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I think that many 20th Century Christians, particularly Protestants, were not formed with the same devotion to Mary as were our Catholic and earlier Christian forbears. The cultural times seemed not to know how to deal with her, even while beginning to raise up other women in the Bible. Maybe it was the conception thing; not wanting to go full on mystical, but also not wanting to endorse pre-marital sex as the alternate explanation. My husband’s father, when pressed by the oldest sister about a story in the newspaper which mentioned Mary’s virginity, only managed to stutter, “I don’t know. Ask your mother. It’s a… it must be a misprint.” At least she had the nerve to inquire. I didn’t. For me, she and Joseph were of equal importance in the narrative of my early formation. And they were little more than bit players, “just” the human deliverers of Baby Jesus.
In recent years, however, Mary seems to have become more and more real to a lot of Christians, and I too, have come to ponder Mary much in my heart, perhaps more so since I became a mother. Her humanness in the biblical accounts and this hymn demystify her somehow, even with the other side of the dialogue being a talking angel, whose message “troubled her to hear”. I think we can identify with her because of her doubt and because of her hope.
When Jesus was born and growing up, surely Mary looked for her family’s traits; perhaps in the shape of Jesus’ nose or his voice, or maybe in his intelligence or interests. And she must also have been looking for God.
Mary bore a child and loved him into the world without knowing exactly what the angel meant by “God’s offspring.”And I wonder; at what point did she know that the angel was right when he said, “your child will be God’s child.” Was it at birth? Was it when he started to talk? Was it when he tested her patience? Was it when he turned water into wine? Was it when he died on the cross?
When do we recognize God in our children or the children of others? When do we see God in ourselves, or the reverse?
Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray to look at strangers, at my friends and family, in the mirror, at the stars, at a memory – and see them as Mary must have gazed upon you and seen God of all creation. Amen.