more neon than I though possible. It reminded me of some of the more elaborate Buddhist temples I saw in Burma. There is so little pretense to the adoration of Mary. It is pure, beautiful in its way, playful and accessible. It is like the Valentine’s Day cards you sent to your mother as a 1st grader: what it lacks in technical perfection is far surpassed by the love contained therein.
Mostly though, what I appreciate about having access to Marian piety as an Anglo-Catholic is the organic-ness she brings to the whole Christian story. The earthy, bloodiness of life. “Born of a woman…” Our God was “born of a woman.” Each of us was born in a swirl of blood and sweat and all sorts of things. Each of us came into the world through the body of another human being, a woman, each of us, including our God. St. Mary, Theotokos, the God-Bearer, she binds God in God’s self to the machinations of life itself, she set Jesus Christ on the path of life: breathing, suckling, growing, walking, speaking and reading, moving out into the world, developing relationships, knowing and loving others, learning and then teaching, healing, sacrificing Himself, dying, and now, as then, saving. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord doesn’t bring some treacle purity to the story, the legend of her virginity is sourced mainly in the complicated translation of the word of young woman between Greek and Hebrew versions of the Isaiah (much in like with how maiden can be understood in several ways). In any case, connecting one’s idea of purity in mind and body to one’s sexual conduct or history is a rather primitive convention anyway. Rather, Mary, the Mother of Our Lord rounds out the gritty, flesh, blood and bones reality of reality that God in Christ with the Holy Spirit are far too easily insulated from in the abstract nature of our doctrine of the Trinity. Mary grounds the Ground of being and the Spirit of life itself through the Son, her son. This is the reason why from now on, all generations will call her blessed. And this is the reason we are going to be working a little bit over here, building up this side altar to become and altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Holy place to pray and reflect in yet another light shone on earth by God. The Mighty One has done great things for her, and holy is God’s name. AMEN.