Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Gospel of Mary - Chapter 2

1. His wife, Anna, sang two dirges and mourned two lamentations, saying: "I will grieve for my widowhood, and I will grieve for my childlessness."

Anna, like Joachim just sort of pops into the story. Again the supposition is that the hearers are familiar with these people.

I wonder, personally, about Anna mourning for her widowhood. Does that mean that she thought Joachim was dead? Did he even tell her that he was going out into the wilderness to pray and fast for 40 days and 40 nights? Or just up and disappear? The text doesn't say. But I do wonder if maybe Anna thought that her husband was already dead and that is why she went into mourning. Or perhaps it was preemptive mourning. She didn't believe that Joachim would survive his self appointed exile and so mourned him even before she knew he was dead.

The author points out that it would have been easier on the early Christians if they hadn't claimed and known Jesus' lineage so precisely. "Jesus didn't suddenly appear from a glittering haze, but grew up under the gaze of a specific village and a particular family line....How can someone so familiar be so extraordinary? Either be a god and flash out like lightening, or be a regular guy. This unexpected combination provokes nothing so much as resentment. It would have been easier for the early Christians if they had gone the 'I don't know, he just showed up' route. Instead they were cheerfully transparent about Jesus' earthly origins and specific about times and places. Their confidence is audacious. Apparently they expected that eyewitnesses would support rather than hurt their cause. And Christ's Incarnation, as unimaginable as it was in cosmic terms, was also exactly this real: his grandmother was named Anna."

Anna is in mourning while 'the great day of the Lord' drew near. It doesn't say what the great day of the Lord is, what holy day. Her maidservant, Judith, tries to draw her out of her mourning and I assume depression. She tries to giver her a beautiful new headband, saying that because it bears the royal insignia Judith herself is not able to wear it. Anna snaps at her, angry, accusing Judith of trying to put a curse on her. Judith replies (in an argument I can easily imagine having with a friend or two of mine) asking why she should try to curse Anna? Just because Anna refuses to listen to her? Isn't it God Himself who has shut Anna's womb and not any human bearing her ill will?

Personally I imagine the argument went on a little more than the two or three lines it's given in the text. Ever had a fight with a friend? Someone who is close to you, like family? They know how to wound you the best even when they're trying to help you. I'd think there was some shouting and possibly throwing of things. But that could just be me. :)

At any rate Anna, though still 'exceedingly grieved' winds up putting off her mourning, washing up and putting on her wedding garments. So I'd guess that Judith won, or at least got her point across. Around three in the afternoon Anna goes out, dressed in her finery and sits beneath a laurel tree. There she implores the Lord, saying: "O God of my fathers, bless me and listen to my prayer, just as you blessed the womb of Sarah and gave her a son, Isaac."

How many women, fearing that they might be barren, or knowing that they were looked at the story of Sarah and prayed, letting it give them some hope to cling to?


  1. Yes, I know of women who have clung to the stories of Sarah and Hannah when they desired a child!

    Love how you thought of the fight in Amber/Amber Friend terms, but, hey, human nature then and now isn't much different so I think your point is valid!

    So true what you said about Jesus being ordinary to them precisely because they did know his lineage so well!

  2. Did he even tell her that he was going out into the wilderness to pray and fast for 40 days and 40 nights? Or just up and disappear?

    :D Poor Anna. He was just so bothered that he forgot to say good-bye! I know that's not actually necessarily what happened, and we don't know why she was actually grieving, but that idea makes me giggle. Not very nice, but funny.

    Maybe she was afraid he would leave her because she couldn't give him children? I don't think there's really a precedence for that happening, maybe Sarah telling Abraham to be with someone else, but she also stuck around. And then had a kid. So no one really leaving that I remember at the moment.

    I like Anna. When I first became interested in the saints and how icons are used in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions a few months ago, she was the first who really stood out to me. I like the icons I have seen of her, and that she is teaching Mary in them. I also like that in the stories I saw that went along with that, that Mary was sent to the Temple as a child. Interesting little tidbits you don't get from Protestant tradition.

  3. Susanne,

    It's all about me! :)

    That was sort of my point, too. People don't change all that much so I imagine if Judith was comfortable enough with Anna to try and chide/annoy her out of her funk then they're some sort of friends. And a fight with a friend is never a simple or quick thing.

  4. sanil,

    That's the impression I get too, though. That he didn't stop and say, 'Hey, headed out for the ol' hunting lodge for 40 days. Don't wait up.' He up and vanished on her. It is kind of amusing.

    Hmmm. Maybe. Or afraid that he'd take another wife or take her handmaiden or something like that. There'd be precedence for that at least. I get the impression, though, that Anna and Joachim were older - not a young married couple who were having problems conceiving, but people who had been together for a good while and still had no kids. So wouldn't he have divorced or married another woman by that point if that's what he was going to do?

    I want to include icons in the next couple of posts I do at least. Visual aids! :)


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