Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hail Mary! The bravest of us all

This post is going to be about memory, imagination, and perception.   Frankly, I'm going to exaggerate a bit and some of it may be flat out made up.   Specifically, my family's reaction to the Episcopal Church's anglo catholic leanings.  I am, however, going to write it anyway.  I'm pretty sure a lot of this took place only in my head.

When I was a little kid my family didn't go to church.  Well, we went to church sometimes, but it was usually for a wedding or a funeral.  I remember one time we went to Emmanuel Baptist Church here in Enid, presumably because my aunt was a member.   I got lost trying to find my sunday school class.  Then they had everybody who wasn't a member stand up. My entire family hated that.  The final straw was when the ladies in the sunday school started bad mouthing Roseanne to my mother.   Roseanne Barr is awesome and that sitcom was wonderful.  They didn't like it.  They didn't like the Simpsons either---which is frankly un-American as far as I'm concerned.

My grandmothers on both sides were Baptists.  My grandma Terrell's church was okay.  It was small and the people were nice.   I was still really embarrassed about not having a church home so I lied my ass off about it in Sunday school.   The one time I went with her marked my second time in Sunday school as an actual child.   My older brother gave me a bible and between that and a door to door pamphlet distributor I had a conversion experience.   The next several years were spent churchless---my parents would not take me because mom does not do mornings.  Friday nights marked my only contact with other christians---a little teen center operated by some non-denominational pentecostal types.   At 15, my friend Christina, AKA Tater, informed me that if I didn't show up at St. Matthew's on my own she was going to pick me up in my pajamas.  She's a big enough bitch to do it so I went.  My first Sunday there happened to coincide with the bishop's visit.   His miter freaked me out.  I didn't know anything about Catholics except that my friend's family was Catholic and there were a little weird, and so were our neighbors and I swear I love them too but I thought they were REALLY WEIRD.  Enter the non-denominational types and the things they said, like they worshiped statues and Mary the Mother of Jesus....

His miter freaked me out.  He was really elderly, I don't remember what he preached about at all, and he was carrying around his shepherd's crook and looking terribly creepy to an unchurched 15 year old who came from a vaguely anti-catholic background.   Tater got me in the church though, and after my second Sunday I was hooked.   I went back to the little teen center and one of the adult sponsors told me I'd wandered into a catholic church.  Little c--but close enough as far as he was concerned.  I told him they were christians and it was a nice church and I liked it there---and I didn't believe we were catholic.

I was totally 120% wrong about that, but I digress.   There is a madonna and child wood carving in our nave as you go in with candles underneath it.   The candles, I was told, are another sign of catholicism and Mary worshiping.   I had a tenuous relationship with this woman.   She was one of the things I was supposed to be afraid of, but she looked more like a nice lady with a baby than someone who inspired idolatry the world over.  

I remember barely hearing the Christmas story when I was a teenager.  I had heard it all my life---on the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  I didn't pay attention.  When I was in college and fast developing into the fabulous anglo-catholic nut I am today I started paying attention.   We prayed evening prayer every Sunday night.   One of the canticles we used consistently was the Magnificat:
The Song of Mary    Magnificat 
Luke 1:46-55 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *     for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *

    the Almighty has done great things for me,     and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him *     in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, *     he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *     and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, *     and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *     for he has remembered his promise of mercy, The promise he made to our fathers, *     to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *

    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.  
It was then that I noticed that God's mom was not a conservative.   She was a mighty girl, a mighty woman, who was interested in social justice.  She was talking about casting down mighty people from their thrones and scattering the proud and filling the hungry with good things---and holy crap---she was more left wing than I was/am.  She was, in a word, awesome.

I think Jesus got the crazy from her side of the family.   I got a hold of a little prayer book called St. Augustine's prayer book from a friend of mine.  A lot of it contains Marian devotions.   I tried it.  I couldn't do it.  No, she may be my homegirl, but I can't handle that sort of thing.  It was too weird.   One year I noticed her initial response to Gabriel's announcement was bordering on sarcasm.  I'm almost sure Luke cleaned it up a little bit, actually.  How can this be, since I am a virgin?   Her first response is to question the situation.  Gabriel, who was apparently more fond of Mary than Zechariah (he made that sucker mute in response to his questioning his post menopausal wife's pregnancy), actually gives her an explanation.  A weird one.  One that makes me go---ughhh ewww? and get a funny feeling in my stomach.

What does she do?  She doesn't ask her father.  She doesn't go talk to her mother.  She looks within her own heart and despite all the insanity happening around her says "let it be to me according to your word".   She knows, as a 14 year old in the middle east in 4 BC, that becoming pregnant before her wedding could result in her death.  She knows her fiance is going to be upset and that he will have every right to kill her.   She knows she's going to spend the rest of her life with people gossipping about her.  And she says yes.   She says yes when any sensible teenager would start wondering if she'd accidentally eaten something rancid earlier.    And she was probably 14--maybe younger--when this happened.    I remember one year at the Christ Mass, I caught a glimpse of a young lady I've known since she was five during the gospel reading.  It hit me like a ton of bricks that Mary was that age, Libby's age. (She was 14 at the time.)   Young, vulnerable, awesome.   I started crying.

Thank God people there  know I'm crazy already or they would have thought something was wrong.

Miriam of Nazareth was no fair skinned milky delicate flower of a girl who was living in the ivory tower of a plastic bubble when God gently declared she was going to the bearer of God without any trouble whatsoever.   She didn't look or act like a European milkmaid.   She was the bravest woman in human history.  She was fierce.  She was....full of grace... and nothing like what we tend to make of her.

I still don't do Marian devotions, but today I'm not shy about admitting I love Mother Mary.  I think she was/is one badass chick and I am not afraid to admit it anymore.

I'm getting braver.  I hope someday I'm half as fierce.

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