Mary, Mary

In one of my classes yesterday, we were discussing the Virgin Mary, particularly when she appeared as Virgen de Guadalupe, and I was reminded of how uneasy and erased I feel whenever Mary is defined as a Catholic saint. Of course, in the context of this specific lesson, she was a Catholic saint, and in the context of most of the literature I will ever read, she is a Catholic saint;–and from a non-religious, purely historical perspective, in which religions are perceived as off-shoots of each other rather than independent but reconfirming Revelations, I guess the Catholics did have her first. I am more than happy to tolerate all of these for the purposes of literary and historical accuracy–but even in the absence of heavy context, or in passing casual conversation when the context is either modern or universal, she’s defined as such and her importance in all other religious spheres is ignored.

It makes me wonder how Christians expect me to be outraged on their behalf (and according to them, on my own) when Mary is depicted disrespectfully, if they aren’t willing to acknowledge that I love her as religiously–except when they need my help. No religion but Christianity is today allowed to influence Christmas, or any other aspect of American culture, through the introduction of new dimensions, traditions, or alterations to the original to encompass all those who practice (“Happy Holidays”?! NO WAY). But when they feel attacked, suddenly they turn to me, “But she’s yours too, isn’t she? You’re Muslim! They’re worried about offending you! Let us use your identity to save her!”

How convenient.

4 thoughts on “Mary, Mary

  1. I have the same problem with Christian perspectives all of the time – as someone who studies the Middle Eastern and Asian churches, I constantly have to remind my Western colleagues that ‘Christianity’ is not just Catholic and Protestant.

    Actually, when people ask me to tell them something they don’t know about Islam (which happens a lot), I tend to start out with the Muslim understanding of Jesus and Mary – 9 times out of 10, people are totally amazed!


  2. Flint

    This is Lupercalia, the Roman festival of Pan, or perhaps Cupid–sound familiar? Like everything else in Europe it was appropriated into Catholic theology without regard for the original content.

    As for Mary, the Gnostics were around at that time too. I don’t know that they *sainted* her but they certainly considered her a part of their history. At best, the Catholics jointly had Mary, or are the oldest surviving group to claim Mary, but they were never the first.



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