Is she the model of female submission? The victim of unwanted impregnation? Is she too young to marry and bear a child, or just the right age for her time and place? Is she quiet and shy, head bent down, eyes gazing at the floor?
Or is she a warrior, a Rosie-the-Riveter, the woman who not only said yes but also said let’s topple the patriarchy? Is she the one who turned surprising news into a power play?
Is she the faithful servant? Is she a good-enough mother?
Oy, Mary. Oy.
True confession: in the first few weeks after I gave birth, I found myself praying to Mary. I was pretty sure that God the Father and God the Son and that merry, floating, fire-y Holy Spirit could not begin to understand hemorrhoids, c-section scars, engorged breasts, and the complete feeling of inadequacy and terror, even with all the Godhead had learned during the Incarnation. So I sent a few up to the BVM. Because she knew. She had been there, and on a donkey, no less, in some small, non-private smelly place with animals, away from family, donut cushions, and Tylenol.
This week in worship our choir is presenting five songs about Mary and while I’m off the hook for a sermon, I do find myself wondering about Mary again. The Magnificat could be posted on Pantsuit Nation and get 10,000 likes. The role of women in Christianity could be looked at anew – are we simply to say yes to the church, yes that’s our role in the kitchen and the nursery, yes we’ll let the men do all the heavy lifting of teaching and preaching? Or do we look to Mary and say, hey, we’re called to topple thrones and send the rich away hungry? We’ll be in the kitchen and the pulpit, thank you very much.
Mary fades from the story as it goes on; it is Jesus’ story, after all. Maybe the tune of the Magnificat faded too, and people forgot the melody. Maybe we lost sight of what a revolutionary Mary was. Maybe we need to reclaim that, for the church, for Pantsuit Nation, for our daughters, for our sons. For our world.
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
May it be so. Amen.