While the Goddess has been dismissed from most of western consciousness for the past 500 years or so, young Catholic girls are still encouraged to love Mother Mary in all her forms. Elementary school age girls dream of crowning the May Queen--Mary as Virgin. Young girls and teens love the story of Christmas, imagining that we, like Mary the Mother, hold Baby Jesus to our hearts. And as women grow older, we look to the Sorrowing Mother, Mary as Crone, who holds her son's wounded body and weeps over it.
Most of us only know about Mary from the Gospels. But there is a legend about her parents and her early life, before she was chosen to become the Mother of God.
The Hebrew parents of Mary are Joachim and Anna. The name Joachim is a variation of Heli or Eliachim, substituting one Divine name (Yahweh) for the other (Eli, Elohim). Joachim belonged to the royal family of David, and Anna was a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron; thus Christ the Eternal King and Priest sprang from both a royal and priestly family.
Now the great day of the Lord drew near, and the children of Israel brought their offerings. Reuben stood up and said “It is not permissible for you to bring your offerings first, for you did not produce offspring in Israel.”
Deeply ashamed, Joachim left the city. In the desert he pitched a tent, saying, “I shall fast and do penance until the Lord deems me worthy.” He went into the desert and fasted for 40 days and nights. Anna wept to see her husband go.
All alone, she went into the garden and sat down beneath the laurel tree. Looking toward the heavens, she saw a nest of sparrows in the tree. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes. How she longed to have a child of her own. Anna entreated the Lord, saying” Woe is me! To what am I likened? I am not likened to this earth, for even the earth brings forth her fruit in its season and blesses you, O Lord.”
And behold an angel of the Lord appeared, saying “Anna, the Lord God heard your prayer, and you will conceive and give birth, and your offspring shall be spoken of in the whole inhabited world.” Anna said, “As the Lord my God lives, if I give birth, whether male or female, I will present it as a gift to the Lord my God, and it shall be a ministering servant to him all the days of its life.”: And behold two angels came saying to her “Behold your husband Joachim is coming with his flocks.” Anna ran and throw her arms around his neck saying “Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me very greatly, for behold the widow is no longer a widow, and she who was barren has conceived.”
Anna gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. In gratitude to the Lord, Joachim vowed that once the child turned three years old, she would be sent to the Temple to be educated.
When she was six months old her mother stood her on the ground to see if she could stand. Walking seven steps, she came to her mother’s bosom. Anna held the baby to her and said, “As the Lord is my God, and He has sent me a miraculous child.” Anna then caught her up, saying “as the Lord my God lives, you shall not walk on this earth again until I bring you to the Temple of the Lord”. Then she made a sanctuary in her bedroom and prohibited everything common and unclean from passing through it.
When the child was three years old, Joachim said, “let us call the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews and let each one take a torch and let them be burning in order that the child not turn back and her heart be misled out of the Temple of the Lord”. Thus they did, until they had gone up into the Temple.
The priest received her, and kissing her he blessed her and said, “The Lord God has magnified your name in all generations, in you at the end of todays will the Lord God manifest his deliverance to the children of Israel”. He set her on the third step of the altar, and the Lord God gave grace to her, and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her. At last it was time for Mary to climb the steps to the Temple. A halo of light encircled the blessed child and filled with joy, she began to dance. The child’s bright spirit could not be contained any more than the sun can be kept from rising. Her parents returned marveling and giving praise and glorifying the Lord God that the child did not turn back.
One day Zaccharia, the chief priest overseeing Mary’s education was discussing the scriptures with a small group of holy men. The child sat beside him, for already she was a great favorite with these revered elders. “The Lord made us to serve Him,” Zaccharia declared.
“And to glory in His kindness,” said Mary softly. Startled, the old priest looked at her. “The little one is fearless and yet all gentleness,” he told himself as the others exchanged smiles.
“The Lord can be merciful. That is true Mary,” he replied. “You are wise, for one so young.”
“Is it wisdom, good father, to see what is all around us?” asked the child. “The Lord must love us very much to have given us this earthly paradise to look after.”
