Blessed Among Women — Guest Post from Barbara Messner

Barbara Messner offers this poem from her Anglican church in Stirling, South Australia, where they will be celebrating Mary Mother of our Lord this Sunday. Perhaps a good devotion for any of us, any of the time. 

Blessed Among Women

Then Elizabeth, filled with the Spirit,
said that you would be blessed among women,
but we struggle to see you here, Mary,
though we long to take part in that blessing,
in the God-bearer’s loving and knowing.
Come and teach us your gift of commitment:
“Let it be with me as God is saying.”

It is hard to relate to you, sister,
for our images do you no justice:
there’s Miss Anglo in blue with a halo,
or some icons surrounded by gilding
with your lap as a throne for the baby,
or the glass that is clear for the God-light
with no stain of identity showing.

Yet the Word is, we’re made in God’s image:
our uniqueness can honour the baby,
with diversity given as blessing.
We are all of us chosen as you are
to be pregnant with God growing human,
and your brave “Let it be” is not passive,
but an act of inspired co-creating.

Mother Mary, as woman we need you:
giving birth in a non-sterile stable
with no mid-wife but animal females –
an old ewe or a nanny goat, watching
as you labour in straw for your young one
with the mess and the primal expression
of the pain and the wonder of living.

How we need your intuitive wisdom!
Let our hearts learn from you how to ponder,
how to cherish each sign of maturing,
every insight and graceful unfolding.
You’re our model for motherly loving,
as your child becomes leader, then victim,
and you’re there for him, dying and rising.

Barbara Messner

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4 Responses to Blessed Among Women — Guest Post from Barbara Messner

  1. Elisa says:

    Barbara, I adore this line in particular: or the glass that is clear for the God-light
    with no stain of identity showing. But I feel like there is an allusion I don’t understand in the “glass.” Isn’t identity a curious thing in the Bible? You have very minor characters like “Rufus” named, with very little biography except that he was the son of Simon who carried Jesus’s cross. And in my life I have only heard one sermon preached about that guy (and it was delightful). Then you have the woman at the well. .. millions of times that story has been preached but we will never know her name. Then we have three Mary’s at the tomb and we don’t know exactly who the third Mary is . . . the named and the nameless. . . and then of course all those whom Yaweh or Jesus have re-named, lol. (: I love your thoughts on the invisibility of Mary’s identity. (: And Maren, thank you for sharing her with us. (:

  2. Barbara Messner says:

    Thanks Elisa. You’re right: the line about the clear glass alludes to something Thomas Merton said about Mary. Much as I love Thomas Merton’s writings, I’ve always questioned the idea that Mary would show forth God’s light better if we can’t see her identity, as if who she is would somehow get in the way of God rather than witnessing to the richness of God expressed in fully realized humanity! Besides the picture we have of Mary in Scripture is full of identity – Mary the prophet commissioned in the annunciation scene when she responds “Here am I …”, with the Magnificat as an example of prophetic poetry, Mary in relationship with Elizabeth, two women powerfully inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mary reflecting and pondering things in her heart, Mary of whom Simeon says that her heart will be pierced by a sword, Mary with the brothers chasing after Jesus because they think he’s lost his mind, Mary at the cross and in the upper room when Jesus appears. So the verse that follows affirms that her uniqueness and ours enables us to share with God in “inspired co-creating”, not as passive ciphers but being fully who we are meant to be. I can’t relate to the prettified pious pale Mary, but I can honour the prophetic poet, the woman giving birth in the straw among animals, the woman whose heart is pierced, who holds a dead son, who prays among the leadership team and witnesses resurrection! Thank you Elisa for responding to my poem. From Barb Messner

  3. Elisa says:

    Barbara, your poem was nourishing to my soul, and so your reply to my comment (which I am saving). Rubbing tears from my eyes. Wow, that is a post in itself, and quite nearly another poem (hint hint). (: You know, I have also never heard a sermon on Mary (perhaps because I was raised so uber-protestant), weaving all those exquisite threads of her biography into one shimmering tapestry. Will you write that sermon? Have you already?

    I get so excited about the collaborative construction with the Holy Spirit of identities and biographies — this inspired co-creating, which it seems to me in successful collaborations has the result of creating a magnificent, unique canvas out of each life so yielded to that co-creativity. Merton sounds like he’s leaning with the Sufi mystics who aim at the erasure of self. (Did he prescribe or ascribe such erasure to men as well? Or was it only women he felt should be submerged in the abnegation of identity?) I cannot see the Creator as also an Eraser. It makes no sense to me. Why would we be born imbued with such creativity if God intended for us to erase ourselves? Why even create us in the first place if erasure were the goal? To be made in the image of God is for each of us to be born artists with our whole lives as canvases to beautify in that magical collaboration with God. Damn straight. (: Bring that prophetic poetess into relief that we may glory in the magnum opus that she is. (:

    Moreover, why would the Inspirer of scripture be so meticulous not only about naming God’s human collaboraters, but also RENAMING so many of them (Abram/Abraham, Saraih/Sarah, Jacob/Israel, Simon/Peter, Saul/Paul. . . ) to trigger and celebrate the transformation of their identities as they entered into these collaborations if erasure were the goal? Why not just give us numbers, lol? (Yes, I have a sermon about identity gestating in the back room of my soul). Even to provide a narrative is to ascribe identity. I am still grappling with the darkness and the light of the ego and its ideal spiritual position. Even the Sufis wonder at the paradox of the separation and the sameness of our spirits with God. Give me a decade or two to work through that, lol. (And also I welcome your thoughts).

    Thank you for unearthing treasures here. I want to hear sequels to this poem, Barbara! Grace to you (and to Maren!) and joy this day.

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