3.3.13 … How Mary Feels About Being a Virgin?

How Mary Feels About Being a Virgin, The Testament of Mary, Colm Tolbin, Maureen Dowd, NYTimes.com: With that title, I had to read on …

COLM TOIBIN has plenty of experience getting inside women’s heads.

Still, I ask the writer, how did this former altar boy from County Wexford have the nerve to climb inside the head of the most revered woman in history?

“It took a lot out of me emotionally,” the 57-year-old Toibin conceded, calling from his apartment on Riverside Drive, where he stays when he is teaching English literature at Columbia University.

In “The Testament of Mary,” a one-woman show with Fiona Shaw previewing later this month on Broadway, Toibin imagines his own version of how the Virgin Mary felt about crucifixion — “the most foul and frightening image that had ever been conjured up by men” — and whether she really had not known Joseph in a biblical sense.

To borrow a phrase that nuns once applied to naughty children in my school, the play is a bold, brazen piece. Toibin wrote it first as a stage monologue, then turned it into a novel and has recast it again for Broadway. His illiterate but intelligent Mary, with echoes of Antigone and Electra, is no idealized, asexual, docile Madonna, tenderly cradling her son’s bleeding body, Pietà-style.

This Mary runs away from the crucifixion to save herself (“the pain was his and not mine”) leaving others to watch Jesus die, wash his body and bury him. This Mary misses sleeping with her husband. This Mary disdains the “misfits” who flocked around her son.

She resents his two disciples — “the men who come to oversee my final years” as protectors or guards — for pressuring her to help mythologize Jesus as the son of God. She notes wearily that one scowls at her “when the story I tell him does not stretch to whatever limits he has ordained.” The men patiently explain to her “what had happened to me at my son’s conception” and rewrite her story about fleeing the crucifixion to be more nurturing.

“All my life when I have seen more than two men together I have seen foolishness and I have seen cruelty,” she says of the disciples, “but it is foolishness that I have noticed first.”

She disdains their drive for power, which calls for hiding the truth to protect the institution they are building — a story line that echoes this week as the male enclave in the Vatican roils with old rituals, new scandals and the cascading shame of even more sulfurous sexual abuse revelations.

Toibin, who describes himself as a lapsed Catholic, said he was inspired when he went to Venice and saw Titian’s radiant “Assumption of the Virgin,” and then “up the road” saw Tintoretto’s chaotic crucifixion painting.

“The idea that we were somehow saved and redeemed by a crucifixion seems strange to me,” he said. “The idea of human sacrifice is something we really have to think about, even people who are practicing Catholics, the idea of taking a single individual for the sake of any cause.”

via How Mary Feels About Being a Virgin – NYTimes.com.

1 Response to “3.3.13 … How Mary Feels About Being a Virgin?”

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