You do not have to be Roman Catholic, Christian, or religious to find the story of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, interesting. This is a real historical figure who endured much hardship and yet remained steadfast in her convictions. The personality of this unique woman indicates she may have been the first feminist because she was a defiant individual who was not afraid to challenge authority.
The writings about Mary are voluminous but her rebellious behavior is not often the focus of her fame. She was an educated woman for her time and could often be found depicted as someone who was reading in paintings. Historically, she is depicted as being devoted to her Son, but her role is diminished by some because she should not be a distraction to the work of her Son, Christ.
Lineage of Mary
Mary’s lineage is not as clear as her husband, Joseph, who was a straightforward descendant of King David. Her marriage to his family gave her a direct link to David which fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus would be from the house of David. There are clues that her family was linked to David as well, but they are not as clear as the connections with her husband.
Joseph and Mary appear to have had an arranged marriage because Jewish tradition, at the time, was for families to be part of the selection process for them. It is unclear as to whether Joseph was the same age as Mary, was a widower with grown children, or was much older than her. The appearance of an angel to Joseph in a dream sealed their union because she was pregnant prior to the marriage and Joseph considered breaking the engagement due to this fact.
It may just be conjecture, but Mary may not have been a good candidate for marriage because of her personality. She may not have bought into the notion that a woman should submit to her husband. There was a need for a more mature man to temper her because a less patient man would not tolerate being dominated by a smart woman in a patriarchal society.
The dream, Joseph’s decision to honor his engagement, and Mary’s personality proved to change the course of history because the union of Joseph and Mary is probably the most famous marriage of all time. Joseph was a wise man, and it was his choice in choosing a strong charismatic woman. It appears she took the lead in the marriage and dominated the family during the marriage because we do not know much about Joseph as the head of the family.
Joseph was a humble and considerate man who must have protected her and allowed Mary to be herself. He probably admired her intelligence and fierce ways. It would not be a surprise if he fell in love with her at first sight!
Mary’s fame far exceeds Joseph’s and Christ’s relationship with His parents is usually about His interaction with His mom more than His father. Joseph’s personality is not ignored because he is considered a model father figure and served as the moral and financial head of the Holy Family. He is honored for his goodness and kind nature.
The topic of Mary’s forward personality is not to diminish her most famous strengths. Her humility, simplicity, and charity cannot be overshadowed, but in today’s world, it is important to recognize that these traits complemented her other strengths of setting boundaries, parenting skills, speaking up against injustice, and her courage.
Scholars who study Mary consider her the most powerful woman who ever lived. Today, she remains admired by some of the most hardened individuals, is a subject for reverent graffiti, and her image is the most popular tattoo on people. Mary is revered by many Christians, Muslims, and her qualities are imposed on other spiritual figures like the pagan god, Isis.
Not Star Struck
The Annunciation is the celebration of the moment when the Angel Gabriel informed Mary that she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Texts in the New Testament state that Gabriel says that she should not be afraid of this news, but there are clues that indicate that she was not afraid at all.
On the contrary, there are paintings from antiquity that indicate otherwise. Some controversial paintings depict a woman who was busy doing something else and held up her hand to pause the message that Gabriel was about to give her. This awkward moment of setting a boundary is a demonstration that Mary was not necessarily impressed by the appearance of the archangel.
She was busy with another matter, and he could wait a moment until she was finished the task that she had started. It could be that Gabriel was surprised because he had his speech ready to be said but was halted before he could say it. The messenger angel of God said his prepared remarks to Mary, but it was not to a cowering woman not able to handle such a powerful message that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.
Mary was not shy to have expectations of Jesus either. When He was lost in the temple at the age of twelve, she reminded him that He was under her care regardless of His future ministry. He had her quick tongue with his response, but he obeyed her, respected her parenting skills, and was not heard of again until He was thirty!
The first recorded miracle that Jesus performed was at the behest of his mother. Water turning to wine at a wedding in Canaan was because of Mary asking Jesus to help the hosts of the event because they were running out of beverages. The injustice and potential embarrassment for the wedding party were reason enough for Mary to use her personal authority to request a miracle from Jesus!
The courage of Mary to stand with her Son during his persecution and crucifixion is legendary. It is not that it is uncommon for a mother to stay with her son but under the circumstances, she could have been injured or killed by just being present. There are no indications that she was in danger, but there was a frenzy around the death of Jesus, and it would not be a surprise if the Romans did something cruel like injuring or killing Christ’s mother.
Christ was thinking ahead by leaving His youngest and most beloved apostle, John, in charge of His mother’s care. He had many reasons for doing this including being a good Son looking out for an aging woman, but there may have been other motives. He left the youngest apostle there to respect her while he was young and protect her as he grew older because she may have had tendencies to speak her mind and get into trouble in her own right!
Joseph left Christ in charge of His mother after he died. and it would not be surprising that Jesus understood his human father’s care for His mother. She was not one who would easily submit without an argument and was not afraid of authority. John the Apostle took on the role to be the protector of Mary and he stayed with her until her death and Assumption.
Mary, the First Feminist
It would be easy to dismiss the argument that Mary was the first feminist because there are no records of her being the rebel that she is being portrayed in this article. There are no actual historical records to defend these assertions, but there are clues that she was not a demure and submissive woman.
Mary was an educated woman for her time because she could read and most likely could write. There are multiple paintings depicting her as hesitating when receiving the archangel Gabriel. A major controversy about her nature ensued at the time but is not discussed today.
A typical woman in ancient Palestine would not be a person known to challenge authority because of the patriarchal nature of that society. Mary was not an ordinary woman of her time, otherwise, she would not have been chosen to be the Mother of God. Joseph, Jesus, and John recognized her special qualities and protected her the best that they could until her assumption into heaven.
Today, Mary’s persona reaches the most hardened individuals and has earned respect from them. Her image is depicted in graffiti and as the most popular tattoo on people. The unconditional love and goodness that she transcends remain long after she had human form.
Mary has many miracles that have been credited to her, is revered by many cultures, and has many names to highlight aspects of her holiness. There are many feast days attributed to honoring her, the state of Maryland was named after her, and cities like Mariupol, Ukraine were named after her. The entire month of May is devoted to her.
She is depicted as the person who crushed the head of Satan. It is easy to miss an accolade that should be recognized on her behalf.
Scholars recognize Mary as the most powerful woman in human history.
The Virgin Mary is not seen as a rebel or a leader like Joan of Arc, but she has been and remains inspirational. She is a powerful reminder that you can rise above circumstances and be a success. You may not regard Mary as a feminist because she does not have the image of a modern woman but then again it is not hard to read between the lines.
John Cappello, M.B.A., Psychic Medium, and Author of metaphysical books and children’s books about angels. For more information go to johncappello.com.