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Late last fall I realized that I really didn't like Mary. More specifically, I disliked Mary. And I had disliked Mary for quite some time. There was no apparent reason; the Lutheran tradition I had been raised in and chosen for myself was at worst indifferent to Mary, not hostile. But I was definitely verging on hostility.

The realization didn't occur in a vacuum. It came out of my housing arrangements. I was living in New York City at the time, in a brick building called by its inhabitants the Community of Christ in the City. It was populated then, as it had been since its inception about twenty years previously, by Christians of various traditions all engaged in some kind of church work. As part of our communal life, we said nightly evening prayer together, using the order of service found in the Lutheran Book of Worship. The last canticle we sang every night was the Magnificat, the hymn of praise that Mary sang when Gabriel announced to her that she would bear a son who would redeem Israel at last (Luke 1:46-55). I would guess that during the course of my stay in New York, I sang the Magnificat about 350 times. Let me just tell you, after that many times, the words start to sink in. Occasionally it would even run in my head unbidden, but I liked the tune, so it was okay.

After I'd sung this maybe a hundred times, a few important things dawned on me. The first thing, of course, was that I disliked Mary, which was followed quickly by the conviction that this was a totally unacceptable attitude. Next it dawned on me that Mary is theologically important, and fancying myself to be a budding theologian, I had to take that seriously. And third it dawned on me that Mary is the model for the Christian life. Doubtless there are millions, ...

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May 2005

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