Mary, Beloved of God

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Offered by Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski
Forthcoming from Sweet Lady Press, Spring 2020, Inshallah

“Star Madonna, Our Lady” by Cara Grace Chadwick

 

Introduction

Mary, Beloved of God

Truly, those who have faith and do the deeds of wholeness and reconciliation
the Infinitely Compassionate will endow with love.
[Quran, Surah Maryam 19:96]

Bow in worship and draw near!
[Quran, Surah al ‘Alaq 96:19]

 

The being of Beloved Mary weaves together all three of the Abrahamic traditions in a Sea of Divine Love, surging from within her being. The name “Mary” of Latin and Greek origin, “Maria,” carries the meaning of “Mistress of the Sea,” and has come to be honored, also, as carrying the meaning of “Star of the Sea (stella maris),”[1] the shining Light of guidance. “Mary,” as she is known in the Western Christian tradition, is also a variation of the Hebrew “Miriam”, in honor of the first Hebrew prophetess, elder sister of Moses and Aaron, of the Virgin Mary’s ancestral lineage. Remembrance of dear Miriam brings to heart the resonance of beloved Jewish traditions of devoted engagement in “listening” to God. As a young Jewish woman, Mary, who was devoted to the Temple at such an early age, would have been continually immersed in such practice, in bowing before God. She is recognized, also, in the Quran, similarly to the verse that mirrors the closing of Surah Maryam above, as of those who draw near (Surah al Alaq 96:19). Within the Islamic tradition, Beloved Mary is much revered, as “Bibi Maryam,” “Hazrati Maryam,” “Maryam,” mother of Jesus. Jesus is known by his Arabic name in the Quran, Isa; within the Quran he is, also, as he is in the Christian tradition, spoken of as the “Word of God.”[2]

And the virgin’s name was Mary.
(The Bible[3], New Testament, Gospel of Luke 1:27)

Another possible meaning of “Mary,” derived from the Hebrew “Miriam,” is both “strong” and “wished-for child.” “Miriam” may, also, originally have been an Egyptian name, derived in part from mry, “beloved,” or mr, “love”. Some say the name “Mary” could be derived from the Egyptian mar (to love) combined with the Hebrew Ya (YHWH), and so conveying the meaning “one loving the Lord” or “one loved by the Lord.” Mary, Mother of Jesus, is such an example for all of us of one intensively devoted to her Lord, immersed in Love.

The passages of Mary’s life radiate blessing to all of us when we hold them close in remembrance. St John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, beheld a magnificent vision of a radiant pregnant woman: “A great sign appeared in heaven—a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.”[4] Many consider this to be a representation of Mother Mary. One might witness the passages of her life as twelve stars of blessing. The number twelve itself awakens many streams of remembrance: the twelve tribes of Israel nourished from the twelve streams that emerged with the blessing of Miriam’s well,[5] the twelve celestial signs of the zodiac, all circling round this “Queen of Heaven,” she who was so deeply immersed in prayer, night and day. We are reminded, also of the twelve apostles or “disciples” of Jesus, deeply devoted to this beloved Mother, she who is known as the “Rose of Sharon,”[6] the most Graceful blossom of the Rose Garden of Love.[7]

Beloved Mary is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, very briefly in the Gospels of the New Testament. Many of the stories of her early life that come to us through the Christian heritage come to us through the Protoevangelium of James, the “Infancy Gospel” of James, from around the 2nd century CE, containing stories of her life from before her conception until Jesus’s birth. Further details of her life were gathered together in the first full biography of the Virgin Mary, The Life of the Virgin Mary attributed to the monk, Maximus the Confessor (580-662 CE).[8]

Many Christians are unaware that within the Quran, revealed through the heart of the Prophet Muhammad in the 600’s CE, there is a whole chapter (Surah Maryam), named after Mary that contains the story of the Virgin birth of Jesus; she is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran and is mentioned much more often in the Quran than in the New Testament, remembered in verses revealed throughout the early years of Islam both in Mecca and Medinah. Her story accompanied Muhammad and was of solace to those of faith who gathered with him, as it continues to be today. One of the most beautiful verses of encouragement of the Quran resides within the closing passages of Surah Maryam:

Truly, those who have faith and do rightful deeds of wholeness and reconciliation,
the Infinitely Compassionate will endow with Love.

