Show thyself to be a mother…

I’m never sure what to make of Mary. On the one hand, there’s a lot of supersition surrounding her that’s used to reinforce potentially hurtful gender roles, but those are every bit the misrepresentation of her. They ignore the woman who laughed at an angel and got her son off his backside at the wedding in Cana. They also forget the woman of strength, a refugee in Egypt, and the mother who watched her son die in a way unimaginable to the modern person. But there’s also Mary the contemplative, who pondered all that happened to her in her heart.

I’m also not sure what to make of her influence. I wrote her off as superstition, only to come figuratively crashing into her at New Melleray Abbey, where she (among Trappists) is revered as the ideal contemplative. And then the weird coincidences began.

Stuff for a later entry, but my discovery of my vocation as a composer wasn’t an easy time. It was frought with uncertainty, doubt, and outright terror. I was alone, and there wasn’t anyone to guide me, in the way that I would find in grad school. One winter–in February–my senior year, I was walking home from the music building, wondering what the future would hold, and I smelled roses. It was nothing overpowering, but on the periphery of a scent. Maybe it was someone’s perfume, maybe it wasn’t. But that evening was a turning point, and I knew things were going to work out. (I got my acceptance letter for my Master’s at the end of that month.)

My first piece was performed on May 1, a day associated with Mary. To date, every time I have a piece performed, it’s on a Marian feast or within a day or two. Maybe it’s just coincidence, since they’re spread throughout the calendar.

So at the end of my Master’s, I’d sent off my applications to various doctorate programs. And an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe came to my parish out there. I hadn’t thought about of that particular instance of Mary, so I went, for the party after, if nothing else. While there, I was confronted with the image of a person who loves unconditionally. Her face wasn’t the aristocratic images I’d seen in children’s prayer books, but the face of one who knew both joy and sorrow; and, more importantly, shares in our joys and sorrows. At yet another turning point in my life, she was there. (And within a month or two, I’d gotten my acceptance letter at my current school.)

I’m hardly one who takes apparitions and Virgin Marys in moldy grilled cheese sandwiches seriously. I think these say more about the people who see them, than anything else. A part of me thinks that these representations are us wanting to reach out to some tangible form of a benevolent entity, when fear and uncertanty are overwhelming. It’s both a desire for comfort, and the reassurance of one who’s “been there.”

That having been said, it’s nice to know that there’s someone out there, who tends our metaphysical skinned knees.


~ by Jen on June 25, 2006.

2 Responses to “Show thyself to be a mother…”

  1. Interesting post this. I’m not sure Mary did laugh at the angel – but she certainly questioned him (how will this happen = are you sure!) Jesus is often painted as emotionless. He wasn’t. Neither was his mum!But my theology hasn’t got much space for Mary – other than as one of us – part of the body of Christ – doing her bit for God, as best she could.

  2. I thought it was in the Annunciation story because Fr. D. did a homily comparing her to Abraham…Hm, not finding it at the moment…If I can get him to remember which homily it was, I can look up the readings from that day.Mary as person doing her bit in the Body of Christ isn’t far off from the RCC version of her, either. (Since we’re all called to sainthood, that is.) I knew a chaplain at Augustana who’d greet everyone with, “Hiya, saint!”

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