and mary pondered all these things in her heart...

Today a colleague and friend asked me:  "Where is your Christianity going?" Wow, what a honkin' GREAT question! Where, indeed?!? There is MUCH more to say and ponder when it comes to a well-formed answer and I trust that in the months to come the Spirit will bring more clarity. (BTW just as this question was articulated, what should be playing on the coffee house PA but Sam and Dave's "Soul Man!") For tonight, I think that part of the answer is to be found in a button I have been wearing of late...

I love the Blessed Virgin Mary. In my overly intellectualized Reformed world, she is everything that is missing from my tradition: she is female, intuitive, fleshy, earthy, mystical and filled not only with Jesus, but more questions than answers. In Luke's gospel (chapter 1: 26-38), the angel Gabriel visits a young Palestinian Jewish woman from Nazareth. 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

After the birth of Jesus, when the shepherds came and paid the baby Messiah homage, the text concludes: Mary treasured their words and pondered them in her heart.  She didn't fully comprehend what birthing Jesus meant. But she didn't thwart the movement of the holy within and among her; she pondered it in her heart and lived from her heart. Clearly that is where I have been headed and now more so than ever before. Mary isn't part of the religious tradition I inherited. The path of my formation was saturated in sanitized anti-Catholicism. Those early New England Congregationalists believed that even a Cross in our Sanctuary was idolatrous. But like many trained in an aesthetically anemic spirituality, once I was on my own I was all over icons, candles, prayer beads and incense like "white on rice!" Indeed I have come to claim a sacramental spirituality at my core rather than just an intellectual one. An increasingly inter-faith mystical path, too. After the High Holy Days, this conversation will continue - and I can't wait.

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