In crib scenes and on Christmas cards, Mary is portrayed gazing, smiling at her new born child. Our art galleries are similarly full of images of this mother mild, Mary wrapped in adoration of her new born child. And there is, of course, something wonderful about the bond between mother and and child and never more so than between she, the God-bearer, and her child, who is her God. And yet the sheer repetition of this image seems to constrain Mary – and perhaps through her, all women.
Why was this particular young woman chosen? Was it that she was especially devout or particularly obedient? Had she been specially chosen before she was born? Or was it that God saw in her a wild spirit that matched his own untamed Spirit? Did her feistiness echo the Creator’s own zest for life? Was there a Divine recognition that in her adolescent rebellion and attitude, there was the essential robustness that would enable her to cope with being the mother of the Messiah and all the attendant conflicts this would bring?
It is no mother mild that takes on the journey from Nazareth, that demands even the most rudimentary of space in the crowded town and can survive life as a refugee in Eygpt. Here is one strong, defiant woman. And all of this strength and attitude breaks out of her in a song of rebellion, a magnificat more at home on the lips of the Sex Pistols than the choir of Kings College, Cambridge.
Her portrait should be painted with defiant eyes but instead she has been tamed and with a demur look becomes the model of devotion. How might the role of women in the Church have been different, if we had been allowed a more feisty Mary?
Re-imagine the scene: Mary gazes down with over-whelming love for her new born child, then smiles with a knowing look, turns to Joseph and winks; God’s revolution has begun. Nothing will ever be the same again.