Sunday, July 29, 2012

She's Not Scary, She's Mary! Part 2

Mary & Tradition
If one looks at the writings known as the Gospel of the Birth of Mary or the Protoevangelion, the concept of “Ad Jesum per Mariam” actually begins to make sense. While these non-cannonical books were once read in the early church, they aren't recognized as authoritative. It may be that an author or date of writing is disputed or that some events can't be corroborated with known historical fact. Since this criteria doesn't rule out these works as complete fiction, the following is considered along the lines of “tradition”. The basic story goes that Mary was born to a barren woman named Anna (who was from Bethlehem). Mary's birth was announced by an angel who remained nameless in both accounts. As their thanks to God, Anna & her husband Joachim (who hailed from Nazareth) vowed to dedicate the child to serve in the Temple (which was, of course, in Jerusalem). Only the Gospel of the Birth of Mary mentions she was of David's lineage. After Mary was weaned in Nazareth, her parents kept their promise & brought her to Jerusalem. Mary lived a sheltered life & was taught the things of God as she grew up in the temple. When she was 14, the high priest decided to marry off all the virgins. But Mary was the only one who had made a vow to remain a consecrated virgin all her life. The high priest, confounded, consulted God & through a series of events, Joseph entered the picture. He was old & put up a stink about the whole matter. Everyone would laugh at him & call him a cradle robber! The idea was ridiculous. Eventually he agreed to the betrothal & made up his mind not to touch her. He went back to Bethlehem to get his affairs in order & when he returned to retrieve Mary some time later, he discovered she was with child. The rest we know from scripture- he wanted to divorce her quietly out of respect for her, but an angel appeared to him too, assuring him all was as it should be.

What If?
Ok, so let's say Mary was born to a barren woman... that she was conceived without sin... What does that mean? I read somewhere that since humanity was corrupted in the fall, the sex act was also corrupted & all are born into corruption, unto corruption by that act. Sin was not present in Mary's case because she did not conceive by the corrupted seed of a man, but by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Christ was born the Sinless Lamb. Was the same true in the case of Mary's parents? Neither writings mention Joachim sleeping with Anna, (whereas scripture specifically tells us Abraham slept with Sarah to beget Isaac & Elkanah slept with Hannah to beget Samuel)... From the Catholic perspective, only Mary & Jesus are said to be conceived without sin. Of course, there's that old standby in Romans 3 that says “...all have sinned (excluding Jesus of course) & fallen short of the grace of God.”. How does Mary fit in here? Surely, as a human being, she was not exempt! Why not? What if she was? She was called “Mary, full of grace” by the angel Gabriel for a reason... No one else in the Bible was greeted like that. What does that mean, if grace is a gift of God? Can we say God can't give fullness of grace to one & leave another wanting? The angel acknowledged her as full, that is, not lacking anything. Was it by any virtue she had attained herself? Not likely. We are still all saved by grace & this is not of ourselves, but its a gift of God... If she had been conceived without sin, this was a tremendous gift! Who am I to say God couldn't do such a thing? God can do as He pleases.
When she became mother of Jesus, even though she was a virgin without sin, Mary went to the temple to offer gifts & sacrifices to God at the appointed time. Was this a subtle betrayal of what Catholics have come to believe about her? Or could it have been more an act of humility- like Jesus, Who had no need of baptism but was baptised anyway, Who rendered to Caesar what was Caesar's even though His Father owned the cattle on a thousand hills, Who donned the servant's towel to wash the feet of His disciples & offered Him own body on the cross?

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