December 19, 2023

From the Rector…

A couple of years ago, my sister gave me a robe for Christmas that had the following stitched on the back:

DRESS LIKE COCO

LIVE LIKE JACKIE

ACT LIKE AUDREY

LAUGH LIKE LUCY

Every time I put it on, I am reminded of what women can do when they express their agency. Coco Channel created fashion that was not only gorgeous but accessible for women. She embraced a future of women who wanted to break free of corsets and do more in the world. Her designs were not only for the upper class but a burgeoning class of female professionals who took the world by storm. Jackie Kennedy Onassis created a Camelot for America to enjoy in her husband’s years in the White House. Audrey Hepburn was the epitome of charm and grace. And Lucille Ball not only kept us in stitches, she ran a Hollywood Studio that brought us a stream of television delights in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s that live on in TV cult history. 

Each of these women were (and still are) icons of western culture and have contributed to the image and values of women even today. More than simply cultural icons, they were successful, smart, vivacious, and motivated. They desired to become more than what the world afforded them and soared to heights few of us achieve. In life and legacy, these are bad ass women—to use the modern lingo. And though I adore these four icons, there are so many other women I hold up as role models and trail blazers and at the very core of them is Mary, the Mother of God.

We all know the story of Mary visited by Gabriel and told that she will have a baby. (Luke 1:26-38) Her response is to ask how this can happen when she is still a virgin. That question has sparked theological controversy over the words translated “virgin” in the NRSV Bible and might better be translated “since I know not a man.” The language relates the same message—Mary has yet to have sex and she knows where babies come from, so how on earth can this thing the angel speaks about possibly happen.

Theologians who don’t get lost in the debate over Mary’s virginity, still get lost in the misnomer that Mary doesn’t have her own agency. They take her question, “How can this be…” as a meek protest from a timid little girl who has the weight of all the world placed upon her. We even romanticize this meek and mild virgin. In truth, Mary asks a clarifying question. She knows the words of the prophet Isaiah who tells us that a “young woman shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Is 7:14) She would not have thought that young woman in Isaiah to be a virgin, but here it is happening to her and so she wants to make sure she understands exactly what God is calling her to do. She uses her own agency, clarifies the question, and offers a response.

If you read Luke’s story of the Annunciation from the perspective of Mary exercising agency, you realize pretty quickly Mary is a bad ass when it comes to God and her faith. She is no wilting flower, confused and fearful. Read the stories of those who have had an experience (a theophany) of the divine—God or angel—in Scripture and you don’t hear a whole lot of fear and trembling. Instead, you hear clarity of purpose and direction. When an angel calls on you and speaks to you in the still, small voice of your heart and your faith is built on trust, then you know exactly what you need to do and respond accordingly. That is what happened to Mary. 

Mary responds yes to God not because she had no choice or even because she did have a choice. Her response is grounded in her trust of God and the clarity of this divine experience. She doesn’t see herself as wanting because she is young or even because she is a virgin. She sees herself as possessing power and strength because she has the courage to trust God and risk it all. Mary is a bad ass. She is more than a religious icon; she is a role model for women to embrace their power and change the world.

I love the robe my sister gave me, but if I were to change one thing about it, I would add a line:

DRESS LIKE COCO

LIVE LIKE JACKIE

ACT LIKE AUDREY

LAUGH LIKE LUCY

TRUST LIKE MARY



Light and Life,

Candice+

candice@coascension.org