photo by Charles Edward Case

Behold! The angels said: O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee—chosen thee above the women of all nations.
Behold! The angels said: O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus. The son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the herafter and of the company of those nearest to Allah.
He shall speak to the people in cradle and in maturity. And he shall be of the company of the righteous.
She said, “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?”
He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a plan,he but saith to it, ‘Be,” and it is!

The Qur’an, Surah 3: 42, 45-47

Yesterday was the day in our church calendar when we remembered Mary, mother of Jesus. Is there any female figure in Christian history who has been on the receiving end of more transference than Mary? She has been appropriated institutionally and culturally in all sorts of ways; she has been remade in the image of values held by diverse—and sometimes contradictory—times and places. She is as idealized as she is beloved.

And not just by Christians! In addition to her Jewish faith and identity, Mary is the only woman named in the Qur’an (see above). She has a whole chapter named after her and is venerated in Islam with both word and image. Mary has been the focus of some of the most beautiful visual art in the world; she makes appearances in poetry, film and music both classical and contemporary (thank you, Paul McCartney!). In many traditions she is honored as a protector and as an intercessor on our behalf. Her many titles include Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Sorrows, Theotokos (“God Bearer”).

Mary inspires us for many different reasons, and at the center of them all is this: Mary said Yes. In the midst of the wonder of angelic communication, fear of the unknown, uncertainty about the details of her call from God, Mary said Yes. She agreed to bring God into the world, living and true. She embodies sacred courage, inspiring us to do the same.