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Ad-dressing the Mary Condition (Part Three)

March 6, 2013

When the Blessed One had said these things, he greeted them all. “Peace be with you, ” he said. “Acquire my peace within yourselves.” 

“Be on your guard so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here’ or ‘Look over there.’ For the Child of Humanity exists within you. Follow it. Those who search for it will find it.”

“Go then, preach the good news about the kingdom. Do not lay down any rule beyond what I determined for you, nor promulgate law like the lawgiver, or else you might be dominated by it.”

After he said these things, he departed from them.

The above is from The Gospel of Mary with The Greek Gospel of Mary, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.

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I read an article in my newspaper this morning. Its title is Children and Parents: So similar, so different, and is written by Mary Cleary Kierly, Parent to Parent columnist. Allow me to share a segment.

With three of our children, now ages 19, 17 and 11, I have at one time or another felt bafflement that comes with encountering aspects of their individual selves that are foreign to me, or at least not within the bounds of my experience. It’s not always easy to discern when “WWID” (What Would I Do?) would be a good or poor advice, in part because none of my kids is a mini-me.

In the face of such complexity, one can react with humility and probing, or with denial and the equivalent of a psychic sledgehammer. I have done both.

This journey of discovery has been especially intense with Christina, our 17-year-old who has Down syndrome, autism and vision impairment. Consider two recent examples. One is physical, involving her vision. The other is more psychological or spiritual, having to do with her preference for spending large amounts of time alone.

We don’t really know what the world looks like to Christina, literally or metaphorically. For starters, she has nystagmus, an untreatable, neurologically based condition that causes her entire visual field to shake (one thinks of static on a TV screen). She has small cataracts scattered like snowflakes across both her lenses, which cause gaps in vision and make her very sensitive to glare. She has no depth perception on account of the strabismus (eye-turning) she was born with. And she’s far-sighted, requiring corrective lenses.

Christina’s art teachers, I have always thought, have been models of how to cope with all of this. Her current ones at Amherst Regional High School are particularly standouts. They could have discouraged this student with lousy vision (and a lot of other challenges) from even taking art classes. Instead, they warmly welcomed Christina, recognizing by their actions both that everyone needs beauty in his or her life and that conformity is overrated.

A recent painting that Christina did with a palette knife, one that her teachers ended up entering in the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Competition, is beautiful and arresting. Christina entitled it, “Something.” Thickly textured swirls of yellow, blue and black appear and recede, converging on a gray mass near the center. Is this what she sees, knows, experiences, wants to communicate? Much of our kids remains depth and mystery.

To give another example of the challenges of understanding and negotiating difference, for a couple of years now Christina has been insisting on spending large amounts of time in what we call our away room. It’s a sparsely furnished space in our home with banks of three-quarter-length windows facing south and east, so it’s filled natural light. If left to her own devices, I think Christina would sit there indefinitely on the thick rug, quietly looking out the windows.

What’s this about? my husband and I have asked ourselves and each other. We started with: Maybe she’s depressed. “Try medication” came the ready response. But Christina’s retreat to the away room has never seemed to come from misery, but rather to be a source of relief.

(article continues)

I know of many monks who spent their lives sitting in silence, and truth be told, many of these spoke inwardly (and outwardly on occasion) to their demons. If you read the Philokalia, you will see this.

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For the Child of Humanity exists within you. These words from the Blessed One, what are they saying? And what did Mary bring to those men during that discussion? At the request of the men, Mary shares …

She said, “I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’

“He answered me, ‘Blessed are you for not wavering at seeing me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’ ” (passage from The Gospel of Mary)

For where the mind is, there is the treasure.

I wonder, if Mary showed up in one of the parishes today, would the parishioners say to her what Peter said to Mary? “Did he, then, speak with a woman in private without our knowing about it? Are we to turn around and listen to her? Did he choose her over us?” 

And the men after these had to go and turn her into the Immaculate Maid, for, how could a woman be an agent of Truth?

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