I am working on Mary, as in the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Quakerism. From what I can find, the Quakers have more or less routinely ignored Mary, except for early Quakers like Fox, who excoriated Mary worship as exhibit A in their challenge to idolatrous papacy. Am I missing any strain of Mariology in Quakerism? What are your thoughts about Mary and Quakers? Should we focus more on her?
I can only talk for myself, not for everyone else. Mary is not very important to me and I am 'scared' of crossing the line and worship saints in an improper way, regardless which saint. I live and grew up in a protestant country and I understand that my views are coloured by this. I have however never gotten any indication from god that I need to rethink these views. I do not like the idea of praying in front of icons and crucifixes but I accept that you might want to have these on the walls as religious art. I also see no problem in being inspired by saints (Mary or any other) if you can keep it at inspiration level and not worship them. I do not feel this urge myself, but others might.
Thanks very much for the response. I agree with you but am trying to think about how we could incorporate Mary in new ways--perhaps with a focus on her social justice "song" in Luke. There's space in Quakerism, I think, to understand her in healthier ways than has historically been done, with the emphasis on her as a robust human, not an ethereally "pure" saint. What do you think?
You are probably right, but it is hard for me to suggest anything since she is not the one I am inspired by very much myself. Joseph is more interesting to me. He really accepted what god told him and went against the conventions of his time by not divorcing Mary and becoming Jesus' stepfather. He had a choice, Mary didn't.
I often meditate about what Joseph. What did he think about Jesus having a heavenly father? Was he jealous, because how would a regular man meet up to god? Did Jesus and Joseph have a good relationship and did it feel like they were parent-child?
I cannot get any answer, but this has been part of my thinking for a long time. This is not typical quaker waiting it is more an active meditation starting from different lines or stories from the bible though.
Yes! I love Mary and I love meditating on what it would be to raise a christ-child. I love her song - you mean this one? It's along with Jesus's quote from Isaiah in Luke 4 as part of what I hear as God's manifesto. I love that Mary can be an exemplar of how to work with God - she co-created with God in bearing her child...
I guess I don't see Mary needing to be singled out for more focus. However, I believe that we should focus a little more on: "Male and Female he created them," (Genesis 1); The influence of Mary and Joseph on Jesus' upbringing; The equality of women and men as ministers of the good news; The "veneration" of Mary seems to have actually placed female as inferior to male. As I interpret Friends' message it is to do away with separation of male and female, European, Turk and Jew, etc. It is somewhat ironic that in order to assure an equal number of male and female Leaders the separation of Meetings for Business were made separate and not completely equal. I believe we need to be clear "that of God," "Spirit of Christ," et. al. is available to all and can be proclaimed by any believer.
If I remember my church history correctly, Mary didn't get elevated to such importance in the Roman Catholic Church until decades after George Fox. As a result, it is not surprising that Fox didn't mention Mary very much. What is obviously of crucial importance is Christ, the Light of the World and the Immortal Seed.
Yes, she had the choice of not believing god, but not about the baby as I see it. She was pregnant and in that time a woman could not just get a job and support the baby herself like you can today. Therefore I see her choice as being quite small.
The fantastic thing is really how emotionally engaged I can become when I think about this and how I can relate to her feelings even in this day and age. If I were to find out that I was pregnant even though I am not a virgin and I have a boyfriend my first thought would be "How is this possible?". In my case it really would be possible, but I would really not believe that it would at that moment. Mary knew it was really impossible, and still she got pregnant.
As for early Quakers, I recall reading one mention by Robert Barclay of the "Blessed Virgin Mary". Not sure where it was. He was educated by Catholics, so this may reflect it.
I think it's important to regard Mary, or any saint from the past, not as an example or image that's far ahead of us, or above us that we should look up to them or worship them, but as our equals, and fellow-servants of God. In the Bible, there were several instances where people tried to worship or bow down to the apostles or to angels, and were told don't do it, I'm only a fellow-servant, or we're only men. One person told Jesus, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck, and Jesus replied "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."
It would be dangerous to use any images of Mary, especially since most of them that are available are from the Catholic or Orthodox traditions and were created as objects of veneration
Veneration of Mary has generally functioned as a way to absorb goddess worship into Christianity. Although I can't vouch for the accuracy of this, I remember reading that most sightings of Mary occurred at sites sacred to pagan goddesses. She provides a maternal aspect of God.
For myself, I considered her an example of joyfully accepting a divine leading. The Magnificat is one of few songs I remember from liturgical childhood and I find my self chanting it at odd moments. She is also a reminder that his closest followers were not exclusively men.
I don't see her as elevated above any other follower of God.
It takes many hours a month to sift through hundreds of websites to come up with this daily curated list of the best of the Quaker web. If you learn more about Friends and find joy and spiritual growth in the conversations these links provide, please consider supporting the ministry with a monthly subscription.