When one pauses to think about the impact that Mary of Nazareth has made on so many people’s lives for over two millennia and how she continues to do so, it may come as a bit of a surprise to discover that we actually know very little about who this woman was.
Yet people have taken what little we know and found ways to draw on it for guidance, comfort and inspiration.
Our cover story reviews what we do know about Mary and the various ways that people have tried to fill in the blanks about her.
During much of the Christian era, Mary has been held up to women as a pattern of virtue that they should try to copy. One commentary notes that “She is the pattern of virtue alike to maiden, wife and mother. She exhibits virginal modesty becoming the maid, the conjugal fidelity and loyalty of the spouse, and the untiring devotedness of the mother.” (All the Women of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Zondervan, 1988).
Our cover story counters that description with one of concern for the oppressed and suffering among us that resonates more closely to the aspirations of many women and other people of faith today.
The article also discusses how Mary has been and is being portrayed in devotional art. In this issue, we have taken care to present some of the art of a diversity of Canadian artists. Information about how to contact them if you want to discuss their work with them has been provided with their art.
One of those (see p. 10) is by the Indigenous artist William Kurelek from his book A Northern Nativity, Tundra Books, 1976. In it he portrays 20 contemporary Canadian scenes as settings for the Nativity.
Kurelek introduces his book by asking: “If it happened here/ as it happened there … / If it happened now/ as it happened then … / Who would have seen the miracle? / Who would have brought gifts? / Who would have taken Them in?”
Those are important questions. Even though we know so little about Mary of Nazareth, what we do know continues to answer them in ways that cause her to live in our hearts, our imaginations and our art.
Winnipeg artist Shrutie Murkerji (p. 13) says, “The painting that I made is based on the idea of the unconditional love of all mothers towards their children and the further eternal aspect of it between Mother Mary and Baby Jesus has been my inspiration for this piece. I have personally struggled, strived and prayed to be a mother and am now blessed with two children, so this is a very special and emotional topic close to my heart.”
Rev. Paul Gehrs alerted us to Sarah’s Shawl (p. 14) by Evelyn Zuberbier. He provided this background, “My dad bought this painting because it reminds him of Mary and Jesus. The story is that the shawl is woven by the artist’s niece, who is on the autistic spectrum. The shawl was auctioned off and the buyer was from Australia. The new owner sent a picture of the shawl with her child. The Chilliwack, BC, artist painted the picture.”
Learn more about some things that influence an artist when creating a piece of art in A visible way of being welcoming and inclusive (p. 25).
Our thanks to Rev. Ed Bastian and Rev. Elina Salonen for Mark’s Stories: A Bible Study this year (p. 31). In their final offering, they write, “The Bible is a story not only to be told but lived. It’s never been a closed story, but always a living one.”.