When her chores were done, in the remaining hours of each day she went out alone just beyond the gates of the Temple. There she would distribute food and clothing to the poor and the elderly who came hoping for charity. In time the other girls followed her example, and the Temple became known far and wide for its generosity.
One day, as she bathed the brow of a young girl so sick with fever that she was not expected to survive the night. Mary heard angelic singing. She looked to her patient, wondering if the girl had heard it too. No, her friend was sleeping peacefully for the first time in days. Touching the girl’s forehead, Mary realized that the fever had passed. Surely it was a miracle – the girl would recover, just as Mary prayed she would. “Mary,” a voice suddenly said. “The Lord has seen fit to bring you into this world without the stain of sin. And you use His good favor to help others. By doing so you honour Him greatly.”
When Mary turned fourteen, Zaccharia told her, “It is customary for all young maidens at your age to marry.” That night an angel appeared to the old priest in a dream and said, “Do not worry, Zaccharia. Tomorrow have each suitor bring with him a staff. The Holy Spirit will give a sign as to who shall be Mary’s husband.”
The next day, the suitors crowded into the Temple, each holding a staff in his hand. Kneeling, they prayed for a sign. All at once a lily was seen to bloom from the staff held by the widower Joseph, a builder and carpenter. And then a snow white dove alighted upon the staff before flying off. “How can it be that the Lord has chosen me?” Joseph said, astonished “I have been widowed for some time and have sons nearly as old as this tender young girl.” But Zaccharia shook his head “The Lord has given a sign, Joseph.” And turning to Mary the priest asked “Mary what is your wish?” Moved by the events and Joseph’s humble words, Mary extended her hand to Joseph, saying, “I accept.”
That day the marriage contract was signed, and in twelve months the wedding ceremony would be celebrated. In the meantime, Mary returned to her parents while Joseph departed for a distant town where he was about to begin work on the building of a Temple. The commission was a great honour, but it would separate the couple for nearly a year.
At day break one spring morning, Mary went to draw water from the well before her parents awakened. All at once she heard a voice. “Hail Mary,” it said. “The Lord is with you. Holy is your name.” And the angel stood before her. “Mary, do not be afraid, “he said. “I am the angel Gabriel, God’s messenger. He has sent me to tell you that He wishes you to bear a son.”
“But how can such a thing be possible? I am not yet wed,” said Mary.
“The Holy Spirit will pass through you as a ray of sunlight passes through a drop of water, and so the child will be called the Son of God.” Mary shook her head in wonder.
“Your kinswoman Elizabeth has in her old age conceived a son, and she, like your own mother was once called barren,” the angel continued. “But now, thanks to the Lord, Elizabeth is in her sixth month. Indeed, only your consent is needed for such a miracle to be possible, for nothing is impossible for God.”
As she listened, Mary was filled with courage. She replied, “Then I give my consent.”
Bowing before her, the angel Gabriel kissed the hem of Mary’s robe and then vanished.
August 15th: The Feast of the Assumption of Mary
August 15th is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a celebration of the belief that Mary, like her son Jesus, rose into heaven. Taken symbolically, this is the day that the Church finally acknowledged that Mary is indeed the Goddess.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." The Eastern Orthodox Church believes in the Dormition of the Theotokos (the falling asleep of the God-Bearer).
This is the story of Mary's last days on Earth.
While we know little of Mary's life from the Gospels, according to legend, Mary spent her life after Pentecost supporting and serving the early Church. She was living in the house of the Apostle John, in Jerusalem, when the Archangel Gabriel came to her and revealed that her death would occur three days later.
with angels and saints,
and celebrate this great feast:
the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
through this blessed woman,
the Spirit's gifts still flow upon us,
and her words teach gentle wisdom.
she sought good things for the poor.
Now in heaven her care is undiminished,
near her Son she seeks the good of us all."
What does it mean for our earthly body to be taken up into the heavens (the spiritual realms)? " The Assumption proclaims the Mystery of the century, the return of Mother Earth to the Heavens and the end, therefore, of the split between Earth and Heaven and all the divisions, such as between flesh and spirit, that flowed from that. It heralded the unity of the universe and the unity of human personality." (Eugene Cullen Kennedy: http://ncronline.org/blogs)
May it be so!