The Marriage of Freedom and Grace

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Drawing of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, public domain via Getty Images

On this feast of the Assumption of Mary, it is jarring to find Luke’s account of the Visitation and the Magnificat paired with the wildly apocalyptic scene from Revelation, in which a seven-headed dragon stands before the Woman Clothed with the Sun, poised to “devour her child when she gave birth.” About this famous scene, biblical scholar Craig Koester says that the author “grapples with the cultural icons of his day”—namely, the dominant practices of the Roman Empire— “to unmask them, so that when readers see the realities that lie behind the façades, they might better resist and persevere in faith.” 

What does it mean to give birth to something that will threaten the world with its goodness, its joy, its beauty? What does it mean to resist and persevere in faith under the boot of state power? On closer examination, the Magnificat— “God has cast down the mighty from their thrones, / and has lifted up the lowly”—perfectly unmasks “the realities that lie behind the façades.” Despite all appearances, the Beast has no power to prevail against the God of Life, or a young Jewish girl named Mary, who births hope in the unlikeliest of places, far from the centers of power. 

To call Mary “Theotokos”—Mother of God—is at once to recognize our own vocation to birth and protect the Christ-Child, who gestates like a seed in each of us. God asks us to bring something beautiful into a broken world, through the enduring power of love and compassion, in the marriage of freedom and grace. 

© Liturgical Press.

Christopher Pramuk

Christopher Pramuk, author of Hope Sings, So Beautiful, is University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination and Associate Professor of Theology at Regis University in Denver, where he resides with his wife, Lauri, and their four children

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