The Serene Contradiction of the Mother of Jesus

Why I reclaimed the virgin mother as a significant figure in my faith

In Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary (Westminster John Knox Press), editors Beverly Roberts Gaventa and Cynthia L. Rigby argue that other than at Christmastime many denominations have forgotten Mary theologically, liturgically, and devotionally. They write: "The time has come for Protestants to join in the blessing of Mary."

Author Kathleen Norris already has. In the foreword for Blessed One, Norris writes about how she came to encounter the Mary of the scriptures and what the mystery of Jesus' mother can show all Christians.

Norris' books include: The Virgin of Bennington, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, and three collections of poetry.

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A friend who had spent a sabbatical working with refugees in Southeast Asia once sent me a homemade Christmas card that put the more colorful cards to shame; it consisted of a black-and-white snapshot of a Cambodian mother holding her infant in her arms.

What struck me most was the youth of the mother and the fact that this unposed photograph was instantly recognizable as a madonna and child. The mother beholding the child, in love and wonder. I don't think it matters what breed of Christian my friend is—he is, in fact, a Roman Catholic bishop—but what is significant is that he "got" Mary.

In silence, the photograph spoke powerfully about Mary as a presence in our world, a constant reminder that in the incarnation the omnipotent God chose to take on human vulnerability. And a vulnerability of the most extreme sort, a child born not to wealth and power but to an impoverished peasant woman and her uneasy husband in the rural backwater of a small, troubled, colonized country.

I think that many Protestants, if they think about Mary ...

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