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Where Mary ranks in the heavens

Published May 13, 2013 4:43 pm

The Divine Feminine • Catholics, Orthodox Christians venerate her.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

To Catholics, the Divine Feminine is Mary, variously known as the "Mother of God," the Blessed Virgin and the Queen of Heaven.

Mary's example "shines through our own mothers," Utah Bishop John C. Wester says in his Mother's Day message to the Salt Lake City Diocese, published in the Intermountain Catholic.

She was filled with "peace, gentleness, kindness, warmth, compassion: all qualities of a mother," Wester says. "She passed on to her son these qualities, which culminated in Christ's command to love one another as he has first loved us."

Catholics view Mary as the "holiest of saints," not as a god, but she does act as an "intercessor" on behalf of humans, which means believers can pray to her.

Orthodox Christians also honor and venerate Mary as "Theotokos," which is Greek for "birth-giver-of-God."

They see her as "more honourable than the Cherubim and more glorious without compare than the Seraphim," according to the Orthodox Research Institute in New Hampshire. "Her name is mentioned in every service, and her intercession before the throne of God is asked."

In Judaism, God is comprised of "all values and attributes that are to be found in this world — including both the male and female characteristics," writes Israeli Rabbi Ari Enkin in a short online response to a query.

The Hebrew word "shekinah" is seen by some as the female attribute of God, says Lisa Kieda, a Utah Jew, and the sabbath is described as "welcoming the bride."

"God is neither male or female in Islam," says Imam Shuaib Uddin, of the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy, but has "characteristics of both."

Of course, in nonmonotheistic traditions such as Hinduism, there are many goddesses like Durga, who, as the story goes, vanquished demons and brought back the light. Her annual nine-day festival is largely about women and children, Indra Neelameggham says. "You don't have to call in a priest."

pstack@sltrib.com