Mary

A gospel witness to transfiguration and liberation

Andrew Jones

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Andrew Jones has performed a most helpful and illuminating service for Christians - of whom there are many - who are not sure what to make of Mary, or what part she could or should play in their faith. He takes the reader on a fascinating journey through biblical material, later Christian traditions and practices associated with Mary, Marian spirituality and pilgrim sites, and more besides. Drawing on scholarship and deep wells of spirituality, he makes a wise and gentle case for the centrality of Mary to Christian faith and prayer. This is a book that will repay slow and thoughtful study and reflection.
Nicola Slee, Research Fellow at the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education

Content

Mary is arguably the first disciple - somebody who lived in the world but also lived very close to the heart of God. In this book, Andrew Jones explores the different ways she is presented in the Gospels and also in Christian spirituality down through history, showing how her significance extends far beyond the Christmas story, to the foot of the cross and beyond. By setting her in her full biblical context, drawing on both Old and New Testaments, he also considers how Mary can be an invaluable focus for ecumenical unity, rather than a means of division.

As more than just a mother at the manger, Mary can be a pattern for our own discipleship. She is an enduring witness to the central importance of transfiguration and liberation as characteristics of the Kingdom of God, characteristics that should be visible in our lives as followers of Jesus today.

Watch an interview with Andrew Jones

Andrew Jones introduces Mary

For a long time I have been generally unhappy that a key Gospel player occupies a kind of second division role in the life of some Christian traditions. Too often I have heard comments such as 'Oh, she doesn't belong to us' or 'She served her purpose in bringing Christ into the world; she has no continuing ministry'... I have always been uncomfortable with them, even to the extent that I think they are essentially misguided...

In much the same way I have been uncomfortable with an over-simplistic approach to reading about Mary in the Gospels... there is the risk of simply being content to say that Mary was humble, obedient and lowly. Surely there must be more to her than that! ... For me, Mary stands for all these and much more too, although for a long time I wasn't sure what this 'much more' was.

For years I have also felt a kind of personal fascination with the figure of Mary. For a while I was unable to put this into coherent words - I simply felt drawn to her place in the Gospels. Gradually I realised that it was less a fascination and more a quest - a journey to discover who or what this woman really was.

So as I set out on this journey, I feel excited. In many ways I feel a sense of release that at last I now have the opportunity to combat some of the negativity around. My hope for this book is to show that Mary cannot be the private property of a few selected Christian traditions - she lies at the heart of what the gospel truly is for all believers. I also want to show that she was far more than a loving mother to a 'gentle Jesus', by looking at powerful and radical ways Mary witnesses to the grace of a life transfigured...

Then I want to explore the ways in which my initial fascination with what Mary was as a human being became a journey of discovery. I want to explore the ways in which so many people are drawn to Mary as a historical figure of human liberation. Here we encounter a woman, a confused woman who encountered God, a humiliated woman who came to terms with scorn, a young woman who coped with a steep learning curve, a frightened woman who took a risk, a mournful woman who discovered transfiguration.

To map my way through this exciting journey, I have adopted a somewhat novel approach. I take as my overarching structure the Gospel experience of transfiguration, because of all the Gospel experiences, I feel that the events up that high mountain, recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are one experience in the ministry of Jesus of which people today can more easily make sense. From the growing interest in relationship dynamics, lifestyle coaching and so on, people generally know what it's like to be changed, to be transformed, to be altered, to be repaired and to move on in a new and transfigured way - it is about making peace with the past before it is too late.

Throughout her life Mary moved in a way that shows she lived a life transfigured; her life was one of startling interruptions, yet through her experience of transfiguration she was able to move on. It is at this point that we discover a vital resonance between Mary and so many people in our own day. For Mary, as for many others throughout the ages, 'moving on' to live a life transfigured was an experience of liberation.

In mapping my way through this journey, I use a way of reflecting theologically which is called the 'liberation method'. Essentially this way of 'doing' theology is based on two precepts.

  • Firstly, it is based on firm biblical foundations. The Christian belief in the doctrine of the incarnation provides the basis for insisting that we must start our theologising from our own real situations within the life of this world... (incarnational approach)
  • Secondly, this way of reflecting theologically is based firmly on the biblical witness that God wants to set his people free. The actual term 'liberation theology' has come into use to describe the response of various theologians to contemporary situations of oppression, prejudice and injustice. They insist that the theologian must begin thinking within his or her real life circumstances in the real world, just as the previously mentioned incarnational approach argues. They insist also that the theologian is committed to action as well as to thought, and that this commitment means taking sides with those who are struggling to free the oppressed.

