Mosaic from the people of the Philippines, Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (photo by Bridget)
Catholic feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson:
“This young peasant girl discerns the voice of God in her life commissioning her to a momentous task. Exercising independent thought and action, she asks questions, takes counsel with her own soul. In a self-determining act of personal autonomy, she decides to go for it. This is her choice and it changes her life. A woman of Spirit, she embarks on the task of partnering God in the work of redemption.”
Catholic womanist theologian Diana Hayes:
Black Catholics also speak a new and challenging word about Mary, the mother of God, rejecting the symbol of passivity for the courageous and outrageous authority of a young unwed mother who had the faith in herself and in her God to break through the limitations society placed upon her in order to say a powerful yes to God, standing alone yet empowered. Hers was not a yes to being used merely as a passive, empty vessel, but a yes to empowerment, challenging the status quo by her ability to overcome those who doubted and denied her and to nurture and bring forth her Son as a woman of faith and conviction. The image of Mary and the infant Jesus is an image of strength and courage, of a mother’s determination to bring forth this child regardless of the circumstances and conditions opposing her, a situation in which many black women have often found themselves.
But why is this proof or authentication so often necessary? Historically, persons of African descent have not been seen as Catholic. Despite our more than five hundred years in the church in the United States and our two-thousand-year-old presence in the universal church, whose origins were in the Middle East and Africa, including black Africa, we are seen usually as newcomers, converts all, with little right or authority to demand what are seen as the privileges of the faith. Continue reading
or, Why I Wanted to be an Astrophysicist When I Was a Girl.
Anyone needing to meditate on the immensity of creation, I direct you to the above link.
Poetic shout-out to Medieval Woman in Theology Julian of Norwich:
“The Showings: Lady Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416,” by Denise Levertov
Julian, there are vast gaps we call black holes,
unable to picture what’s both dense and vacant;
and there’s the dizzying multiplication of all
language can name or fail to name, unutterable
swarming of molecules. All Pascal
imagined he could not stretch his mind to imagine
is known to exceed his dread.
And there’s the earth of our daily history,
its memories, its present filled with the grain
of one particular scrap of carpentered wood we happen
to be next to, its waking light on one especial leaf,
this word or that, a tune in this key not another,
beat of our hearts now, good or bad,
dying or being born, eroded, vanishing–
And you ask us to turn our gaze
inside out, and see
a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and believe
it is our world? Ask us to see it lying
in God’s pierced palm? That it encompasses
every awareness our minds contain? All Time?
All limitless space given form in this
Yes, this is indeed what you ask, sharing
the mystery you were shown: all that is made:
a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, held safe
in God’s pierced palm.
As Elizabeth mentioned in her first post on Mariology, I find much Marian piety rather difficult to appreciate, for various reasons (feminist, christological, ecumenical, historical-critical). Despite that, I often find myself quite moved by artistic portrayals of the Annunciation, both visual and poetic.
The Annunication, H.O. Tanner
My favorite painting of the Annunciation, without question, is Henry Ossawa Tanner‘s (1898). Tanner, the first African American artist to have his work displayed in the White House, traveled twice to the Middle East and modeled his paintings of biblical themes on the people and buildings he saw there. Tanner’s Mary is young, and has both a quiet solemnity and an uncertainty, and looks as though she’s been woken in the middle of the night.
My favorite poetic reflection on the Annunciation is Denise Levertov‘s. While my theological commitments and, perhaps, own life of faith lead me to question whether graced moments ever disappear when refused–in my experience, God is far more persistent than that–there is something painfully, achingly beautiful in the lines: