Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Gospel of Mary - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 picks up the next day when Joachim is making his offerings to God. It's funny (to me), he makes this, almost deal with himself. Like you do sometimes. 'If I see a red flower then I'll finish that big project today.' You know that seeing a red flower has nothing to do with that project at work, but it's something we do. Looking for a sign, sort of. I'm not saying that that was Joachim's intentions, just that that's what it reminded me of.

Joachim says to himself that, "If the Lord God will be gracious to me, he will make the plate on the priest's headpiece shine out clearly to me." The author's note has this to say: "In Exodus 28:36-38, the Lord instructs Moses to make a plate of gold and inscribe upon it 'Holy to the LORD,' and attach it to the priest's headpiece. By this, 'Aaron shall take upon himself any guilt incurred' by those making offerings unworthily." So really Joachim was looking to see if he was making his offerings unworthily - verifying his own righteousness?

When he goes up to offer his gifts he looks closely at the priest's headpiece. He can find no sin reflected there, and so knows "that the Lord God has been gracious to me and forgiven all my sins." And he left the temple rejoicing, having been made righteous by God.

There's a time lapse and the next verse has Anna not only already pregnant but in her ninth month and giving birth.

She asks the midwife what she has borne and is told that she has a daughter. Many people of that time, or even ours would be unhappy that their first born is a daughter. Anna says only that "This day my soul is magnified." The fact that Anna breast feeds is not whitewashed and Anna names her daughter Mary.

I found the notes on Mary's name interesting: "Mary is a common name, but nevertheless difficult to translate; one German scholar identified seventy possible meanings. But when the root is used as a proper noun in the Hebrew Scriptures, it means "bitter." In Ruth 1:20 , after Naomi has lost her husband and her sons, she cries, 'Do not call me Naomi [Pleasant]; call me Mara [Bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." The same name is heard in an incident during the years the Israelites followed Moses in the wilderness. After three days without water they found some that was too bitter to drink, so they called the place Marah. But God showed Moses a certain tree and told him to throw it in, and after that the water was sweetened and made drinkable (Ex. 15:23-25).

"It's hard to imagine how "Bitter" could become a commonly used name for a child. No doubt many a woman, under pressure to produce sons, found the birth of a girl-child to be a bitter thing. And in the midst of Christ's victory we hear this small note of tragedy, the echo in his mother's name. Mary herself knew sorrow, as the prophet Simeon had told her when she was still a joyous young mother: 'A sword will pierce through your own soul also' (Lk. 2:35).

"The Christian story does not ignore tragedy, but confronts and transforms it. The same God who used a tree to sweeten bitter water would one day choose another tree, the site of his Son's death as well as his glory. By it, all bitterness is turned to joy."

Both the examples used to establish that the root of Mary's name is 'bitter' are incidences where God takes something dark or 'ruined', something painful and turns it into salvation.


  1. Oooooh,I love that note on Mary's name especially the last bit! :)

    Heheh...I did one of those sign deals with God a few days ago. *blush*

  2. I *knew* you'd find the name things interesting. See how I think about you? :)

    We all make those deals. Sometimes over small things, sometimes over huge things. I remember watching a show on modern day crucifixions, men who are crucified every Easter and there was one man who had made a promise, a 'deal' with God - if his newborn daughter and wife would survive then he would be crucified every year for...I think it was thirteen years. And both recovered and thrived and every year he goes through the entire ritual.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...