The liberation method of 'doing theology' is therefore primarily concerned with applying biblical insights and Christian traditions to real life situations, and provides doctrinal backing for those who seek a different and fairer world.

My study of Mary is thus rooted in a process of liberation which seeks to show how Mary's life is itself a story of liberation - and such liberation applies not only to her life but to ours too. And from liberation comes the real possibility of living transfigured lives...

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Endorsements

Andrew Jones has performed a most helpful and illuminating service for Christians - of whom there are many - who are not sure what to make of Mary, or what part she could or should play in their faith. He takes the reader on a fascinating journey through biblical material, later Christian traditions and practices associated with Mary, Marian spirituality and pilgrim sites, and more besides. Drawing on scholarship and deep wells of spirituality, he makes a wise and gentle case for the centrality of Mary to Christian faith and prayer. This is a book that will repay slow and thoughtful study and reflection.
Nicola Slee, Research Fellow at the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education

Written with sensitivity and insight, Andrew Jones' account of Mary and her role in the life of the believer is a pleasure to read. Anchored in scripture yet sensitive to the wider role of Mary in the life of the Church this book deserves a wide audience.
Dr Peter Tyler, St Mary's University, Twickenham

Author info

Andrew Jones is author of Pilgrimage: The journey to remembering our story (BRF, 2011) and an archdeacon in the North Wales diocese of Bangor. He writes for New Daylight and has led pilgrimages to sites associated with Mary in the UK and abroad. He has also written Every Pilgrim's Guide to Celtic Britain and Ireland and presented the DVD A Celtic Pilgrimage to Bardsey.

Reviews

...And we should turn our attention briefly to another worthwhile book by an author from our midst, namely the Ven. Andrew Jones of Llanbedrog. Mary is the name of the book - 'A gospel witness to transfiguration and liberation'.

When have you recently read a book, or article that sets out to discuss the message of the person and life of the mother of Jesus? In fact, there is not much mention of her in the New Testament - but neither is there of the Trinity for that matter! Coming himself from the perspective of the Anglican tradition, the author asks why attention and respect for the Virgin Mary comes almost entirely from the Catholic tradition - and we Protestants usually ignore her. After all, wasn't she the first disciple of Jesus? And he stresses that the point is venerating, not worshipping, Jesus' Mother.

I'll focus on just two issues from this clear yet comprehensive study. In Mary's Magnificat in Luke's Gospel, Andrew Jones sees the great importance of the transformation which is her story, as one of the poor: 'Behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed.' And the meekness and love of Mary is a message for an era that worships profit, status and power. And having turned to the second part of Mary's Song, we see the mighty works of God: 'He shows strength with his arm, he scatters the proud of heart - and lifts up the poor.'

The book speaks of Mary as 'divinely chosen, kingdom worker', which is a very rich and suggestive portrayal and to me, runs concurrently with the new interest in 'liberation theology', in other words its renewed emphasis in the 1960s, especially in Latin American churches.

The book does not avoid some weighty question such as the exact meaning of the Immaculate Conception, and the place of Mary in the life of the church today. But as a whole it is a challenge to us to take the mother of Jesus and the message of the New Testament seriously.

Review by Arthur Meirion Roberts, Yr Hedyn


From www.goodbookreviews.org.uk

What a brilliant and beautiful book, a look at the person of Mary in depth and detail that will make a phenomenally different study for churches or individuals that maybe have thought Mary was not so relevant to their traditions or gospel.

Andrew Jones though addresses this and highlights the relevance of Mary for all traditions by not only looking at what the Gospels do, and don't, say about her, but by also holding her up in light of other gospel occurrences such as the transfiguration and then reflecting that back to our here and now too and looking at how she is a witness to discipleship and a beacon of liberation.

A very easy to read but detailed book that includes group study or personal reflection question too.

Melanie Carroll


This book by Andrew Jones is a valuable addition to the bookshelf. Very few books on the subject of Mary are as accessible as this. It can be used by a group leader to encourage others to explore the main themes of incarnation and crucifixion and achieve a clearer understanding of Mary`s involvement. This in turn assists our own maturity as members of an incarnational church which at anytime can be called to sacrifice. Andrew gives a very helpful picture of denominational understanding of Mary across the church. The only thing lacking is a scriptural index which would have been useful as the references are numerous.

Rev Robin Paterson

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841016511
  • Published: 19 September 2014
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208
Women of Peace - Woking
Festival of Prayer 2017