Saturday, December 21, 2013

Something more about Mary


Joe and his girl blocking the steps again. This just isn’t working. They just don’t get it. They were blocking the door yesterday too. Sigh.

One of the local Bread & Puppet volunteers comes in. She left  box with one of the amazing miniature clock work instruments in it under a pew. But it’s not here. Too much happened since then.

It’s freezing cold. Rachelle comes in. I’m worried about her. She’s got her SUV carts again. The reason she was evicted from Capital Hall. I call Valley Lodge for her. Find out that Goddard had offered her another place that she had turned down because it was too small. And of course she won’t go to a shelter. (Few vulnerable people would.) I tell her she may have to choose between her carts and her life.  She agrees. Asks if she can bring them in to sort through, find her valuable papers and very important things. Put them in boxes. Let the carts go. I agree, although I don’t think this is going to turn out well.

Marc G comes by to pick up a check for the Interfaith Assembly. We’ will barely squeak through again.

And out of nowhere, Bernardo from El Taller.  They are being evicted. Their rent is being raised from $8000 a month to $16000. We will talk about that. But first, they need a large space for their 35th anniversary celebration. Of course, come here. They’ve got a petition going to their landlords. Even the pope has signed it. One of their fellow argentinos. I’d love to welcome them here.

                                                              * ** *

Bible Study. Extracanonical birth narratives. The Koran. Mary’s back story.
But first, I share that I have finally learned why the third Sunday of Advent is Mary’s Sunday. La Purisima helped me to figure it  out. Because it is the Sunday following the Immaculate Conception. And ever since Presbyterians joined in the Common Lectionary with Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists and Lutherans, we’ve been following a liturgical calendar and readings based on a holiday we don’t acknowledge. So then  a way, we do, without knowing it.

We read the protoevangelium of James. A gospel attributed to Jesus’ brother. And the ur source for many others like the Secret gospel of Matthew, the Syria infancy Gospel, the Arabic Infancy Gospel… From around 145 CE. Translated into Greek, Latin, Russian, Old Slavonic, Armenian, Irish, Arabic…. So it had a pretty good run.

Mary’s back story.
* Parents Anna and Joachim
* Another miraculous birth like Abraham and Sarah, like Hannah
* Immaculate conception means she was born free from original sin
* Her parents  brought her to the Temple where at age 3 she danced
* She was entrusted to Zechariah’s keeping until she reached the edge of puberty
* A gathering of widowers was called. Joseph’s staff had a dove fly out, so he won.
* Why an old widower?, we wondered. Then someone figure it out, young boys would be too hard to keep away.
* So while he’s gone, she conceives by the Holy Spirit
* There’s also a back story for Salome who shows up out of nowhere at the end of Mark. Here she’s an early appearance as a midwife with her own doubting Thomas moment. She has to touch for herself to believe this virgin story.
*  First, he’s got to get over doubts about her. And then the council had doubt about him. So they send them out into the wilderness as a test. When birth return safe and sound, the council is satisfied.
* Jesus is born in a cave
* They hide out in a manger while fleeing Herod.
* And the a whole back and forth to Egypt, with stories covered in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Then we read the Koran. And realize that most of the Muslim version  of the Jesus birth story comes from James and Thomas with its own twists. Clearly Muhammad knew these books, 300 years after they were officially out, they were still clearly out and around.

For the Muslims, the virgin birth is no big deal. God only has to say be and it is. And if God created humans from nothing, why with woman, you’re halfway there. (But God is not Jesus’ father, per se. Jesus is fully human, a prophet.) And Mary is the only woman named in the Koran.

And we learned that the strange old English ballad the Cherry Tree Carol has its origin in the Koran’s retelling of a Thomas story, only with date palms. At this point in her pregnancy, Mary wished she were dead from the pain. (Someone says, one of Mohammed’s wives looked over his shoulder and told him to put that in…)

It’s amazing how these older outré gospels continued to echo through popular culture long after being voted out. Our study would vote to keep James in. Obviously people wanted more about Mary.


RL and I struggle for 20 minutes trying to get Rachelle’s SUV cart in the door.He looks at me. Shakes his head.

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