From the depiction of the divine mother in Beyonce’s imagery to Busta Rhymes’s jab at President Trump’s “Muslim ban,” religion took center stage at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
As he accepted the first award – for best new artist – of the televised broadcast on Feb. 12, Chance the Rapper declared:
“Glory be to God. I claim this victory in the name of the Lord.”
For me, as a mother, the incarnation becomes tangible thus: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” and [not listed in Gabriel’s announcement] he’ll be brutally killed in front of you. It becomes tangible when I again picture this mother at the foot of a cross where her son hangs. He is the savior of the world, carrying out God’s perfect plan through his death and resurrection, yes. … But he is her baby.
National Geographic magazine recently named Mary, the mother of Jesus, “the most powerful woman in the world” as an appraisal of her ongoing influence and popularity. But do Mary’s words and example have a prayer of being heard and effecting change in this time of war?
Indeed, this is war. America has effectively been engaged in continuous warfare since the weeks after September 11, 2001. In a few decades we’ll learn what happens when whole generations of people grow up and take charge of a society that has waged war their entire lives.
Attempts to tone down the descriptions we use for warfare or the way we conceptualize the present conflict don’t change anything. No end is in sight. Others turn up the rhetoric: after the San Bernardino shooting, at least one presidential candidate insisted the USA now finds itself in “the next world war.” Another one puffed up his chest and boasted of his resolve to “carpet bomb” people. We hear this stuff so often, we’ve become numb to its magnitude.
To Roman Catholic officialdom, it’s unclear whether the Virgin Mary appeared to Ivan Dragicevic and five others 34 years ago in a Bosnian village.
What is clear is that Dragicevic won’t be appearing Wednesday to speak in St. Charles, as some had hoped.
Earlier this month, Archbishop Robert Carlson addressed a memo to priests and deacons in the archdiocese:
“I have received a request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to remind everyone that they are not to participate in events that promote the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje and in particular Mr. Ivan Dragicevic.”
Prior to the March 3 memo, Dragicevic had been scheduled to speak in St. Charles’ Lindenwood University, about 25 miles from St. Louis.
Dragicevic is one of six who claim the Virgin Mary appeared and spoke to him in 1981 in Medjugorje, a town situated in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia.
Barbie has had a number of careers in her 55 years — flight attendant, veterinarian, astronaut, even president. Her latest role, however, is raising eyebrows.
Italy’s Catholic bishops are furious about controversial artistic depictions of the popular Barbie and Ken dolls as the Virgin Mary and a crucified Jesus Christ and other saints.
Two Argentinian artists, Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, produced 33 dolls of various religious figures for a show named “Barbie, The Plastic Religion,” which opens in Buenos Aires on Oct. 11.
SIR, an Italian website backed by the Italian bishops conference, denounced the controversial toys in an editorial, which asks: ” What is the difference between provocation and bad taste?”
NEW YORK — A Tony-nominated play that offered a controversial take on the Virgin Mary reflecting on her life held its final performance on Sunday, closing after only two weeks as poor ticket sales never matched high expectations.
Now the question is: Why?
Shows fold on Broadway all the time, of course, and as The New York Times noted, just 25 percent of them ever show a profit. But was there something about The Testament of Mary that doomed it to failure?
After all, biblically themed shows are all the rage on television and especially on cable; the recent History Channel miniseries The Bible generated huge ratings, and a host of shows and films are trying to explore — and perhaps exploit — similar territory.
How far can one go in retelling a Bible story, adding things that are not in the original? In The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin goes a long way.
His 2012 book is now a Broadway play presenting a view of the mother of Jesus so different from pious tradition that it angers some Christians, creating a “new,” intellectually and spiritually challenging Virgin Mary.
Yet in the end, Toibin’s searingly human Mary may be ultimately more accessible than the Mary of porcelain perfection set high on a pedestal.
The Irish writer, who has written about his strong Catholic childhood, imagines Mary 30 years after the crucifixion of her son. She lives as a virtual prisoner of two of Jesus’ disciples, still mourning her son’s death, bitter at what has happened since, and seeking consolation from pagan idols, which make more sense to her than what happened to Jesus.
