Monday, March 28, 2005

Going Back For Mary

I enjoyed playing hooky from work today to take my mother to an out-of-town doctor's appointment (a statement indicating how boring life really is here in Outer Podunk). In addition to a pleasant road trip during which we saw a real live bluebird perched on a wire -- LutheranChik the birder became all excited and almost missed a turn -- I also got to read, while sitting in the waiting room, a recent issue of Time magazine whose cover article, "Hail, Mary," was all about Protestants' increasing appreciation of the Virgin Mary. Feminism, liberation theology, the ecumenical movement -- all have made Protestants more comfortable thinking and talking about Jesus' mother and the role she played in Scripture and in the collective mind of the early Church. It was interesting to me that two theologians in my own tradition, Robert Jenson and Carl Braaten, are in the vanguard of the "going back for Mary" movement. I also enjoyed a quote by the Rev. Peter Gomes, who tells a joke about a Protestant theologian who dies, goes to heaven and is being introduced all around by Jesus, who says, "Now, I know you know my Father, but I don't think you've met my Mother yet."

I am still trying to decide how the BVM fits into my own personal spirituality. For me she's not an end run around Christian patriarchy, because I have no problem at all integrating the feminine face of God into Christianity. I have certainly experienced a Mothering as well as Fathering God; I once compared my initially reluctant return to the Christian fold to an exhausted, red-faced, post-tantrum toddler still gasping teary protestations while Mom patiently carries her out of the supermarket and takes her home. And -- I think this may be a mortal sin in some circles -- sometimes the Holy Spirit reminds me of one of my college roommates, an alarmingly hyper, perpetually positive Irish gal a la Mary Catherine Gallagher on SNL, who was always either encouraging the downhearted or persistently nudging us toward greatness: "Go for it! You can do it! I know you can! Try it! Did you try it? Go ahead! Come on! Hey -- I have an idea!..." And, as constant readers may have noticed here, outside my formal prayer and worship time I have what some might consider a frighteningly familiar relational style with all three Persons of the Trinity.

But the Mary the Mother of Jesus...even though I see her not as some ethereal young thing but rather an earthy, tough-minded, right-on woman, for some reason she makes me feel -- how can I describe this? -- shy; I want to keep my gaze directed down at my shoes while I dig the toes nervously into the dirt, mumbling, "Yes, ma'am." I'm not sure what that's all about. But I think I'd like to get to know her better. After all, her kid's my Boss.

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