Saturday, June 16, 2012
Who is Mary, Anyway?
I have been on a quest to understand the Blessed Virgin Mary. I felt compelled to research this because the concept absolutely dumbfounded me. When I become both fascinated and confused, I also tend to get a bit obsessed. At the moment, I'm reaching some clarity, so I thought I'd share a bit of the insights I have gained with you.
I come from a protestant background. More specifically, I grew up in a heavily fundamentalist climate, although my own parents were moderate Baptists. I attended youth group, choir and other activities. I remember a slide presentation I saw once in chapel. We were shown pictures from Mexico of statues of the Virgin Mary. The Baptist missionary from Mexico who led the presentation shared with us, with a very sad and sincere face, that there were no Christians in Mexico, because everyone worshiped these statues. I too, felt sad.
Later in life, I immersed myself in a New Age background. The Blessed Virgin Mary was presented to me as a “goddess.” However, at the same time, Jesus was presented to me as a “face” or “mask” of God, like many other masks and manifestations, such as Mohammed and Krishna and the Buddha. I was told, however, that humans could become gods and that Jesus was an example of one who achieved that goal, joining the pantheon of gods along with Zeus, Athena and others. So, the Blessed Virgin was said to be a goddess, but Jesus was not thought to be uniquely God, but one among many. I did not realize at that time how this type of thinking is equally skewed.
I tend to be an extremist. Everything I do tends toward the hard-core. So, I have swung to both far ends of the spiritual pendulum and many bizarre places in between. If Jesus is not a god among gods and Mary is not a goddess at all, where then is the truth? The answer is nothing most people would actually think of unless they read a lot of seemingly obscure medieval texts and depth theology. And why do that? Why the interest? In the process of becoming Catholic, I paid a lot of attention to people sharing with me about Mary. Mary was part of our curriculum. Still, I did not understand anything whatsoever about her. I knew what they said, but I didn't know if what they said made sense. But now it does.
What I learned throughout my study so far can be summarized this way: Mary surrendered all she is and all she does to God, for His glory. Because her soul "magnifies the Lord,” Mary has become, for many people, a means to see Jesus, who is the way. Mary reflects light from God so we can see Jesus, the Way.
Mary is not, as I was taught, as a Baptist, a false “way” to God, someone to whom only seriously misled people would pray to as the “way” to God, instead of Jesus. Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” and no one goes to Heaven except through Him, just as the gospels say. Once again, Mary is not “the way.” When I realized that, I knew with certainty that I was not committing idolatry to ask Mary to pray for me to grow closer to Christ.
Mary is a human being, as fully human as you and me. She is not a goddess in any way. Mary willingly serves as a feminine vessel that God moves through unimpeded and at full strength. She is not like us, who are limited to earth and constantly throwing obstacles of pride and ego in the way of God's will. Because she is a vessel, like a channel, prayers directed to Mary are directed immediately to God because that is Mary's main purpose for existing. I look at Mary as a way to view God through the perceptual lens of the feminine. I find this very helpful because I am a woman. Mary is a model of humble surrender for men and for women, but it is easier for me to follow her example than that of Jesus, because she is female, like me.
I've been going to the meeting/retreat days for the secular carmelites, because I am an aspirant for the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Last Saturday, I sang some new hymns I had not heard before. One of them was, “Mary the Dawn.” Some of the words of that prayer are “Mary the gate, Christ the heavenly way.” As I hear those words, I imagine a path with an open gate, and that is Mary, always open to God. She is our example and a way of finding the way. She is viewed as a beacon light over the ocean in the hymn “Ave Maris Stella,” or “Mary, Star of the Sea.” She is a beacon, a light to move towards as we seek to reach Christ.
Mary is in no way the “way to the way,” as this would be ridiculous. Her parents would be the “way to the way to the way” and so on, infinitum. Mary is instead an optional way to contemplate and receive God's way. St. Louis de Montfort is an expert in explaining the many benefits of following the way of Jesus with Mary's help. In fact, he believes Mary's intervention is the best way to worship Christ. I'm leaning towards that point of view and as I read, the depth and dimensionality of Mary's relationship to Jesus is awe-inspiring to contemplate. Today, the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I am beginning a process of preparing for consecration to Jesus, through Mary. If this is idolatry, so is going to Jesus through listening to your minister. After all, just as God can enter your heart through the words of your minister, God chose to enter the world through Mary.
Mary is content to be a human forever, and one through whom our Lord may pass without obstruction, and through perfect expression. None of us are going to become gods, ever. We are born to be creatures forever. We can become perfect and glorified creatures, like Mary and the saints, but only God is God. I know that might sound like a drag to some of you, and it sounded like a drag to Lucifer too, so he is working hard to become a “god” and to encourage others to do so too. Jesus is the only God who has ever or will ever walk the earth. If a person is a member of another religion and they experience Jesus' love without knowing or realizing his name, that is the same thing as going through Jesus as the way, and they can be saved and reach heaven. However, the other gods they pray to (although they do not know they are false gods) are not God.
In all ways, Mary magnifies the Lord. I hope one day, my soul will magnify the Lord, so that people will see the way to Christ through me. Amen.
I've only been Catholic for two months now, so if my catechism is off, let me know either here or by email. Thanks!