This month, as Christians set up their creches and assemble in churches to hear the story of the Nativity, one line, from Luke 2:19, speaks particularly to women: "But Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart."
This Mary — silent, obedient, observant — has echoed down two millennia, cementing a potent ideal in the Western imagination. Now the masterful Irish writer Colm Toibin puts a jackhammer to the cozy, safe, Christmas-card version in The Testament of Mary.
He imagines the mother of Jesus many years after the Crucifixion, living alone in the ancient Asia Minor town of Ephesus, where two of the Gospel writers supply her with food and shelter. They come to her with regularity. She is not cooperating.
Advent suggests so many mysteries of God's patience. One rarely commented case is God as Father and embryo. It is extra Biblical so imagination can only begin to tell the bizarre tale. Gabriel's annunciation and appearance to Joseph begins the period of waiting and soul searching, but a remarkable gap exists in the Advent story. Luke 1:56 makes this cursory remark as though it would suffice:
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Presumably the second trimester of Mary's pregnancy is treated with a passing reference. If we simply take the divine conception of Jesus at face value, there was a moment in human history where God existed as Father in the heavens and embryo in Mary's uterus. Paradox of paradoxes. The Creator in utero.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
The beautiful anonymity and soft innocence of a young girl in Nazareth would be stripped by an angelic visitation. Who could ever envision the global veneration soon to commence? This Holy Virgin of Martini's masterpiece cannot be Mary's vision. The gilded, enthroned Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, Theotokos, Panagia. Millenia of adoration blurs the humanity of such a terrifying moment in the life of a child.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Gabriel's praise for her resounds the Earth this Advent Season. Martini paints the words spouting from Gabriel's mouth, invading Mary's space. Her shoulder shrug speaks to Luke's revelations of her humanity. The Gospel record exposes her vulnerability and reluctance to embrace such a startling event.
ROME — Even in the heartland of global Catholicism, a life-size Madonna on a street wall is an uncommon sight — especially if you leave the cobblestone alleyways of the historic center for the drab concrete of the city's former industrial districts.
But bringing sacred art back to Rome's run-down streets is exactly what a street artist known as Mr. Klevra has set out to do.
Mr. Klevra, a 34-year old Italian artist and a committed Catholic, paints Madonnas and other saints on thin paper posters and then glues them onto walls under the cover of darkness.
"I love the adrenaline of putting up the paintings while hiding from the police," he said. "I love the randomness of having your art torn down after five minutes or see it stay in its place for years and years.''
Mr. Klevra is his artist's name — like many street artists, he doesn't give out his real name, and prefers to keep his identity secret, even shielding his face from cameras.
In his paintings, he combines the millennia-old techniques of Eastern Orthodox iconography with modern tools such as spray paint and Uni Posca pens. Pop culture references sometimes find their way into his work, such as a Madonna with the motto "Only after disaster can we be resurrected,'' a line from American author Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Fight Club.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Could a Virgin Mary statue under a pine tree in the middle of a cow pasture in rural Alabama one day become an officially recognized international pilgrimage site of the Roman Catholic Church?
Yes, it could, said Michael D. Murphy, chairman of the anthropology department and a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama who has specialized in studying the role of Virgin Mary apparitions in the Catholic Church.
“Without a doubt,” Murphy said. “Some very unusual places have ended up becoming pilgrimage sites.”
Marija Lunetti, the visionary who has been reporting daily visions of the Virgin Mary since she was a teenager in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, had two outdoors apparitions in a field under a pine tree in Shelby County, Ala., during a highly publicized “five days of prayer” July 1-5 at Caritas of Birmingham.
Lunetti was one of six Medjugorje youths who began reporting apparitions of Mary in 1981. She was 16 at the time and known as Marija Pavlovic. Now 47, married with four children and living in Italy, Lunetti continues having daily visions.
She has been visiting Alabama since 1988, when she came to donate a kidney at UAB Hospital for her brother, Andrija Pavlovic. She had apparitions in the hospital and at the home of Caritas of Birmingham founder Terry Colafrancesco.
