Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Blessed Virgin Mary

For those of you who keep track of such things, today is the Feast Day of St. Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, though to many of her fans she's known simply as the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to real close friends, the BVM.

In some of my sicker moments, I wonder what we would have done if her name had been Dinah. Would we have called her the BVD?

But I digress. The real purpose of this feast day is to celebrate her willingness to submit to God in a project that promised her heartbreak and inconvenience, not to mention a little danger. Of course, depending on how much you idolize motherhood, you might be tempted to think this particular feast is proof that, women are intended primarily to bear children and obey their husbands just like Mary did. I'm sure you figure I'm going in that direction, right? Sadly, I must disappoint.

Others of you may believe that Mary is a symbol of male oppression, woman being put on a false pedestal in order to more easily dominate her. I'll let you decide.

There are a few things you should know about her, however. One is that, no matter how you view her, she risked a lot to have Jesus (assuming you believe she was doing what God told her). And that meant that she was tough.

Another thing is that the immaculate conception was bunk – not scriptural at all (I read a Roman Catholic encyclopedia's scripture references, and the few of them that exist are highly interpretive, dare I say speculative, at best). If you're Roman Catholic, you'll just have to accept that a lot of us don't buy this one.

Don't yell – I didn't say the Virgin Birth was bunk. The immaculate conception is a post-scriptural idea that says Mary was so holy that the moment she was conceived, God granted her the grace never to be touched by original sin. If she were, she'd be too impure to be the Mother of God. In othe words, she was perfect but not divine. That's just another way of separating us one step further away from Christ. Which, of course is so very UN-Christlike.

What's more, May's not really even the Mother of God. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, she is Jesus' mother. BUT, God existed before Mary. To say she is God's mother is to put her first, to make her, in effect, God. Like she'd want THAT job!

Here's another thing you may not have thought about with Mary. She and Jesus didn't always understand each other or even get along. They bickered. Don't believe me? Look at the wedding in Cana scene in the John's Gospel (chapter 2). Mary's trying to tell Jesus what to do, and he cuts right through it with, "Woman, what do I have to do with you?" Another, kinder, translation simply says, "Your concern is not mine." At another point, Mary and her other children try to get Jesus and bring him home because they think he's lost his marbles.

Speaking of other children, at least as far as we Episcopalians are concerned, Mary had other kids. Scripture talks about brothers and sisters of Jesus (not half-brothers or sisters, and not cousins – there are specific words for those). Not only that, but there's nothing in scripture that would indicate any possible reason why Mary shouldn't have other kids. I mean, why on earth wouldn't she be able to have more after Jesus was born? It's another one of those silly things that religious leaders started telling people much later in order to build up Mary's resume.

In our denomination, we do not pray to or especially venerate Mary. She doesn't need it. What she did was big enough already – certainly I hope that if God asked me to do something on that magnitude (okay, maybe not the getting pregnant part), I would also humbly agree. On the other hand, I'm kind of hoping God will just let me plug along….