Advent ABC: Mary

shallow focus photography of religious figurines
Photo by Jessica Lewis on

…Mother of Christ, Mother of God, loved and revered. Wherever you fall theologically on several millenia of marian devotion, that she played a key part in the great mystery of the incarnation can’t be denied.

For me, a shift in my perception of Mary came whilst I was making the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. 

As a retreatant, I was invited to immerse myself in the gospels; to put myself into the story, journey with Christ and his family through birth, childhood and adult life. Where it came alive for me was in those infancy narratives: birth, flight to Egypt, the hidden parts of Christ’s early life and especially in the interactions with Mary.

As the mother of two children of my own, we found ourselves becoming friends almost, as over the years in my imagination I dropped in to visit, and shared the hopes and fears that all parents have: the celebrations,  struggles, and those  dark  times when we wonder what will become of our growing child, stroppy teenager and passionate young adult.

At times Mary sighed, remembering the words of the angel as she looked at her son, noticing the far-away look in his eyes and wondered what lay ahead for them all in the future. Who hasn’t lain awake in the wee small hours worrying about their offspring? Or who will always remember the  poignancy of a moment when you look over at your child and get a sudden premonition of  how they will be as an adult!

It was this  sense of a shared  humanity  that attracted me, bringing Mary out of her place in so many holy pictures and sculptures into the present.

I saw   her in the young girl with her baby in a coffee shop in town for instance; painfully young, too young perhaps, down at heel and struggling to live from day to day. This reality  shows  uncompromisingly yet so beautifully in Rachel Mann’s dramatisations of the Annunciation, from the viewpoint of , the angel,  Mary and of Elisabeth. in A Star-Filled Grace.

Mary holds a knife in   her hand for self defence. She keeps the angel waiting for a response, but when she makes her answer “…that I knew I’d regret” we know that in that instant she has moved from childhood to womanhood. She knows the score all right. That  knowledge is to shape the rest of her life.

For today I’ll leave you with another favourite of mine from Graham Kendrick’s Rumours of AngelsThorns in the Straw. The nativity seen from Mary’s viewpoint; it never fails to bring a tear to my eye. It captures  so much of what I’ve been trying to say.

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