THE LOST GOSPEL OF MARY: THE MOTHER OF JESUS IN THREE ANCIENT TEXTS
From the first, Christians loved Mary. Christians today stand behind these fervent believers and peer over their shoulders. Frederica Mathewes-Green writes: “I hope that we will be able to see what they saw, and come to love her too. We’ll do that by reading three ancient texts about Mary. In each case we’ll begin with some historic background, and then move to consider theological and cultural questions (sometimes, uncomfortable questions) that the document raises.”
First, “The Gospel of Mary” is a humbly-told story of Mary’s life from conception to the birth of her son, Jesus. Put into written form as early as 150 A.D., “The Gospel of Mary” was at once cherished in the Christian East and rejected by the papacy because it did not depict Joseph as ever-virgin. This annotated version will introduce new readers to an important part of Christian history.
The second ancient text presented here is a very brief prayer to Mary, found on a scrap of papyrus in Egypt about a hundred years ago. The artifact is dated at 250 A.D., although it could be much older. This is the oldest known prayer to Mary. It begins with the words, “Under your compassion,” which give it its name, today.
Finally, the third text, “The Annunciation Hymn of Rejoicing,” was written by the Syrian poet Romanos about 520 A.D., greets Mary with joy and wonder at Christ’s conception. This hymn, offered every year in the Eastern Orthodox Church, uses complex patterns of rhythm, internal rhyme, and paradoxical juxtaposition. Mathewes-Green’s new version conveys the original work’s genius, while inviting readers to join generations of Christians in celebrating God’s work in Mary.
Together in one remarkable volume, these three texts open up the life of Mary, and her role in the church, in new and sometimes startling ways.
“Do you want to get to know Mary a bit better? Are you interested in entering a faithful Marian spirituality? Let Frederica Mathewes-Green facilitate a rich, traditional, authentic meeting of Mary. When it comes to spending time with the mother of our Lord, this book is second only to Scripture.”
— Lauren F. Winner, author of Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, and Real Sex
“The Mary that Frederica Mathewes-Green gives us in these winsome texts–a palpably real woman, at once humble and exalted — transcends the differences that persist even today among the main streams of the Christian tradition, not least because this Mary points beyond herself to the ultimate source of our hope and our joy.”
— John Wilson, editor, Books & Culture