Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mary and the 144000

Bosco Peters has continued his posts on the creed here. This comment of mine may be too large, so I have posted it here as well. It may appear on his - but I cannot tell. I began with my brief understanding of Mary:
Mary represents our yes to God that Christ might be born in us. Her perpetual virginity is reflected in the image of the 144000. I was always bothered by the Mary issue until I began to appreciate the role I need to assume when reading the Song – Who is this coming up from the desert, leaning on her beloved? It is Mary, it is the Church, it is me.
Who can untangle these images?
Bosco then asks if there is a tradition connecting the virginity of Mary to the 144000 virgins in the book of Revelation. This is my response.
I have not done a close reading of Revelation though I did read many books on it in ancient days - from medieval art with comic dragons to Bauckham's little monograph on the theology. The pericope of the 144000 is treated here as a rejection of Roman prowess. This might be extended to a rejection of all domineering use of sexuality (including the record of Sodom).
The companions of the Lambkin are the only ones who can learn the new song. This is such an important phrase in the psalms - beginning with the first of the pillars that support the tent, Psalm 33 and to the last, 144:9. Each of these poems precedes an acrostic. the first and last of these with the last and first in Books 1 and 5 form a grand chiasm that supports the whole Psalter as tent poles support a tent, or pillars a temple. (See Psalm 15:1 for my intent - הוה who will guest in your tent?) 
If we cannot learn the new song, how can we be part of the new creation? How can we be redeemed? This is a tough image if one interprets it with exclusion in mind.  It is even worse if one interprets it as abstinence - though that image is not completely off the table. 
So as far as tradition is concerned, I am not aware of the linkage between Mary and the 144000 though the connection could be made in Revelation, but it is a part of my own thinking. The new song is able to be learned - perhaps this restores virginity in that there is a complete healing of all the shame that can be raised by the very intimate and vulnerable reality of sex. 
The 144000 are 'the redeemed' so in that sense they represent the church and therefore include us who seek (and find). If they are the church they are the place where God's word, his seed, finds a home, and where virginal conception, birth and growth in the Spirit therefore take place. The holiness of the temple, or tent, our body, individual or corporate is maintained by the same word. 
It is in this sense, which I hope I have expressed in the chink of this digital wall, that Mary and the 144000 are connected. Again our response is a yes in imitation of hers: be it unto me according to thy word.
(And like Romeo and Juliet, it is a love story with identity strained by familial relations - the world of the beast vs the redemption).