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Mary, Mother of God, Most Blessed Human

The second iteration of the Women’s March garnered much attention this weekend. From outward appearances in the news and social media, version 2.0 of the Women’s March was even less unified than the inaugural event of 2017. Saturday’s gatherings across the nation involved feminists, Black Lives Matters, labor movements, immigration activists, Democrats, and a host of other concerns. Though headlines were careful to present female-only images of the events, candid photos on my social media feed show many men co-opting the movement as well. — I should also note how the movement is already experiencing commercialization and participation in the march commoditized (especially via social media posts). —

Lack of time and focus — because of my young family and deep concentration toward finishing my M.Div. — prevent me from a detailed analysis of the political and social movements of the post-recession and post-Trump era. The revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ has much to speak into the movements and concerns represented at the various Women’s Marches, but I will have to rely on other theologians to shine God’s light on these issues for the time being.

One thing, however, has weighed heavy on my heart since yesterday. The headline image of the start of the official activities here in Nashville portrayed a large, pink Planned Parenthood banner heading up the march. My heart sank at seeing this.

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Politically and theologically I am sympathetic to many of the concerns of the Women’s March. I am no fan of Donald Trump and my heart breaks for the sexually abused, the sick, the imprisoned, the hurt, the foreigner, and the broken. These sympathies all stem from the grace God has given me in my life and the mercy he has given me to see his image in all of his creation. Because of the Incarnation, because of the cross, because of the imago dei gifted to humanity in creation, my whole being — mind, body, and soul — is driven to love, mercy, and solidarity with those remembered by God.

To my theology, the love and mercy of God toward humanity is made most evident in his “taking the form of a servant” and “being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2:7) The concrete image of the Incarnation and God’s eternal union with human flesh and the messiness of human life is made perfect in the Holy Virgin Mary. The image of thousands of women marching behind the banner of Planned Parenthood and, by so doing, partially affirming that the act of abortion is a core part of womanhood and femininity gave me pause.

If the ability to abort life is core to the full actualization of womanhood, then I must question if there is room for Mary at the Woman’s March. And, if there is no room for Mary, then how can there be room for her son; the only one who can heal the injuries born by so many women.

In St. Luke’s gospel an angel appears to Mary in the first chapter and declares in verse 28, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Answering Mary’s initial — and understandable — reaction of shock the angel says to her in verses 30 to 31, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

The ethos of abortion rejects the notion of an unplanned pregnancy having elements of grace. The ethos of abortion rejects the notion that God favors pregnancy and life. In an ethos of power, to give in to the unplanned and to allow one’s body to host the seeds of life and creation passively is to reject the autonomy of the self and to cede power. Abortion preserves independence and self-reliance; unplanned — and for that matter planned — pregnancy requires dependence on a community and God; the self does not live alone.

Mary, however, does not question the unplanned path of her life. She bravely accepts God’s will and courageously lives God’s plan for her openly in a society full of judgement against an unwed, pregnant woman. Mary says in verse 38, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Mary is the εἰκών of womanhood, femininity, and — to the shock of sexists everywhere — all of humanity; i.e. “mankind.” In the kenotic image of God given by Paul in Philippians 2:6-11 Jesus reveals the true nature of divinity. In the Magnificat Mary shows what it means to realize the imago dei in humanity.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” Luke 1:46-55 (RSV)

True, there was only ever one unplanned pregnancy initiated by an angelic herald and the visitation of the Holy Spirit. Rape, abuse, regret, fear, economic insecurity, shame, broken relationships, physical injury, and even death are all realities experienced by women because of pregnancy. As a man, I can only ever experience pregnancy from the outside.

In the tradition of Christ’s Holy Church, there is one person spoken of and lifted up above all others who have ever lived. Above Moses, above Adam, above Paul, Peter, and John stands Mary, Θεοτόκος, the Mother of God. In the words of the Angelus, Mary is “full of grace,” “blessed among women,” and God is forever with her.

Mary is the image of humanity at one with God. Mary is womanhood and femininity completely expressed. In her life and body, Mary points to the “fruit of [her] womb” the Incarnate Son of God who takes away the sins of the world and brings physical healing to creation and reconciliation with God. If Mary is not leading the march, then I must question toward whom the Women’s March is moving.

“Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God; that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.” Angelus