Mary Speaks: “The Testament of Mary” and “The Confession Stone” a Midrash for Palm Sunday

Palm Sunda 2015Judas, Peter, Pilate, Caiaphas, and John – these are the names most often heard in the stories we hear during Holy Week….the men who failed Jesus or who conspired against Jesus, their names we hear during this holiest of weeks. But what of the women who stood by Jesus, who wept for Jesus, who bore witnesses to the betrayal, the trial, the execution, and the death of Jesus. Where are their stories during this week of weeks? For centuries, the church has failed to listen to the voices of the women whose lives were intertwined with Jesus’ life. The stories of these faithful women have been hidden in the mists of time. This Palm Sunday we turned to one of those women; to Mary the mother of Jesus. Her voice has been silenced by the church. She has been confined to works of art that speak not with words. 

So, as we enter Holy Week we turn to two new works of art that give voice to Mary’s story. Anne Keith and I will do our best to give voice to Mary’s story using the words of the Irish writer Colm Tóibín whose book, “The Testament of Mary” imagines Mary as an old woman, nearing the end of her life, looking back on the life of her beloved child Jesus. You will hear cynicism in the voice of Mary who is visited by the men who will tell her son’s story; men who are determined to make a particular meaning out of Jesus life and death. Mary does not share their enthusiasm for the tragedy that robbed her of her child, nor will she twist her own story to suit their needs.

Mary’s voice will also come to you through music. Mezzo soprano, Linda Condy, accompanied by our Musical Director: Marney Curran, B.S.M., A.R.C.T., will preform “The Confession Stone: Songs of Mary” composed by Canadian Robert Fleming based on the poems of Owen DodsonOwen Dodson was an African-American poet whose work is part of what has been dubbed the Harlem Renaissance. Dodson’s poetry brings a lively humanity to the Mary empowering her voice to evoke the passion of a mother’s loss.

Both Owen Dodson and Colm Tóibín provide a powerful midrash with which to begin our Holy Week.