We were seated on chairs arranged in a circle in the aptly named Hospitality Room, men and women from Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, Japan, and the U.S. We were reading the Qur’an. Some were Muslims who many people would not consider Muslim; others were Christians who many people would not consider Christian.
In the latest issue of the Century, Philip Jenkins writes about how the veneration of Mary cuts across religious difference in Egypt. Egypt was the place where Mary first lit up the imaginations of Christians, but apparently her appeal is not limited by culture or religious heritage. Lately I’ve come across a couple of enchanting books that illuminate this for me.
I’m taking a class on the Gospel of Luke this semester, and
one of my assignments is to engage in an ongoing spiritual practice
related to that particular Gospel. So for the entire semester I am
reading the Magnificat daily. It’s a passage that I’ve been drawn to in
recent years, but it has been particularly illuminating to be dwelling
on it during Lent this year, since it is typically confined to the Advent
season. Somehow the triumphal language of the justice that God has
already accomplished fits with the modern treatment of Advent as a
celebratory season. But Lent is a season of penance, which puts an
entirely different spin on the text.
This month millions of families around the world will gather dutifully and joyfully for a traditional ritual meal. Around the edges of some of the more traditional gatherings—the ones where the chief chefs and hosts are grandparents or the age of grandparents—the siblings and cousins of the next-oldest generation will begin to talk together.
Among my friends and acquaintances, the recent made-for-television movie Mary generated little interest. Perhaps that is because I spend too much time with Protestants for whom any display of interest in Mary continues to be slightly suspect.
Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian haven in New Mexico, in 1968 welcomed its first Catholic speaker, Father Anthony Wilhelm, with whom I was to hold a public conversation. Tony began his days by saying mass in an upper room, before a congregation of Hispanic employees. Couldn’t some of the Protestant Ranch-folk drop in some day? he asked.