Friday, December 3, 2010

On the Mother of Mary

I wrote a devotional that was published in a Galloway booklet today in the character of the mother of Mary, as requested, but it did not go well, if you ask me. I do not write fiction, and could find
neither my voice nor hers in the process. I did, however, completely ignore some things I learned in the process including new awareness of extensive references in
my reading to Saint Anne, traditionally regarded as the mother of Mary throughout the past millennia in the
Orthodox, Roman Catholic and other churches, as well as Islam. Protestants are conspicuously absent among those who regard Saint Anne highly. She
is virtually invisible and outside our tradition. Case closed.

Yet I found myself caught somewhere in the
tired argument of one church saying, ‘we’re right and they’re wrong.’ And I have pondered that position.

I also discovered images of this woman to pair with a name I had not known before. I could now identify
this subject in my art history class decades ago and in museums when my children asked just two years
ago, ‘who is St. Anne?’ and I could not tell them. Represented in religious art frequently as the woman in red with a green stole
holding a book and the child Mary who is holding the Infant Jesus, this encounter bridged a gap for me –
a gap I did not know existed.

So here I sat a few weeks ago, composing an advent devotional and thinking: I cannot write about Saint Anne at Galloway because we do not believe in her, yet I was free to create a
fiction with a little artistic license. Cannot a wise person entertain a point of view without adopting it? In putting myself in the
place of ‘this woman we do not believe in,’ I wrestled. It caused me to ask other questions.

How do I respond upon encountering an experience or point of view that does not square with our/my
tradition? Do I summarily ignore or invalidate it before holding it up to the light of God’s lens for clarity? Do I allow God to enlarge my understanding and to change my mind about things as I move through the day?
The participants surrounding the birth of Jesus experienced God’s moving in ways far beyond their own

Many are content with a sweet birth narrative as a holiday tradition but refuse to allow God
to intersect our hearts and minds today with fresh insights. When we are quick to respond with our
rehearsed sound bites, we leave little room for God’s whisper in our present. What understanding would God have me bring into the Light of God's presence today?

That place of dissonance or discomfort while we wrestle with what is valid and what is real is the place
the Holy Spirit meets us every time. Count on it.

Shown above: Saint Anne with the Virgin Mary and Saint John and the Infant Jesus by Leonardo da Vinci. 1499-1500. National Gallery, London

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