Thursday, August 15, 2013

Never Assume...

Today is the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Lady Mary, Mother of Jesus, if your personal piety or religious tradition observes it. Those who observe it call it the most important of the Marian feasts.

Jesus' ascension is modeled after the story of Elijah being taken into the heavens/eternity (without dying) by a whirlwind (althought Jesus was executed and it was his resurrected presence that was said to ascend).

The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox traditions have continued the story telling tradition Ascension by applying the same phenomenon to Mary. The Eastern church doesn't have a dogma about Mary not dying first, but in 1950, Pope Pius (speaking ex cathedra, and thus relying on papal infallibility, a doctrine only from the 19th century) dogmatically defined the Assumption of Mary declaring her to have been taken into heaven (bodily) without dying.

There isn't much about Mary in the bible (there is actually more about her in the Qu'ran).

Some value Mary as a co-Redemptrix, Queen of Heaven (a title held by the Egyptian goddess Isis as well), spiritual mother of all people (based on the story of Jesus telling his beloved friend that Mary would now be his mother). For those who have a "high" Mariology (a devotion to and detailed mythology about Mary), she shares in the work of Redemption, and may even represent the divine Feminine.

For others, Mary was a European looking figure stitched on banners of armies coming to conquer peoples of the Americas. For them, Mary is not so much divine figure as a symbol of colonialism, European imperialism, and the decimation of native cultures.

For some feminists, Mary (as presented by the male dominated hierachy of the Christian Ecclessiastical institutions) represents the silencing and control of women. An instituion that will not ordain women or allow them control over their own bodies or sexuality elevate a woman to almost divine status...a women, just one; and that one woman is a perpetual virgin who said "yes" to her impregnation that had already happened without her consent. The one woman worthy of adoration in the misogynistic church tradition is a woman who does as she is told and never has sexual urges, feelings, or needs. That, they argue, is not a realistic picture of flesh and blood women nor is it an empowering image for women.

For most Protestants, Mary is simply a rural peasant girl who had a baby who grew up to be a remarkable person, a teacher and healer, and lasting figure on the human imagination for millennia. Even if they have a high Christology (belief in Jesus as a redeemer of the world and somehow uniquely God-filled), they usually do not have a similarly high Mariology.

But then Dr Doreen Virtue puts a New Age spin on the "Beloved Mother." She suggests that Mary might have taken baby Jesus to live among the Essenes for a while where they both learned mysticism. She sees Mary as a nurturing, protecting figure for children. She believes those who claim to have vision sof Mary are experiencing something truly supernatural reminding us that miracles are possible. And she says that she personally asks the Blessed Lady for help from time to time.

Whatever we believe about Mary, it might be useful to look at the various ideas about her and let those ideas fire up our imaginations and help seek a more mature, life-giving faith, regardless of what part Mary may play in that.

On this feast of the Assumption, let's not make the assumption that there aren't new ways to look at it :-)


No comments: