by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM Ireland 25.03.2022
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord also called the Feast of the Incarnation. Exactly nine months before Christmas Day – how good a timing is that! I began thinking about this Feast a few days ago. There is one thing that really bugs me. It is this image we have of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as being a sweet, passive girl. You know the images. Mary is depicted as standing, all dressed in blue or white, hands slightly lifted, eyes looking towards heaven.
The Mary in the Gospels is anything but passive. She hears of her cousin in need, and off she goes on a perilous journey to come to her help. She goaded Jesus into action at the marriage feast of Cana. She stood at the foot of the cross and watched her own son suffer a horrible death. She is a determined woman and a woman of action. So why is she shown as being so sweet and passive?
Years of patriarchy explains most of it. The role of women was downplayed and women were “good” if they did what men told them to. Also, another part of the problem is who did the translations from the original texts into modern day English (men, mostly).
Years ago, I had a wonderful lecturer, a Redemptorist priest, in Fordham University who explained the translation problem of exactly this text: “Let it be done to me according to thy word”. These are Mary’s words of acceptance of the angel’s message that she was to become the mother of God. We translate it in a passive voice – let it be done – but the actual Greek text is much more active. It is as if Mary was punching the air and saying “Yes!”
I like to think of Mary this way. She was young, probably still a teenager by modern day standards, certainly at the beginning of her reproductive life. She would have embraced the cause with excitement, with fervour. Look at our young people today on protest marches for climate change, world peace, etc.
So today I honour Mary who took on the challenge, and yes, the honour of being the Mother of God. I look for her guidance and strength during the times when I fall into passivity and just accept the status quo. Mary, my sister, walk with me today.