New Year’s Day is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the World Day of Prayer for Peace. It’s a good way to begin the secular year. Each year gives us new reasons for peace keeping resolutions and peaceful solutions to the hatred, violence, and divisions that continue to plague our world. One week ago we celebrated the coming of the Prince of Peace. Today, we pray that peace will be a reality.
Trying to condense the many dimensions of Mary into a small blog post is impossible. Her numerous titles are portrayed in a diversity of images. I was raised with the statues of Mary, meek and mild. Dressed in virginal white and draped with a blue veil, head tilted demurely, hands posed prayerfully; she epitomized the humble and obedient handmaiden. She was promoted as the model for all women.
Recent Mariology has looked more closely into the Mary of scripture. This Mary is a woman of her time – a faithful and faith filled Jewish woman. She prayed and pondered. Responding to the call to bear God’s son, she became the first disciple. She traveled a difficult journey to be present to Elizabeth in her time of birthing. She denounced the injustices and inequalities of her world in that most powerful of social justice prayers, the Magnificat. She struggled to understand the incomprehensible, while trusting in the will of God. She recognized the need of a young married couple in Cana, and nudged those around her to look to her son to help respond to their need. She suffered, yet remained standing at the foot of the cross while her son hung dying the death of a common criminal. She gathered in prayer with his friends and disciples in those fearful days before Pentecost and was there when the Holy Spirit filled all who were present.
This is not a woman, meek and mild. This is a woman who seeks justice and equality. This is a woman who is present to the person and to the moment, who sees a need and responds. This is a woman who realizes the depth of mystery in her life, and places her trust in God. It is not a blind trust, but a faith grounded in prayer and pondering. And, it is in the prayer and pondering that she develops a heart that is open to the working of the Holy Spirit – a God of surprises.
This Mary is not exclusively for women. This Mary is for all who seek to respond to God’s call in the here and now.