STERRETT, Ala. — Marija Lunetti, one of six young peasants who claimed that the Virgin Mary began appearing to them in 1981 in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, says the mother of Jesus is aware of the economic crisis in Europe.
"She's more preoccupied with spiritual (matters)," Lunetti said. "When there is a spiritual crisis, there is also an economic crisis."
Lunetti spoke briefly in an interview about the economic crisis in Europe and the weather - "Hot like here," she said - before she had her daily apparition on Sunday (July 1) night on her visit to Shelby County, Ala. During the apparitions, she says the Virgin Mary appears to her and prays over the pilgrims, even though they cannot see her vision.
The Vatican has published rules to evaluate the authenticity of the dozens of apparitions of the Virgin Mary reported each year.
The “Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations” have been in use since 1978, but until now had been available only in Latin, never officially published and only circulated among bishops and specialists.
The Vatican document has now been translated into English and other languages to aid bishops in the “difficult task of discerning presumed apparitions, revelations, messages or ... extraordinary phenomena of presumed supernatural origin,” Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Vatican doctrinal office, wrote in a companion letter last December that was published only recently on the Vatican website.
Here I am, urging people to deconstruct their preconceptions about God, and this guy finds Jesus in a tortilla.
Russ, my father-in-law, lives outside of Espanola, New Mexico. He can tell you from years of living there that the area is jumping with religious mysticism. One of the most famous sites in the state is the church at Chimayo, where people visit to touch the holy dirt and be healed. There are photos of people who claim to have been restored all over the place, along with crutches and canes left behind.
I’m not one to affirm or challenge that what people experience there is real. But I did find it interesting that the priests who serve the church simply bring in new dirt to fill the hole when they get low. Perhaps they bless it; I have no idea. But it’s interesting to me the power we inhere to certain items, acts or places. Is God more or less there than somewhere else? Is there something about the experience that opens us up to the already-present God? Is it an example of the uncharted power of the human mind?
To be a people marked by the faith of Mary is to be a people, who say, "Ok, I don’t understand what’s going on and I know that my life isn’t going to end up looking like one I would choose out of a catalogue but I trust that God is at work in all of it."
Blessedness is being used for God’s purpose more than it’s getting what I want or things being easy.
Christmas itself isn’t about getting what you want, or making sure you’re giving others what they want. To experience Christmas is to trust that God can do this thing again. God can again be born in me, in you, in this broken mess of a gorgeous world.
In the 4th century St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.”
See, God is at work in you in much the same way God was at work in Mary. (Not necessarily in that the Holy Spirit’s going to knock you up.) But I do think that you carry in your body the blessing of God and having faith like Mary means allowing yourself to trust that.
The real Christmas announces the birth of Jesus to a world of poverty, pain, and sin, and offers the hope of salvation and justice.
The Fox News Christmas heralds the steady promotion of consumerism, the defense of wealth and power, the adulation of money and markets, and the regular belittling or attacking of efforts to overcome poverty.
The real Christmas offers the joyful promise of peace and the hope of reconciliation with God and between humankind.
The Fox News Christmas proffers the constant drumbeat of war, the reliance on military solutions to every conflict, the demonizing of our enemies, and the gospel of American dominance.
The real Christmas lifts up the Virgin Mary’s song of praise for her baby boy: “He has brought the mighty down from their thrones, and lifted the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.”
The Fox News Christmas would label Mary’s Magnificat as “class warfare.”
So if there is a war on Christmas it ‘s the one being waged by Fox News.
The Mother of God as friend had never occurred to me. Not in the human sense, at least.
Surely Mary is a spiritual companion and, in that sense, “friend,” but when she walked among us, Mary was and had friends.
She also had a soul sister — her older cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. When Mary realized the truth of her pregnancy, she “made haste” to the welcoming, non-judgmental, grace-filled friendship of her loving (and also pregnant) cousin’s arms.
Perhaps because I’m a new mother myself, as we enter this Advent season, I find myself looking at Mary the woman — the girl, really — with new eyes.