Students will have the chance to reflect about the Virgin Mary and her role in the Christian church on Wednesday and Thursday.
Vanderbilt theologian Robin Jensen has organized a Mary conference, "The Virgin Mary in Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Traditions," which will be held at the Vanderbilt Divinity School and two local churches.
Jensen is a professor of the history of Christian art and worship at the Divinity School and teaches a popular course about Mary. She said she believes that as Christian women expand their leadership within the church, they are looking to Mary for inspiration.
"We’ve moved away from Mary as the feminine face of the church to Mary as a model of Christian discipleship. This creates a way for women to see themselves in leadership position in churches," Jensen said.
Jensen says that writings by the late Pope John Paul II and books like "The Da Vinci Code" have helped spark interest in Mary as the feminine icon of Christianity.
"If you look at what Mary says in Luke 1, it’s quite astonishingly powerful, independent-minded and prophetic," Jensen said. "It’s hardly the words of someone who is submissive." [Source]
While I like the concept of this conference calling Mary "independent-minded" has got to be one of dumbest things I have ever read concerning her. "Let it be done according to they word" is independent-minded? Total submission and faithfulness to God is actually dependent since we all are totally dependent on God and Mary fully lived that truth. When Mary was forthright in her request at the wedding of Cana it was because she had absolute trust that Jesus would answer her intercession and not because she was being daring and independent. Some people try to pigeon hole Mary as some kind of proto-modern-feminist which just totally misses the point. I just can’t imagine modern feminists saying they were the handmaiden of anyone, much less God. It is of course easier to try to paint her in the light of modern sensibilities instead of following the blazing trail of her total discipleship, humility, and trust in God.
The comment about the Da Vinci Code is also just plain strange. As far as I know Dan Brown avoided any mention of Mary and concentrated on his twisted view of Mary Magdalene’s relationship with Jesus. His writing about the "divine feminine" avoided the issue of the Mother of the divine Jesus Christ.
None of this is surprising considering that this is sponsored by a "Religion, Gender, and Sexuality" program which links to such fun stuff as "Cabrini: a Pacific Northwest gathering lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Quakers" – who knew?
My take on it is that Mary is independent-minded because it was she who made the Fiat, without having anybody else make that decision for her. It was on her own volition. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all independent enough to follow God on our own, without wavering due to cultural shifts or peer pressure? I don’t think being independent-minded is a bad thing. Without being a slave to culture, Mary possesses the independence that modern feminists dare not even dream of.
I think L has something there. Mary possessed the most radical freedom of any human being, because she was completely free from sin. The fact that she then freely submitted to the will of God, as she had done all her life previously and continued through the rest of her life, simply shows that the very best use of one’s freedom is to imitate her radical submission. I’m not sure if this is making sense. I am pretty tired.
It’s interesting, because L and Jeff differ simply on what the word independence means. The beautiful frustration of the English language is this struggle for understanding the nuances of the language provided.
The word independent can mean being in a state of self-control. Clearly Mary would fall into this case. She freely and willingly chose to submit to God; it was not a choice forced upon her.
On the other hand, the word independent can also mean a lack of reliance on someone or something else. Clearly Mary was not this. She relied totally on the will of God.
So, then, is Mary independent? Does both yes and no suffice as an acceptable answer? How about saying her independence lies in choosing dependence on God?
Anthony– How’s this: “yes.”
Honestly, though, if they really start investigating Mary some of the students may get curious to read things like “True Devotion to Mary,” and “All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed.” Even if the ‘conclusions’ drawn by the course aren’t Catholic, some of the students, by reading about that Great Woman, may be led to her Son… Because everything about her points directly to Him. Especially her last recorded words: “Do whatever He tells you.”
Even at the wedding feast, where feminists would say she was being most bold and powerful, her power lies in her submission to God’s Will and is articulated in a command of deference (if that makes any sense)… “Do whatever HE tells you.” Not “Do this because I say so.”
Honest study of Mary can do nothing but lead one into the love of her Son and His Church.