Posted by: smstrouse | December 17, 2011

Occupy Mary

Going into the fourth week of Advent, our thoughts turn to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Growing up Lutheran, I learned that we were never supposed to talk about Mary. Too Catholic, we were warned. But then the cold war between the churches began to thaw. It was OK to admire her as an example of obedient servanthood – as long as we didn’t (gasp!) pray to her .

But then the feminist movement came along and Mary’s virtue’s of meekness, humility, and unquestioning obedience came under fire. Was this really the model of womanhood that we wanted to follow?! In recent years, however, women have come to see in Mary the feminine face of God. We use language about pregnancy, womb, gestation, labor. Mary, the meek and mild was transformed into Mary, the symbol of the birthing nature of the Divine.

Which is great, no question about it. But I think we often overlook another aspect of this woman whose real identity and personality have become overshadowed by the archetypal symbols we attribute to her. And that is Prophet. In the Magnificat, she sings:   Great and mighty are you, O Holy One; strong is your kindness evermore.
   How you favor the weak and lowly ones, humbling the proud of heart.
   You have cast the mighty down from their thrones and uplifted the humble of heart.
   You have filled the hungry with wondrous things and left the wealthy no part. ***

Her vision is of a time when God’s justice will prevail. A time when those on the bottom of the world’s heap will be as valued – with the same dignity, respect, human rights, food, shelter, clothing, affordable health care, quality education, meaningful work, fair wages – as those on top.The child who occupied Mary’s womb would have this same vision. As we move closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we begin to see a Nativity scene with not just a virgin meek and mild with an innocent babe at her breast, but also a prophet clear and bold with a child who challenges us to turn the values of the world upside-down.

Ave, Maria!

*** “Annunciation and Canticle of Mary” by Marty Haugen. See, which I can’t get enough of this week.




  1. Ah, yes. Thank you (??) for the reminder (I’d almost forgot) of how my mother (gee, this was also southeastern PA) told me how the “worship of Mary” was “some old Catholic thing” with the same tone of derision she used to reference drunks, smokers, those who took the name of the Lord in vain, and, later, women pastors :-). I guess she was infused with Victorian sensibilities in the same way that I am with the idealism of the ’60s.


  2. I was thinking of Mary as a prophet this week (well, almost every week since “The Magnificat” is on my mp3 player). Someone on Yahoo! Answers asked: “Why don’t more Christians have a problem with Jesus’ first ‘miracle’?” Mary is one of the first to know that the wine is gone, and perhaps the only one with a plan to correct the situation: She tells Jesus. Prophecies aren’t always clear right away. Mary knows Jesus can do something; she just doesn’t know exactly what. Jesus obeys his mother, but warns her that his time (of sacrificial death) will come soon enough; she shouldn’t rush it. She knows his time is coming but she lacks details. She doesn’t realize yet that Jesus’ miracles are meant to inspire faith, in this case, the faith of Jesus’ brand new disciples.


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