To think about Mary is to raise our hearts and minds to the contemplation of God. From the beginning (Genesis 3:15) to the end (Revelation 12:1) of the Holy Bible, a woman, possibly Mary, is present. Let’s look at these passages and ask the question, do these passages help us to raise our hearts and minds to the contemplation of God?
Genesis 3:15 “I will put enemies between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head and thou shall lie in wait for her heel.”
Is the woman represented in this passage Mary? If you are familiar with Marian statues, found in Catholic churches, Mary is shown standing on the head of a serpent. The sight is one of conflict and pain, without any immediate resolution. We should, if we look carefully, see this sadness carved on the face of Mary. However, this cannot be the whole story! What about faith? For me, this reflection makes me think about time, a part of the created order, an order it is necessary to understand. We can read Contra Gentiles: Creation, written by St Thomas. If we do not properly understand the created order, how can we think about faith? We must understand our present situation, in Lent, approaching Holy Week. We can give our problems and troubles to Mary, who will give them to Jesus. We do not know who approached Mary at the wedding feast of Cana. However, we do know that she gave the problem to Jesus, who, even though it was not His time, resolved the problem for all concerned.
Revelation 12:1 “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Whilst this image is less familiar than the one looked at above, it is used as a Marian image in Catholic iconography. What are we to make of this story? One idea I read into this image, is of a person who has complete mastery over the whole created order; more especially, in this image, the natural sources of light: sun, moon and stars, which are used as adornments, like jewels worn by a Queen. The idea of a ‘powerful’ Queen is an image of Mary which needs to be unpacked. We need to understand in what sense Mary is ‘powerful’. If we are thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, we are not talking about power in the worldly sense, of a force that cannot be opposed. If not this, then what? More appropriate, for Mary, might be mastery of the cardinal virtues, those virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, which can open the heart. In this I am reminded of two passages, both from the Gospel of Luke. The first of these is Luke 1:46-55, the Magnificat. It is not her own virtue that is praised but God’s, the way God cares for all people, especially those He has chosen. The second is Luke 2:34-35, the prophecy of Simeon, where he tells Mary that a sword shall pierce her own soul, so that the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed. The passage is often interpreted as a foretelling of Mary’s ‘agony’, as she stands watching her son, Jesus, die on the cross. A debate in the early church, about how to represent Mary at the cross, considered if Mary should be portrayed giving an emotional response, or if her faith would preclude such a display? Which do you think best raises our hearts and minds to a contemplation of God?
Karol Grobicki (North West)