[illustration: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898, Philadelphia Museum of Art]

From the Theologically Fertile Mind of Joseph Ostrander


“Congratulations, favored lady! The Lord is with you!” (TLB)

“Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.”  (MSG)

“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” (MEV)

“Greetings! You are favored, and the Lord is with you! [Among all women on the earth, you have been blessed.]  (VOICE)

What about this Mary of the Christmas Chronicle???

As a cradle Roman Catholic (a lapsed Catholic that still has his baptismal and confirmation certificates) that had a very dramatic spiritual epiphany at 20-years of age, my uneasiness about the doctrinal confines built up around Mary, the young maiden that I do believe was the mother of Jesus through a supernatural pregnancy by the Holy Spirit, prevented me from developing a deeper devotion to her according to the traditional teachings I was brought up with.  The traditional understanding of original sin and its automatic pox upon all mankind simply because we are human is not something I can trust as the most accurate understanding of the current human condition. It seems to me the attempt to sanitize Mary’s humanity by constructing a doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and Mary's Ever Virgin status actually removes her from the very humanity Jesus came to engage with. If Mary needed to be the only Holy Exception to become a suitable handmaiden of God by some divine exemption as to keep her unsullied from sin or sexual relations (heaven forbid!), then it makes her less of a person we can identify with, places her on an unattainable platform, and reduces the humanity factor of her Son, Jesus. I understand the traditional reasons for the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, however, I do feel they are not only theologically unnecessary, but they actually minimize the humanity, and its universal condition, that Jesus unashamedly embraces as Immanuel. Mary doesn't need to be sinless or a perpetual virgin to protect the divinity of her Son. His Father is the source of that unblemished nature and Mary could not have been the source of any biological, or spiritual taint that would mar the nature of Immanuel. In fact, if Mary were sinless then I suspect that Jesus could not have fully identified with sinful humanity (my own armchair theological notion). Yes, Jesus did walk on water, but he didn't hover 3" above the grit and grime of His homeland, nor did Mary His mother. Why would theologians make such an effort to remove both Mary and Jesus from the very humanity God wanted to redeem? Why the effort to remove, or protect Mary and Jesus from the artificial 'ick' factor of our human nature?

Yes, there have been traditional and historical explanations, doctrines, theological extrapolations, etc. that result in what I understand to be a spiritual insulation of what is normally perceived as being holy: set apart for God and His divine purposes. In the case of Mary, looking at her simple act of faith and obedience has generated layers and layers of doctrinal suppositions much like the Medieval drapery of finest cloth that appears on paintings and statues of a European maiden fashionista of those times. Gone were the simple robes of a very young Jewish mother. Her heavenly assumption and status as Co-Redemptrix seems to me to emphasize her 'no earthly good' status. God's favor then translates into divine insulation from the rest of humanity, not something of a blessing to the rest of us. My older relatives that were pious Catholics did have a deep devotion to Mary, the litany of saints, and the religious traditions they too were raised in. My exit from RCC teaching and worship practice was not a theological protest on my part. I do not have an anti-Catholic agenda or need to make some proclamations highlighting my disagreements with traditional doctrines of one sort or another. I feel Mary is to be called blessed because she braved the social stigma and religious scrutiny of close friends and family that also knew of her obvious pregnancy and the awkward stares it caused. But it is these very visceral human responses in her very human condition that such obedience and faith makes her approachable for many of us that do have a real reverence for her unique place in the Christmas story and the redemptive narrative. However, constructing convoluted doctrinal minutia around her very humanity so as to expunge any perceived flaw, taint, corruption, etc. in order to keep her from soiling the Incarnation in any way is simply a misunderstanding of what the Incarnation was intended to be: God with us, not insulated from us in Mary's womb, or the dusty Palestine countryside He trudged through as the most human example of humanity that ever lived, moved and had His being 2,000 years ago...

Think about it…