Real bodies and real faithfulness

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May 31 gives us the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth; at around six months before Christmas, this is when Mary would have begun to feel the quickening of the new life inside her. It feels a little odd to think about texts that we associate with Advent in Easter season. Unless you are a regular practitioner of the Daily Office or have an especially Mary-grounded spirituality, the Magnificat doesn’t rise to consciousness too often.  

This is our loss; the radical specificity of Mary’s song offers deep insight into who Jesus was.   Mary’s song celebrating God’s grace to her is not really about Mary. It is not specifically about the birth of the Messiah or even her miraculous pregnancy. Mary sings in celebration of God’s grace for everyone who is poor, everyone who is rejected, everyone who is left out, everyone who is hungry, everyone whom the world has given up on. 

It’s tempting to over-spiritualize our theology. There are many times when it is crucial that we live by metaphor; the glories of God can’t be bound by human language. Last week’s observation of the Ascension belabors the point: how can a contemporary believer squeeze back into that premodern worldview of a three-tiered universe where God is understood to be, literally, in the sky?

Whatever the premodern worldview, “God in the sky” is not what Jesus taught. Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven—and said it was like a mustard seed. Jesus taught a realm of God that is within. He healed people in their bodies. Jesus had a particular attentiveness to bodies that were seen as less-than: those same people for whom Mary sang her song. The women, the prostitutes, people of all genders that nobody wanted around—those were Mary’s people. They would go on to be Jesus’s people.

Today, I am thinking about Mary’s bulging belly and how she treasured the power of that growth. I am thinking about how Jesus Christ came from her body and how when he was raised, it was in a body, too—a body with scars, a body that hungered, a body that loved.   

May we be faithful to Christ’s body, our bodies, and each other’s.

— Sara Irwin

Photo: Magnificat print

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