“It’s a mystery!” was the repeated response my mother gave to me whenever I asked her theological questions that fell outside the realm of the Catholic Baltimore Catechism. To be fair, my questions were usually a bit precocious for a young child, but who are we kidding, I was a rather strange and overly religious kid. My idea of a good time was kneeling before our three-foot statue of the Virgin Mary as our family recited our Lenten rosary. And while my brothers were contorting themselves into positions that would qualify for Cirque de Soleil, I was piously straight and focused. Mary was my pathway to the big three, The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost. And while I knew I was suppose to desire the Three-in-One, they did not hold the same sway over me as the Mary who stood atop the world while crushing Satan in the form of a snake. My love for Jesus was more a sense of obligation for the unfair rap he had to endure while on earth, the Great Sacrifice for the sin of Adam and Eve. My image of God as a not-so-nice-Father-to-his-only-Son sealed itself into my consciousness early on. “Why,” I would ask my mother, “if God is love would he insist on such a bloody and painful sacrifice for a sin that honestly does not seem so bad.” You guessed it, “It’s a mystery!” was her response.
But I have since come to learn that it’s not a mystery, but rather a matter of shifting the theological lens from an abusive Father to a God who has been totally misrepresented. A God who is both unnameable and pronounceable. Who offers us the mystery of God’s self in every single seen and unseen element of the earth and cosmos. But still, that does not always work for me. I need more. In times of heartache or sorrow I need an image with skin and bones and a heart that is larger than my pain. I need a Creator God that will rock me back and forth, soothing my fears and yes, even caressing my face with cool breaths that remind me I will survive this latest insult to life. In these times I know what God is not. I know God is not a rock, or a wispy tuft of air. God is not the mighty King on high able to judge my enemies. Nor is God a warrior who kicks ass over the unrighteous. God is my Mother. Maybe this is why Mary has always worked for me. Maybe she never really was the mediator between Them and me, she is Them. Theologically I may be on shaky ground, but the mystery between Mary as Mother and Mother God is one I know, not one I can defend. And it is one that continues to sustain and let me know that I am never too old to be held in the Mother’s embrace.