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?



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Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for your response.

I'm interested in the connection between Mary and goddess worship--it has been said we have paganism and goddess worship entering into Quakerism because people are hungry for embodied ritual (beyond silent worship) and hungry for connection with the female. Could a healthy--and by that I mean honoring--not worshipping--Mary for her social justice stand in the Magnificat, her full entrance into the messiness of life, her fidelity to and love for her child, her presence in the midst of pain--help us incorporate the female into the Quaker tradition in a way that keeps us from becoming less fragmented and diaphanous? I'm thinking in terms of honoring Mary in a way that moves away from her "purity" as a virgin to a focus on her purity as a person living faithfully in the world within God's call in a way that challenges social norms.
I find the story of Mary inspiring for the reasons you and others have said. I find Mary Magdalen even more so, especially if you see her as the woman who anointed Jesus. The Marys stayed with him until the end, and I believe Jesus was often talking about such women when he spoke of the "last," and the "meek," and the "least." I find the stories of these women in the gospels a reminder that often it is church "outsiders," people without much education or power in the world or in their faith communities, who have the deepest understanding and commitment.
I agree that it is good to remember the women and men who have followed Jesus. But it's important, as you say, to not elevate them to a special status. Those who have been faithful in the past are examples of what we should be. If they were alive today, hopefully they would be people we could talk to and work with as equals, not "saints" transformed into objects of veneration.

Mary probably has served as a way to incorporate goddess worship. For example, the title "Queen of Heaven", sometimes applied to her, is used in Jeremiah to refer to a pagan goddess the Israelites were worshipping. In general, it seems that the veneration of saints of all kinds has served as a way for "Christianity" to absorb aspects of paganism. You can't pray to your old pagan gods and goddesses of farmers, fishermen, or childbirth, etc? How about our new patron saints of farmers, fishermen, childbirth, or whatever you need. We don't have idols for you to bow to. Oh, but here's a nice "image" (with a splinter of the true cross). And as a bonus, you get fifty years off in purgatory.

If we are to worship one God, we should avoid any veneration of images, saints, or other aspects of paganism that have crept into Christianity.
I think that there is a very strong desire to see the female in God. The deification of Mary of by the Catholic church was, in part a response to people's resistance to giving up their goddesses.

Personally, it's not a compelling issue in my faith life. In the church of my childhood, it was always clear that God was spirit and therefore neither male nor female. The male biased language was based on social conventions and the limitations of language.

In worship, I have experienced God as both male and female.

Rather than Mary, I like the image of Wisdom in the Apocrypha.

For she is a reflection of the eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets
Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-27


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