Sunday, December 23, 2012

How Mary Gets the Shaft.


The Mother of Jesus.

I grew up Protestant and I always thought all of my Catholic friends were incredibly odd for praying to the Holy Mother.  And I had a lot of Catholic friends.  In sixth grade at my middle school they used to let the Catholic kids out early for CCD.  Out of a class of twenty-five, there were only two of us who didn't qualify for early release.

I used to feel left out... but I was told by those around me that Catholics had issues, and I should be glad not to be one of them.

Now this isn't going to be some post to bash all the Catholics in my life.  Quite the contrary, so stay with me.

The Protestant circles explained that Catholics pray to statues, especially statues of Mary.  That they have saints for things.  That they don't feel they can go to God directly with their prayers.

I have since learned that this is nonsense.  Catholics have statues, but they don't pray to them, they just appreciate them as artistic symbols.  Catholics do pray to saints, but they ask saints to pray for them, because we believe as Christians that those of us who are believers have eternal life, right?  So it's just the same as asking Mom to pray for us, or a close friend, or our pastor.  And Mary.

If you're going to ask someone to pray for you, what better choice could there possibly be than Mary?  Who could be closer to YHWH than the woman He chose to bear His Son?

All that being said...I don't ask Mary to pray for me.  I don't pray to Mary.  But I wanted to write this post about how I've felt about Mary for the last few years, and how I feel about her at this particular season of the year especially.

Mary is the Mother of Jesus - but I can't help picturing her before all that, and comparing that young girl to me at the very same age.

Mary was about thirteen when all of this went down.

When I was thirteen I was in eighth grade.  I got my period at a reading team competition (yes, I am a nerd, and I admit this proudly - I was the team captain).  I wore enormous dorky glasses.  I was incredibly unpopular.  I could name zero boys who were interested.  I had not yet figured out that half a bottle of hairspray in my bangs was unattractive.  I was a ridiculous mess of a person.  I contemplated suicide.  I looked in the mirror and saw a girl that I felt no one else would ever see - the girl behind the glasses and the retainer and the hair spray and the poor attempts at just about everything.

I can't imagine someone telling me I was going to have a baby.  I probably would have gone and drowned myself somewhere.  I would have been utterly rejected by everyone around me.  I would have been kicked out of my house.  I would have lost everything - and there is no way, even in my wildest fantasies, that I would believe any boy would want me now.

And so I think on Mary - who was "of age" to marry since she's had her first cycle and all, and who was betrothed to Joseph, and I think about that angel's visit and what it must have meant to her and for her and how she is possibly the bravest person on the face of the planet.  And how she only got stronger.

Motherhood takes it's toll.  It brings us back to earth.  It slays us with Reality.  It rips out our guts and our hearts and it is beautiful and difficult and more than I could ever describe.

How Mary must have felt as her Child grew.  And how she Knew.

There are things about our children that as moms we don't know.

We don't know who our children will be.

We don't know how they will grow or if they will be more like us or their fathers or if they will get a "good job" or go to college or skip it altogether or fall in love with the "right" person or if we will outlive them.

Outliving them is a thing we dare not think.  Outliving them is not an option.  Outliving them is the worst pain we can dream.  The worst pain we can dare to imagine.

And yet...  Mary knew.

Mary knew that she would raise this child to die.  Mary knew that she would have to go through that pain - pain to bring the Messiah into the world.  Pain while he left it.

What were her hopes?  What did she dare to dream?

Mary who loved The Son of God more than any of us can understand.  His Mother.

I can picture her standing at the foot of the cross.  She wraps her shawl tighter around her face.  The tears fall freely and she does not wipe them away.  She knew the day would come but this...this is more than she could ever bear or ever hope to understand.  Her husband is dead.  The sky is dark.  There is a streak of lightening.

I hope that I will never have to stand where Mary stood: watching my child die before my eyes.  Watching him suffer and shake and bleed.  I pray in the depths of my soul for those women who have to experience this very heart-wrenching thing.

But I expect they also ought to know they are in good company.

So I can't really blame Catholicism.  I can't blame women for wanting this particular shoulder to cry on.  These arms to hold them.  This ear to whisper their deepest fears and their hardest prayers - because, Ladies, she's been there.

She held out her arms when He was learning to walk and she kissed His bruises and scrapes and she encouraged and scolded and sat Him on her lap when he cried...

She was the real thing.  A Real Mom.

And so our scriptures gloss over Mary.

And so we don't talk about her much because of the fear of worshiping her as a goddess (which she isn't).  And we shun those who pray prayers to her and we looked askance at a rosary and we scoff at the Gnostic gospels...

But should we?  Should we give Mary the shaft in our theology?  Should we gloss over and push aside and forget Who She Was as we struggle to embrace our own identities as women and mothers?

I say no, Ladies.  I say.  No.

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