Monday, December 21, 2009

"But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be."

Tiffany's weekly email Saturday night included:
This week at CWM we will hold a quiet meditative service focusing on the Magnificat, Mary's song of joy.

Please stay safe during the impending storm. While we will have services at CWM, we encourage you to stay warm and safe.
There were ultimately 7 of us gathered (including the pastor).

We did a group conversation Reflection like we've been doing in Advent Bible Study.  The Scripture was Luke 1:26-56.

We talked about the issue of whether Mary consents.  We talked about how even if it was a rape (either the Divine acting without Mary's consent or Mary being raped and inventing this story as a cover), something so redemptive comes out of that (which doesn't deny the horror of that, but also speaks to the transformative power of love).  I said that I am so invested in my idea of a benevolent God that I have to see her as having consented -- that if she had said no, Gabriel would have chosen someone else, and that I see in Mary a modeling of radical openness to God, an affirmation that even when things seem so strange and frightening we can trust God.

We talked about how Mary is really prophetic in the Magnificat and how that subverts the traditional ideas of her as meek and submissive.  We talked about how in opposition to the Fall narrative which blames Eve, all of this redemption starts with women (Elizabeth, Mary).  Carolyn cited the "he abhors not the Virgin's womb" line (from "O Come, All Ye Faithful") and talked about how that really resonated for her about pushing back against the idea that women's bodies are bad and cause people to sin and etc.; Marla countered that it feels to her like setting apart virgin!Mary as special and different from all other women (thus reifying the trope that female bodies are bad/sinful).  We talked about the question of whether people believed Mary's story (Carolyn said, "I bet her best friend believed her," and Marla said, "I'm not sure I would believe my best friend if she told me that story").  We talked about how Mary stays three months at Elizabeth's and so she comes home great with child and doesn't that make her story look even more discreditable and why does Joseph believe her -- I said, "Matthew sends him an angel," but of course we were in the Luke story.

We talked about how the Magnificat comes after Mary has gone to see Elizabeth and after Elizabeth has rejoiced and affirmed her.  (At the end, Tiffany asked us what we would take with us from this for the coming week, and I said for me I would take that with me, that reminder that within the beloved community we can find love and joy even in the midst of events that are so scary and confusing.)  We talked about the possibility that Mary hadn't really accepted it until she talked to Elizabeth, and my tellings-and-retellings self suggested that maybe she went to this hill country town to abort the baby (maybe she had just been placating the angel ... how does one know if an angel is truly from God anyway?) and changed her mind after seeing Elizabeth.

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