Sunday, 12 May 2013

May Magnify

According to Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, May Magnificat, May is Mary’s Month.  Like him, I also muse at that, and wonder why.  It’s no bad thing that, throughout the year, there are holy days to celebrate the mother of Jesus.  God knows, women get pretty bad press in the Bible, and the Church remains heaven-bent on discriminating against them.  Yet people ought to beware of giving Mary more significance than her simply being an ordinary mother of an extraordinary man.  While I accept her part in history, I certainly don’t buy the miracle-pregnancy in literal terms. A ‘virgin!?’


Why fasten that upon her,

with a feasting in her honour?

The cult of the virgin, along with celibacy and vows of purity, demonstrates that Christianity has long been hung up on sex, and sees women’s sexuality purely in terms of the male domain.  Motherhood, and all its connotations, should be celebrated within its own right.  Hopkins matches this to spring, and portrays Mary’s joyful celebration of pregnancy as a revelation of nature’s beauty:


All things rising, all things sizing

Mary sees, sympathising

     With that world of good,

     Nature’s motherhood.

Today Americans also celebrate Motherhood: it is ‘Mother’s Day.’ And in the Church, it is the feast of The Ascension (now commonly transferred from Thursday – presumably because nobody goes to Church in the week, let alone on Sunday these days.)  This strange event – Christ ascending into heaven, like a puppet on a string – is as unfathomable as the resurrection or the ‘virgin birth.’  Yet it seemed necessary on grounds of equality alone (believe it or not) to proffer a similar trip to Mary.

The doctrine of the Assumption enabled Jung to assert that man’s wholeness comprised both male and female elements. The latter he called the anima. In my Twelve Tones of Blue cycle, 'Canto V' pitches the persona in the female voice, pits the blue sky against the green sea, and lets all five sensory perceptions assimilate the scene.  The poem ends by recalling the annunciation, when Mary sang out with great joy: Magnificat anima mea – ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’  


The magnifying of each its kind

With delight calls to mind

     How she did in her stored

     Magnify the Lord.

Okay, so Gerard Manley Hopkins says it better than I ever could, but here is my attempt at honouring Mary, and nature, and humanity.

Twelve Tones of Blue


Canto V

Drifting: suspended at the clear blue centre of things

Floating on the surface of a drum, underneath the lens

Of sky; salt on my tongue and the pungent skein

Prick the five fingers of every available sense

Until, rising from the azure profundity sings

An Assumption, out-shadowed by a vociferous paean:

                        Anima Mea, Anima, Anima Mea


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