This painting by Tim Okamura depicts this strength in the humble scene. The graffiti on the walls of the inside of the room where she sits reminds me of the grittiness of the stable in Bethlehem where Mary gave birth. The badger below her chair also calls to mind the stable scene. However, badgers are not typical in urban environments like Brooklyn so this badger may be play on words. What might be badgering this Mary-like woman? Whatever it might be, the expression on the badgers face is anything but docile and friendly.
On the right side of this painting, the image of a First Nations’ male headdress is depicted and then tagged over. The original marginalized Americans have been tagged over, their territory challenged and taken over. The window above this image gives us a glimpse of a dawn or dusk. It is a time in between, the here and not yet.
The woman’s strength is depicted in expression of courage on her face. She holds her baby, carefully wrapped protectively close to her body. Her halo is her afro as well as the glow and crown that surround it. She depicts strength and courage in the face of adversity. She sits tall on her chair, queen like on a throne. She is unaffected by the badger or the graffiti or even the butterflies. Her gaze is strong and steady, unfettered by circumstance.
This is how I see Mary. This is how I see God seeing Mary. God has chosen a vulnerable young woman with not much to offer the immediate world, except her courage and ability to trust the angel Gabriel despite her tenuous social and economic status. Her strength is not an external power or privilege; her strength comes from within. If this portrait is titled “Courage 3.0” then Theotokos(God Bearer) Mary is certainly the portrait of Courage 1.0.
There is power in the paradox of how God chose to become incarnate. The God of the universe could have entered into our presence in any number of ways; flash of lightening, loud marching band, on a white horse. Instead, God specifically chose to use a young girl with little to offer the world, but her “yes”. May we, in this advent season, trust that our “yes” to the Lord is a “yes” to the power of the presence of God to the world, through our own humble locations.
*blog post originally appeared in http://www.sonorantheological.org/