Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mary Christmas thoughts

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — She was faithful, loyal, prophetic and a very brave teenager. She has been revered through the ages as the ultimate mother; a saint, in fact, and more: the Mother of God.
Like her son, she has inspired faith and reverence for more than 2,000 years and, like her son, has appeared many times, over the centuries ... to a young girl named Bernadette in Lourdes, France, in 1858, to a humble Indian named Juan Diego, near what is now Mexico City, in 1531, and reportedly to many in our own times, in forms that range from tears on a statue to an image on a tortilla.
Whatever the truth of the apparitions, no one can dispute that her story has provided inspiration through the centuries.
Who is the real Mary?
Like most of us, my memories of Mary date back to earliest childhood, to scenes of the nativity in churches and schools, and stories told in bible school lessons and elementary school pageants, back in the days when there were no barriers to religious displays in public schools.
I remember going to see an old movie, “The Song of Bernadette” with my cousins when we were little kids and having discussions about what we’d do if we saw Mary. We all hoped we would.
I still do. And somehow, in the Borderlands, particularly, and especially at this time of year, Mary seems very close to us all.
We see her image on banners and statues and shirts and dancers’ headpieces at the Guadalupe Fiesta celebrations at Tortugas and St. Genevieve’s. After 16 fiestas here, I still muse about why there was a rift between the two fiestas. This year, I’m saying a special little prayer to Maria —I’m sure it’s not the first — that they resolve their differences. But maybe it’s a way of spreading the attention we pay Our Lady, from the top of Tortugas Mountain to Downtown Las Cruces, where the first Our Lady feast day celebrations were held over a century ago. I’ve heard that God creates by establishing diversity which we must work to resolve.
There are so many art festivals honoring Mary here this year that I’ve termed this month Guadalupepalooza.
There’s an art show at the Branigan with photos of Guadalupe Festival celebrations and several shows that incorporate interpretations of the now famous Guadalupe image and regional screenings of a documentary about the festival.
And our oldest and newest galleries have December shows dedicated entirely to art inspired by Our Lady.
“Gualdalupe/Lupe/Lupita: Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Transmutation, Transformation, Transcendence” is the featured exhibit at the brand new Galería Tepín at 2220 Calle de Parian in Mesilla.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Art: A show of Guadalupes, religious symbols, churches, saints and crosses by 15 local artists runs though Dec. 31 at The Cutter Gallery, 2640 El Paseo Road.
I love the images and the pageants and music celebrating Mary, but somehow what always comes to mind is the very approachable young woman herself. Some traditions have it that she was an immaculate conception herself, groomed through eons of tradition among a devout community to fulfill her vision of bringing forth a savior.
Even so, I wonder at her bravery, welcoming a pregnancy that could leave her abandoned by her fiancé or even stoned to death if her condition came to light, or executed for blasphemy if she proclaimed her child the Savior and son of God.
The young mother and her husband courageously faced so many dilemmas. How to travel to a distant town and give birth in a stable at a time when the infant mortality rate was so high? How to escape to a foreign land to save your newborn baby from mass slaughter?
Even with supreme faith and the support of her community, even with the knowledge of what it would mean for mankind, how to reconcile mission and a mother’s heart, faced with the knowledge of the interim fate of a beloved child? How to prepare him for a mission that would involve cosmic trials and temptations and a brutal crucifixion? What mother would not rather be crucified herself than see her child suffer such agony and abuse? How to endure and transcend that, to keep the faith? How to support a risen Christ and Savior and nurture a young church?
Mary did. And maybe those moments we remember this month, the sages and shepherd and angels who came to visit a new mom and her firstborn in a sacred manger, helped strengthen and inspire her to endure as they inspire us today.
This week, as we dance and pray, make pilgrimages and pledges, as we sacrifice and celebrate, I will be remembering the woman who made the season of light possible. It will sound the same as I share the traditional joyful greeting, but I’ll be thinking: Mary Christmas.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.