In my last two posts, I have highlighted how in medieval days Mary was revered, not least because she was approachable. That’s important, I think. Women, as a rule, are seen as non-threatening as compared with even the best-intentioned men, by men but perhaps even more by women. It’s certainly true for me.
The idea of telling my sins to a man (especially when I was young) was a very frightening thing. Not so much Christ, of course, because He knew me better than I did anyway. But I wonder, and always will if Marian devotion had been available to me in those days if it might have made a difference. Not that I was any terrible ogre, mind, but I did things that even then I wasn’t proud of, and would have been embarrassed to tell my mom, so I wonder if knowing Mary then would have made a difference.
And now, as I start to draw near the end, Mary indeed provides me much comfort. Those of you who know me will know that I am divorced and without kids, and sadly see no possibility of that changing. And yes, Mary provides a comfort, nearly a companionship, that I find in no other way, anymore. She is the one I can talk about anything with. Strange how life works out isn’t it? But so it is.
But she is much more than that, of course. She is Theotokos, the Mother of God. And that is surely much more important than my little problems, but still, she finds time to tell me that she has talked to her Son about me and to comfort this old man, not that it is overt or anything, just a feeling.
But this very human and attractive side of Our Lady goes way back in our history. In our archives there is an article, bylined by Jessica (although I wonder, as it reads more as Chalcedon) speaking of The Protoevangelium of St. James
The Protoevangelium of St. James, which dates from the mid second century, belongs to that group of works which, whilst never canonical, was treasured by Christians for centuries because it filled in the gaps left by the Gospels. Nothing will shake my conviction that in St. Luke we have portions of the memoirs of Our Lady herself; where else could the Magnificat come from, or the story of the Annunciation. It thrills me to know that when I read these things, I am reading what the Blessed Virgin herself said; so I understand why it is early Christians wanted more.
The Protoevangelium filled the gap admirably. It described the circumstances of Our Lady’s birth, and how at the age of three she was brought by her parents to the Temple. It contains one of my favourite accounts of Our Lady. When she came to the Temple she was given to the High Priest who
set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her
How adorable is that?
Here is where those charming legends that we looked in my article on Lady Day in Harvest got their start. In the 2d century, well before the Scripture was canonized. We have always venerated Mary, she is one of the things that sets Christians apart. It is our kinder gentler side and something that is lacking in most religions which tend to be ‘by the book’ and the book alone. She introduces mercy into the whole thing, and yes, it shown forth in her Son as well. But it is, I think, one of the singularities that divide the Second Covenant from the First.