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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumption of Mary

I have a dear friend from "da Bronx" who claims he was born a 'lapsed Catholic'.

He once said, "Ya know, I gotta hand one thing to the Catlick's. Dey don't know for sure if Mary was the Muddah of God. They ASSUME it. An den, dey make a BIG FEAST to celebrate their assumption. Now," he explains as he finishes his favorite religious soliloquy, "dat's real class!"

Today is the "Feast of St. Mary" as it is known in The Anglican Church. The Roman Catholics call it "The Feast of the Assumption of Mary."

Lots of things are 'assumed' about Mary that make her bodily assumption into heaven an opportunity to shrug your shoulders and say, "Yeah, well, whatever."

That she was a young, unwed maiden, betrothed to a much older man, when an Angel told her that she was going to have God's baby.

And . . . not only did she accept this as truth and her fate, she actually sang "The Magnificat" as her response.

And . . . she was an actual virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.

And . . . she had no further pregnancies but this one Anointed Child, but that Jesus had sisters and brothers.

And . . .much is made of her "obedience" and "submission to the Will of God."

Holy Rome has presented for acceptance these 'scriptural facts' as matters of faith.

Of course, the Assumption of Mary can't be found anywhere in scripture.

I'm more concerned with these and other assumptions of Mary because, like it or not, believe it or not, they say something about all women.

The Status of Women. Something impossible. Something assumed.

To believe or have faith that Mary was carried off to heaven in her body after her death, like to believe or have faith in the culturally-based, religiously enforced gender stereotypes of women . . .

Well . . .

. . . you know what happens when you ass / u / me.

That is decidedly NOT, as my Bronx friend would say, a 'class act'.


Fran said...

I wish you could see my smile.

I loves me some Mary, but make no mistake, I have concerns about making too many assumptions!

Paul Powers said...

As you said, the Assumption of Mary is not mentioned in the bible, so belief in it is not necessary for salvation. On the other hand, it's a relatively inoffensive doctrine, so if individual Anglicans want to believe it, where's the harm.

Isn't the virgin birth basically an explanation of how the incarnation took place? There may be other explanations, and in my opinion, the important thing about the incarnation is that it took place. The same way that the important thing about the Lord's Supper is that when we take communion, we receive the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual and heavenly manner. The mechanics of it (transubstantiation, consubstantiation, pneumatic whatchmacallit) is best left to theologians with too much time on their hands. I don't think it's likely to be on a pop quiz come judgment day. Naturally, I could be mistaken.

One aspect of the virgin birth I find offensive is the teaching that the _birth_ itself of Jesus (not just his conception) did not result in a loss of virginity. What a hypertechnical, outdated definition of virginity!

As for her perpetual virginity, exactly how is that anybody's business?

But the worst thing about all of these doctrines is that they take away from Mary's wonderful humanity. My favorite part of the story of the wedding at Cana isn't the part about Jesus's changing water into wine. It's that little dialogue between Mary, who's dying to show her son off, and Jesus, who's rolling his eyes and saying, "Oh, Mother! Now really isn't the time or place." Unfortunately, most manuscripts leave out the following verse:

John 2:4b: "Then Mary gave him that look that said, 'So, Mr. High and Mighty, I give birth to you in a verkachte stable, and you can't do me one little favor?' And Jesus knew that he was sunk."

Lindy said...

There's truth in the myths. Not many facts. Lots of truth. I'll take the assumption and all the stories that go along with it.

People who dwell on the facts get what they deserve.

JimB said...

The real sin in the Assumption and its cousin, Perpetual Virginity, is the disfiguring of the person, a real, young, probably scared to death girl who was suddenly a mother. She is the woman worthy of our regard, not the china doll construct neatly fitted into European models of submissive femininity.

If Miriam was not all the stuff the Europeans have loaded on her, that is gain, not loss.