Dearest monks and artists,
This reflection is an excerpt from the first day’s reflection in our Advent retreat online that begins today where we explore the various titles and names for Mary.
Mary has gone by many names in the Christian tradition. My approach to these names is influenced strongly by Jungian thought on the archetypes. Archetypes are universal energies that we all experience through dreams and collective symbols. I am drawn to the names of Mary because I believe that their multitude of images points to images we hunger for and ultimately find within ourselves. Mary can be a mirror for our deepest sacred longings.
Mary is also the counterbalance to a tradition where the divine has been heavily masculinized and patriarchal. We need the masculine energies in their healthy forms, just as we need the feminine in her life-giving aspects. This retreat welcomes you to embrace both.
One of my favorite books about Mary is by Jungian author David Richo – Mary Within Us: A Jungian Contemplation of Her Titles and Powers (recently released under a new title – When Mary Becomes Cosmic: A Jungian and Mystical Path to the Divine Feminine). In it he writes that Jesus and Mary offer us windows into the essential self. His book draws on the Litany of Loreto which names Mary in a variety of ways. “Litany titles are fields of energy in the spiritual world. They describe what is in us potentially and what we are called to display in and disperse into the universe.”
We begin with the title of Mary as Virgin, because it is perhaps one of the most familiar. Marion Woodman, another great Jungian teacher and writer, describes the virgin archetype (The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation) as having less to do with physical intactness and purity, as it does with emotional wholeness and sovereign power. The Virgin archetype is whole, belonging to herself, and impregnated with divine love. “She is who she is because that is who she is.” She is free of the dictates of family and culture. The Virgin reconciles all opposites within herself and has everything she needs within to bring new things to life.
Interestingly, in ancient times there were many stories about virgin births to indicate the heroic or divine nature of a person. David Richo writes that “The virginity of Mary means that incarnation is about the conception and birth of higher consciousness without the intercedence or necessity of any human agency i.e., ego. The Incarnation is a spiritual reality not a literal one.”
When the angel Gabriel visits Mary, she is given a choice rather than a demand. Mary is both active in her openness to choice and saying yes to the angel’s invitation, as well as surrendering to the divine desire: “Let it be done to me.” The divine unfolding is dependent upon Mary’s full “yes.”
The Virgin invites us to integrate both the feminine and masculine energies within us, cultivate a deep connection to the divine within, and open ourselves fully to our inner resources. She reminds us that ultimately we do not rely on anyone else for our sense of power and presence in the world other than the divine spark within.
We hope you will consider joining us for this sacred season ahead!
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner