Mater Dei

Dios te salve, Maria.
Llena eres de gracia:
El Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres.
Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre:
Santa María, Madre de Dios,
ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.

I grew up in Cuba during the 80s and 90s, and religion was only just starting to flourish after the harsh scorn of Communism. It wasn’t until I was 10 that my mother sought to even baptize me, which meant that I was no longer “an innocent” and had to attend Sunday School. I went because the idea intrigued me, and the grand Spanish-Gothic cathedral we technically belonged to was, well, grand! The history was amazing–just like that of the Amerindians and the ancient Pharaohs–and the prayer above became my favorite.

Now that I am older, I know why, and why The Mother archetype is easily the most powerful one for me. I was raised by a single mother during a time when Cuba (and many other places throughout Latin America and the world) shunned the very idea of an unwed mother and her bastard child. Though no one said it, and I received unconditional love from my family, this was a truth I internalized. The story of Mary and her baby Jesus was familiar, even if he had a stepdad in Joseph.

So it bothers me when I drive past nativity scenes now and they’re always of the Christ in the manger. It disturbs me. Even if Jeshua of Nazareth was born on what would eventually become December 25th (there’s debate over that), that day belonged to his mother. This fifteen or sixteen year old girl, shunned by everyone she knew because of the miracle she carried, labored in a barn to give birth to what she believed would become the salvation of the world.

Did she know what she was in for? How many years of wandering across the world and the struggles of raising a demigod? Did she weep as she watched her son, now grown, foment what amounted to rebellion?

And they call her the Virgin Mary, as if that was her only claim to fame. No, she was the Mother of God and she paid for your sins as much as her progeny did. I wish our culture would give her the recognition she deserves, here, but then the Abrahamic faiths have never been too keen to hold a woman in high regard for long.

It isn’t my faith any longer. After the baptism ceremony, outside the steps of the cathedral, I turned to my mother and told her I refused to spent yet another Sunday in catechism. She agreed and never again forced me to go back to a church (I have attended Mass and services, but at my own volition). Today, I practice another religion all-together, but I still think of Mary, now and then, screaming to give birth to a miracle.

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