QUESTIONS WE NEED TO ASK MARY
I sometimes think we don’t really know what to do with Mary, we just dust her off once a year for the nativity scene and then quickly put her back.
There are many question I want to ask Mary.
The angel calls Mary “the favoured one”.
What kind of greeting is that Mary? Had you ever been called favoured before, Mary? They are all called Mary, aren’t they? Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary from Magdala, That another Mary and Mary the mother of Jesus. So common a name. Almost as though when the Gospel writers couldn’t remember a woman’s name, they just automatically called her Mary. Like Jane Doe – Mary. So common – but yet now angelically deemed “favoured”. So, when the angel called you favoured, did you look to see if someone else was standing behind you?
The angel said to her “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God”.
You found favour with God? Why? Mary, we are not given a profile of all the things you did and the personality traits you demonstrated that made you favour-able. Maybe you made yourself into a girl which God could favour because you listened to your youth rabbi and lived the right lifestyle. But if the way God seems to favour prostitutes and tax collectors and adulterous kings over the smug, righteous and powerful is any indication, then I think it’s safe to assume that it is God’s nature to look upon insignificant young peasant girls with favour. Because God is just like that. At least that’s how we see God consistently acting. So, was your favourableness about God’s nature or your nature or both? I’ve always wondered that.
Angel: “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
What was that like for you? Hearing that you will conceive by the Holy Spirit. It’s always been like, one of God’s favourite stunts to pull off: violating our polite family values through the transgressive fecundity of God. Willing life where there is no life. Making a way where there is no way. Messing with all of us in the way that only true mercy can do. Elizabeth: barren and pregnant. Mary: common and favoured.
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
So beautiful. We try and domesticate you Mary like a trinket of docile, submissive womanhood but you are bolder than that, more defiant. Some try to hide from their calling (big name people like Moses, Jonah, Elisha) but you said, “Here I am. Sign me up.” Did you know what this word was going to mean for you?
And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for you, Lord, have looked with favour on your lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed.”
So, Mary, is that was being blessed looks like? We usually use that word a bit differently. Like, you’re so blessed to have that new boat. So, how exactly are you using that word? Did you feel blessed as your unwed belly grew under the gaze of disapproving others. Did you feel blessed when labouring amongst sheep and straw? Mary, common and favoured and from a nothing town…Did you feel blessed when your heart dropped realizing you left your 12-year-old in Jerusalem? At his arrest did you feel blessed. Did you feel blessed when they executed him? No one else was his mother. Just you. Blessed are you among women. Common and favoured. And blessed is the fruit of your womb: Jesus, God and Man. Maybe this is why Martin Luther said, “We hail Mary, Queen of Heaven, because in her we come to know that ours is the God who comes nearest to us in our brokenness.”
Gosh, Mary. There’s nothing like a song about upturning the whole social order to warm the heart.
So maybe that’s what God is up to here. Transgressing the boundaries of human society. Commerce City becomes Jerusalem. The favoured become common and the common become favoured. The barren is pregnant. The hungry filled. The rich, hungry. The proud levelled and the downtrodden lifted up until it’s all blurred past distinction.
The prophet Mary sings in the new inverted reality of God’s kingdom on earth and this is it’s fight song. It’s our song, people of God. And also, a song for all the other women whose children die at the hands of others, family violence, rape, genocide, poverty, negligence and abuse.
Mary sings of God’s dream for us…she sings the song of this God who entered so fully into the muck of human existence and upturned our expectations and religiosity enough to usher in a new reality. And this reality is that God became one of us so that we might become children of God.
Gregory of Nyssa writes, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.” You, all of you, all of us are also blessed and full of grace. So, may the God through whom nothing is impossible help us to be Marys…. carrying the gospel into this hurt and broken and beautiful world. May it be with you and I all according to God’s Word.
He looks for the one willing to try something new.
RESOURCES & ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: NADIA BOLZ WEBER
PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN WEBSITE