Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eros & Christ: Mary’s ecstasy in drama

[Part of a series on Eros and Christ]

Mary’s ecstasy at the time of Christ’s conception is a recurring theme in the spirituality and work of Atlanta artist Trudie Barreras. Her ecstatic “Annunciation” painting was introduced in the previous post and is the logo for this series on Eros and Christ.

Long after doing the painting, Barreras was inspired to explore the theme of Mary’s ecstasy again. At a Mexican flea market in 2001, she discovered a statuette of Mary breastfeeding the baby Jesus while on donkey-back. The figurine inspired her to write a meditation titled “Miriam’s Journey.”

Designed as a first-person monologue, it runs from Mary’s betrothal as a teenager through her son’s death on the cross. “Miriam’s Journey” is written in free verse form and reads like poetry, although it is intended for production as part of a mini-play. An especially eloquent section describes how Mary felt when Jesus was conceived:

Suddenly, the light became, if possible,
Even more pure and liquid-brilliant.
It almost seemed to coalesce into a pillar of fire
Like the one that led our people out of bondage.
Somehow I found myself kneeling
And it seemed that I could see a form within the flame.

“Gabriel!” my heart acknowledged, “Messenger of God!”

Then I heard within my mind, or from outside,
I really could not say, a message clear and simple:

“Greetings, Miriam, for you are loved by Yahweh.
God needs a willing mother to bear Messiah for the world.
You are that Woman.”

My heart sang “Yes!”
Prayer hardly spoken, answered in a breath!
And yet, I knew that I must pause, and listen closely.

I heard myself responding, “How is this to be?
For though I am betrothed, I have not yet come together
With my husband.”

Even as this thought was framed, the answer echoed
Clearly in my soul: “Messiah is God’s son,
And needs no earthly father. As you accept this Gift,
God’s Spirit overshadows you!”

The next moment, it seemed,
I was completely consumed by that ecstatic light,
And yet I was not harmed!
Often before I had felt dim stirrings of the ecstasy
Of God’s Indwelling Spirit.
Now, suddenly, the Spirit was all of me,
And I was all of it!
Please forgive me if, even now, I have no words
To truly tell you how it was!

If in that single eternal moment time ceased to exist,
Immediately after, I reentered the stream of days.
And days grew into weeks, and weeks to months.
I soon discovered that my pregnancy was just like any other.

In addition to “Miriam’s Journey,” Barreras has written a variety of other dramatic monologues with Biblical figures telling their stories. Her interpretations of the Samaritan woman at the well and Peter’s mother-in-law have been produced at various church gatherings, where Barreras reports that they “have tremendous meaning for many people, both male and female.”

Like Barreras, I wanted to make a real connection with the Christian story through my writing. The result was my 2006 novel “Jesus in Love.” The first chapter includes a scene about Mary’s ecstasy. It will be posted here next week as the series on Eros and Christ continues.

No comments: