Mary of Ageda
"The Empress of Heaven"
D a v i d M. O'N e i l l
TheMystical City of God
The Mystical City of God - Empress of Heaven
Could the Mother of Jesus have had a greater role in the mission, Passion, and Resurrection of her son than the evangelists tell us? Could women have been important church leaders in early Christianity?
Mary's story as a lifelong companion in her son’s mission becomes a leader of the early Jewish-Christian church, is carefully constructed from canonical biblical texts and known apocryphal material, particularly those related to the Passion and to Mary’s Dormition and Assumption.
We now view Mary and other women as significant actors in the early church at a time when the Latin church fathers were sharply separating the one perfect woman from the rest of womankind, urging these daughters of Eve to imitate Mary’s purity and obedience.
Mary's story begins in "The Empress of Heaven" by witnessing her son's crucifixion, confronting Satan in the mayhem, being given the mysteries of heaven as a living source for the Apostles, through to her Dormition. Combining material from the apocryphal Protevangelium of James with references to the canonical Gospels, the reader’s first surprise comes when the Archangel Gabriel delivers an unexpected message during the Annunciation, telling Mary that this divine invitation reveals God’s intention that women should no longer be subordinated to men. Through the Incarnation, the curse of Eve will be lifted, and women can be independent.
Mary, "the incorruptible mother is never separated from her gracious son and king,” knowing even in his infancy that he was the Lord. What is most unusual is not just Mary’s close companionship with Jesus, but the leading role she and other women take in his mission. She constantly stands beside him, always understanding his messages.
Many women follow Jesus as disciples, and the “holy mother of the Lord” guides and advises them, acting as their mediator with her son. The important contributions of women reflect a sense of women’s role. Chief among the women working with “the holy Theotokos,” is her good companion Mary of Magdalen. Magdalen's extraordinary position and missionary travels make her an apostle who ultimately received the crown of martyrdom in Rome.
Mary’s central presence throughout her son’s Passion is, in fact, the source of most of the information in the Gospels about her son’s last day, the only person who remained with him at all times from his arrest to his Resurrection. She sees and hears everything. When the guards prevented her from watching his appearance before Annas and Caiphas, she questions witnesses going in and out, gathering a complete account of what is about to happen.
Mary is a deeply grieving mother during Jesus’ final trials. She overcomes her fear of crowds and armed soldiers to accompany her son on his way of the cross and stands beneath it at the end with the beloved disciple. Mary recounts the majority of words and actions accomplished before and after Jesus’ death to the apostles and the other disciples. “And so, O Mother of the Lord, the sword penetrated your heart, the nails penetrated your hands too, you suffered even more than he.”
When Jesus finally gives up his spirit, Mary reveals her strength and ingenuity. She searches for a suitable tomb and finds it surrounded by a garden near Golgotha. Learning that it belongs to Joseph of Arimathea, she begs him to give it to her. When he graciously agrees, she and her women companions accompany him to ask Pilate for the Lord’s body. In doing so, they are rewarded for their “audacity and intelligence.” Joseph and Mary remove Jesus from the cross, and the mother embraces her son’s broken body, crying out in this verbal Pieta: “O death more admirable than Incarnation! Now reveal your force.... I know you will revive and talk again, for you are clearly God and Lord of the living and the dead.”
Now that the crown of woven thorns is removed from the head of Jesus, Mary willingly places it upon that of her own and takes on the next perilous stages of her son's ministry.
David M. O'Neill
Tel: 1 818 799-3693