In the light of mysticism and the Hebrew alphabet, the mystery of the Virgin Mary is the mystery of the origin of the Universe, of the creation of matter from the unexplained, the infinite, which science has not yet been able to discover. . Delving into this mystery is very delicate. It implies finding a way between the dogmas of the Church and popular devotion, and this is precisely what the philologist Lola Josa tries with her new book, The measure of time. Word and feminine principles (Athenaica).
“The mystery of Mary -he explains- is the great mystery of the materialization of matter in time”. She symbolizes the woman who is willing to receive and give light, the birth of the physical, but also of knowledge, wisdom and progress, what already exists before being.
The Hebrew sources teach us that birth from a female womb places the woman at the center of creation, while the Virgin reveals the capacity of the human being to transcend matter and time. “Mary is the body and womb -writes Josa-, the measure of the human being”. She is also that of the world and of the infinitely possible, the mystery of origin from matter and the spirit that precedes her.
The mystery of Mary is the great mystery of the materialization of matter in time.”
The Church bridges the discrepancy between the Scriptures and the popular fervor for Mary through the periodic clarifications of the popes, which are infallible. There are four dogmas about the Virgin. The main and only one confirmed in the New Testament is being the mother of God, recognition that, however, was not granted until the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431. The other three dogmas -perpetual virginity, immaculate conception and the Assumption – do not seem confirmed in the Gospels.
The dogma of the assumption was proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950 in order to “spur the piety of the devotees” at the height of Marxism and atheism. One hundred years earlier, in 1854, in a Europe shaken by liberal revolutions and anti-clericalism, Pius IX revealed the dogma of the immaculate conception.
The Vatican seems to resort to it in difficult times, to retain the faithful with more arguments. Paul VI, for example, announced in 1974 that the Virgin was “the perfect woman” thanks to her traditional values, the main one, submission. The Pope propped up the patriarchy at a time of strong culture shock. The progressive intelligence moved further away from the Church. The philosopher Simone de Beauvoir then said that “the Virgin kneels before the Son and accepts her inferiority.”
It is precisely this inferiority that Lola Josa and other philologists such as Esther Bendahan are now combating in the light of Hebrew mysticism.
The first Mary was Miriam, the sister of Moses, the one who saves him from Pharaoh’s wrath and then helps him lead the Jews in their flight from Egypt.
The first Mary, as Josa and Bendahan maintain, was Moses’ sister Miriam, who saves him from Pharaoh’s wrath and then helps him lead the Jews in their flight from Egypt. “Miriam is enormously important,” Bendahan says. Not only because she saves Moses, but also because she is the one who finds water in the desert during the flight from Egypt and then the one who celebrates the crossing of the Red Sea with her tambourine ”.
Women, very present and powerful in the Old Testament, fade into the background in the New. Christianity associates power with the man, not the woman. Sara, Miriam and Esther fade into a society that embraces patriarchy.
We know little about Maria. Of how she lived and how she died there is hardly anything in the Holy Scriptures. Only the apocryphal texts value it and come to compare it with God himself.
The Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century philosopher, scientist, and mystic, saw in the body of the Virgin not only a vehicle at the service of divinity, but divinity itself. Pope Benedict XVI named her a doctor of the Church in 2012. A thousand years after her death, Hildegarda is famous thanks to the music she composed, songs that are meditations and empower women.
Despite doctors like Hildegarda and Teresa de Jesús, the Church has maintained patriarchy.
“The Virgin marks the hierarchical and political order,” says Marina Warner, author of you alone among women (Taurus), a work on the myth and the cult of Mary. “It is an instrument of the Church to present the social order as a divine code”, she adds.
“Christianity -explains Bendahan- is built against Judaism. Sara, Miriam, Esther and Maria were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. Those who did not believe that he was the Messiah were condemned. The conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity consummated the break.”
“The Roman empire -Josa maintains- does not fall, but survives in the Church and in the Bible, a book that is used to justify the actions and interests of ecclesiastical power. An institution that has endorsed war and death cannot be the sole and legitimate interpreter of the Book.”
The Virgin, however, also lives outside of theological interpretation. “She is a true popular creation,” Warner maintains.
According to the historian Miri Rubin, the cult of the Virgin explains the history of Christianity. Her figure is essential for understanding European, Western and Christian civilization ”. Rubin, author of a story of Maria titled Mother of God (Yale University Press), gives the example of how in Latin America it serves both the colonizers and the colonized, how it inspires the cathedrals of Chartres and Strasbourg, the poetry of Dante, Petrarch and Yates, the painting of Giotto, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Velázquez and many other artists.
While Byzantium represents her as a hieratic queen, an image that has prevailed in Eastern Orthodox churches, in western medieval Europe she appears as a closer, more expressive and humane mother. In some Latin cultures, like the Spanish now, during Holy Week, she goes out in a procession bejeweled and made up, dressed in luxurious fabrics, while devotees crowd around her, singing to her and giving her money.
Lola Josa vindicates “the femininity that is in God”, as there is in everything that begins
The Vatican is suspicious of this fervor, as well as of the numerous revelations of the Virgin. There are hundreds of them, but only two recognized, in Lourdes and Fatima, phenomena that Protestants prefer to ignore. They are against Catholic idolatry towards Mary, as they are also against her submission. They are the first to accept the female priesthood, gender equality in the liturgy and the management of the Church. His Virgin is closer to the original because they validated the Hebrew sources of the Bible before the Catholics.
Those who did it in Spain during the 16th century, intellectuals like Frai Luis de León and San Juan de la Cruz, were persecuted, as Lola Josa explains in this interview based on her essay on The Spiritual Song (Lumen).
The Hebrew Mary, the one that originates with Miriam, sister of Mary of Cleophas and contemporary of Mary Magdalene and Mary Salome, prevails in the primitive and Eastern churches as the means of incarnation and mother of uniqueness, of the divine in the human. and from the human to the divine.
This uniqueness, according to Josa, well defined in Genesis, implies that at the origin, in the space prior to material revelation, that is, to the creation of the human body, each being is masculine and feminine at the same time. “At the origin of humanity there is no masculine or feminine because everything is one -he explains-. At the moment of conception, each being has masculine and feminine potentialities”, as biology has shown.
The Jewish Bible, Genesis in its original source, as well as the Torah, start with two words: Bereishit Bará, meaning “In the beginning (God) created.” The letter b is beth in the Hebrew alphabet and in its outline, as Josa explains, “he draws a belly like that of a pregnant woman” from which a head, a crown, the letter reish what comes after beth. “The beginning of the reading of the Bible – Josa maintains – supposes attending a childbirth, the birth of the verb, head and crown of humanity”.
The one is born, Jesus is born from the womb of Mary and to accept it like this, as Josa maintains, is to admit “the femininity that exists in God, divinity in its feminine facet, something that the Spanish mystics of the Golden Age already knew”.