[Surah Maryam,19:96]

 

Mother of the Community (Umm al Ummat)

O Mother of the Community,
your robe is blue with stars,
because you shield us
under the heavens
filled with light from your heart,
that Heart that knows us,
each and everyone,
in our deepest beauty
and the strength of your love.
O Creator, with such depth
You have formed us!
How is it possible
that we can hold such space,
and can listen to songs
from ancient journeys,
and journeys
that still have not yet begun?
O Mary, you knew,
and you know,
these beauties—
our Lord has shown you.
Stand with us by heart,
enwrap us with your cloak,
until we, too, are strong enough
to come forth,
to work in the ways
of our Lord.
In all humility,
we wait upon the Word,
the willing, surging,
from deep within us
to master and muster
all the forces of Your Love
that are always guarding us
and uplifting our hearts,
O Infinitely Compassionate One,
O Allah!
You rain down Your Stars
to give us light to ride upon
as we return,
for You have promised
that we will all be gathered
in the Day—
Your Light will be so bright
that all shadows will melt away
and, brilliant in Your Love,
we will know ourselves to be nothing,
but You,
as together with the emanations
of the Angels we will sing,
every particle vibrating
with Your Name,
Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim,
O You who birth us,
embrace us,
and enfold us into
Your Vast and Everlasting Love.

 

Truly, those who have faith and do rightful deeds of wholeness and reconciliation,
the Infinitely Compassionate will endow with Love.

Innal lazhina amanu wa amilus salihati
sayajalu lahumur Rahmanu wuddaa.

[Surah Maryam,19:96]

 


 

 

[1] Around 800 CE hymns of greeting to the Virgin Mary were composed including “Ave maris stella” (“Hail Star of the Sea”); this beloved song later became the hymn for Christian Vespers services in the “Office of the Virgin,” still lovingly celebrated today.

[2] The Quran, Surah al ‘Imran 3:45.

[3] The original New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek; the Old Testament, which formed around the Hebrew Torah—the “Pentateuch” (five books of Moses)—was written mostly in Hebrew, with a few sections in Aramaic. The Torah would have been a source of great nourishment for Mary. Both the Torah and the Gospel are recognized in the Quran as “a light” and bright guidance: Step by step He has sent down to you this Book, setting forth the truth which confirms whatever remains of earlier revelations: for it is He who earlier bestowed from on high the Torah and the Gospel, as a guidance to humankind, and it is He who has bestowed the standard for discernment. [Quran, Surah al ‘Imran 3:3-4] Truly, it is We who bestowed from on high the Torah, in which there was guidance and light. On its strength did the prophets, who had surrendered themselves unto God, deliver judgment unto those who followed the Jewish faith; and so did the [early] men of God and the rabbis, inasmuch as some of God’s writ had been entrusted to their care; and they bore witness to its truth. [Quran, Surah al Maida 5:44]

[4] See The Bible, Revelation 12:1-2.

[5] After Moses, with the support of Aaron and Miriam, led his people through the Red Sea towards the Promised Land, while they were wandering in the wilderness, water was provided for them through the blessing of Miriam and a rolling rock under her auspices which burst forth with a fountain of water for the people as they journeyed. She would take her staff and draw a channel in the sand for water to flow to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. After her death, the water stopped, and it was this same rock that Moses then struck and from which water poured forth for the tribes’ sustenance. Moses, too, is mentioned in the Quran many times with great reverence, e.g.: For, indeed, We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ and caused apostle after apostle to follow him. [Quran, Surah al Baqarah 2:87]

[6] Rose of Sharon, “Althea” (“with healing power”): Hibiscus syriacus—of the family of hibiscus (indicating “delicate beauty”)—this drought tolerant “rose,” whether white, pink, or lavender is within its center deeply vibrant red at heart. Within the Bible, the “Rose of Sharon” symbolizes beauty, especially in the “Song of Solomon” where it is a symbol for the beauty of the Beloved of King Solomon.

[7] Mary is often identified with a rose, as the mystical rose among thorns, she who radiates healing grace and fragrant blessing amidst the sorrows of the world.

[8] The Life of the Virgin Mary attributed to the monk Maximus the Confessor has been newly translated into English by Stephen Shoemaker from the Old Georgian translation (from the 10th century) of the now apparently lost Greek original manuscript of the 6th century.

 

2019-12-06T17:51:25-05:00