Monday, November 28, 2011

A Marian Mission

I transferred my previous articles about the Virgin Mary here from my other blog, so as not to leave any gaps in the continuance of my covering of this subject. Today my mind posed this question: Is it my mission to bring Mary to the Protestants? I think the prompting of this question came from a re-reading I did last night of journal entries I wrote in 2008, three years ago. As far as I was consciously aware, my intense interest in Mary did not begin until this past September; however, the seeds were apparently planted at least three years ago!

In my journal I wrote, "Having grown up Protestant rather than Catholic, I didn't even have Mary to stand in as the Divine Feminine." In hindsight I understand that I was "missing Mary" without even realizing where the hole in my religious spirituality was coming from. I had, however, found someone to fill the gap. At a vegetarian restaurant years ago in Columbus, I came across a book about Kuan Yin, the Chinese "goddess" of compassion. I was intrigued, as I had studied a lot of mythology and thought I was aware of all the major goddess traditions. My journal recounts my experience: "Eventually I met Kuan Yin, and she has been for me the focus of my study of the Divine Feminine, which for me has been a study of the depths of compassion. Kuan Yin is 'the one who hears all the cries of the world.' She is a savioress, protector, and a warrior. She seems to combine the many faces of the goddess into one."

"I don't think of Kuan Yin as actually existing in a physical form, although one of her legends tells of her being the maiden Miao Shan in her earthly life. She is a bodhisattva who delays entrance into Nirvana until she can bring all the souls of the world with her. I see parallels between her story and that of Jesus." This is not the only parallel I see today. Consider the Salve Regina prayer: Hail, holy Queen, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee we lift our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and, after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Oh clement, oh pious, oh sweet Virgin Mary! Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Now, I had read in my studies of Kuan Yin that there were parallels to Mary, and that in fact Kuan Yin took on the look of Mary via white statues, holding an infant. I did not like this comparison. Subconsciously, I had been trained not to like Mary. Catholics prayed to Mary, which was not right, as she was only human. My journal continues: "Kuan Yin is important to me as a focus for meditation. She helps me to embody peace, strength, and compassion. I'm not sure exactly how to incorporate her into my idea of the Mother God, except as an archetypal representation of the Divine Feminine. She helps me to invoke that energy."

For some perspective on this, I should mention that I regularly attended the Unity Church of Christianity, which referred to "Father-Mother God" in prayer. I liked the Unity church but found that it seemed to have an exclusively metaphysical interpretation of the Bible, which for me was missing something vital. Still, the acknowledgment of the feminine face of God was comforting. Yet I was obviously having trouble conceptualizing how the "Mother God" fit in to my understanding of the Trinity and the form of Christianity I grew up with. Kuan Yin allowed me to meditate on the sacred feminine, but how did she fit in with Jesus? Clearly, Kuan Yin is Mary. Mary made her way even into the hearts of Buddhists as Kuan Yin, who is easily the most popular deity in the highly patriarchal country of China. She is equally revered as Kannon in Japan. So what is going on? Mary is the ecumenical bridge between all people of faith.

So in answer to my own question, do I want to remain Protestant and help return to them their lost Mother of God? I just received a book from the library today called Blessed One: Protestant Perspectives on Mary. I'm going to start there. I am also reading a book called Maria-Sophia: A Holistic Vision of Creation. The ideas in this book reflect a more Eastern Orthodox perspective of Mary and her relationship to Sophia, the Holy Wisdom of the Bible. Can I bring what makes most sense to me from the Catholic and Orthodox traditions surrounding the Virgin Mary and show her to be instrumental to the faith of all Christians, including Protestants, as well as to the healing of the wounds of this lost world? That, it appears, is my task, and a mighty one it is.

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