Chapter five of Seven Archangels: Annihilation went up over at MindFlights Magazine.
Chapter five is in two scenes, and each has a moment that makes me smile, even though they’re both emotionally wrenching. In the first, we have Michael at a loss when faced with the reality that Satan can destroy angels. Jesus comes to him, but Michael can’t even talk about it.
“It was just luck that I’d made that sigil at all,” Michael said.
Jesus was smiling. “Luck?”
Michael lowered his eyes and looked at the stone only inches from his face. “Just because of that game.”
“Lucky break.” This time it sounded a lot like laughter in Jesus’s voice.
It’s only after this that Michael is able to talk about what happened.
It’s a risk to have Jesus as an actual character in a story. First that I’m going to drive off readers, and second that I’m going to get him totally wrong. I didn’t want Jesus to show up with all the answers in hand or to have him come along scolding people. When Michael or Uriel do ask him to fix everything, he tells them he’ll help, but it’s their work to do. To me, that seems more in line with the reality that you and I and everyone else on Earth experiences all the time. “Trust in God, but tie your camel.”
The second moment stands out to me because in this angelic world, we suddenly have a human touch, right after Mary tells Uriel that she got tired of praying with words, so she “prayed with cookies.”
“It’s good to know some things never change,” Uriel said.
Mary looked up from pouring herself a cup of tea. “How so?”
“Remember when Elizabeth was giving birth to John? How many loaves of bread did you bake?”
Mary closed the top on the thermos. “It wasn’t the bread that was a problem. It was the fish.”
Uriel laughed out loud. “I’d totally forgotten the fish!”
“How could you forget the fish? I was still morning sick all the time, and the fish reeked like crazy.”
If you agree putting Jesus into a story is risky, it’s nothing like putting Mary into one. That’s the most common complaint I got from pre-readers, that they didn’t like the idea of Mary in the story. Not the way she appeared, but the idea that she existed at all.
Mary functions in this story the way hobbits serve in Lord of the Rings. You have these insanely powerful beings doing heroic things, but the ones we identify with are the regular, ordinary folk. Mary adds a distinctly human touch: she cooks when she’s upset; she wants to take care of the angels around her and she can’t do it; she loves her son but respects his decisions. Although she has a very real attachment to Gabriel, she’s even more helpless than the angels.
So this moment of joking with Uriel, when she’s heart-wrenched and afraid and grasping for anything she can hold — she goes for the practical and the human, the tangible. She jokes about morning sickness. She’s renewing a friendship at the same time that she’s preparing to let one go forever.
If you ever want a challenge, try writing a Mary that both Catholics and Protestants can love. If you want, let me know how I’ve done.
My idea of Mary is of her having VERY powerful faith despite not knowing everything at the time (of course that was probably no longer a problem after the Assumption). I get that feeling from the story of the water into wine. Despite JESUS telling her Woman my time has not yet come, she merely tells the servants, Do as He tells you. (quote omitted due to possible paraphrasing from memory)
That being said, I think there’s quite a bit of leeway in a work of FICTION – and as I love your writing, you have done no wrong in my humble opinion.
You know, given my slightly unusual religious upbringing, I was just wondering tonight whether Mary would ever appear to a Protestant and whether that was prohibited by the nature of their beliefs. Sort of in the vein of the Apostle Paul seeing Jesus even though he thought Christians were wrong.
Off the top of my head, the only non-Catholic marian visitation that comes to mind is to John C Wright, who was at the time an atheist. In his conversion story, he says he had multiple mystical experiences while he was still an atheist, and one of them was a vision of Mary. (He did not convert to Catholicism.)
“And Mary. I spoke with her. I wish I could tell you of her kindness, her simple, unaffected goodness of heart. She is more celebrated now than any queen, and lives where joy lives forever, and bright spirits like votive candles surround her, but I wish I could do something, anything to undo the sorrows she knew in life. Poor woman. Poor, poor woman.”
So that’s one, at any rate, the first one that came to mind.
I meant to add, I read an article a while back about Muslims in very much non-Christian countries experiencing visions of Jesus. I have no idea where to find that article now, but it was in a major publication.
But here’s my thought: God knows the personal beliefs of each one of us. Kind of goes with that omnipotence thing. 🙂 And God is flexible, so I would bet that God is willing to play along with our needs as long as it doesn’t compromise the truth. Therefore, if you have someone who’s going to be violently turned off by a vision if it’s presented in a certain way, God is going to use a different method of communicating the information to that person. He’s pretty resourceful. Knowing that I don’t believe in animal spirits, for example, God probably wouldn’t come to me in the form of a talking dolphin, but I know others who would find that the easiest way to encounter the Divine. If someone would have a violent disgust reaction to a vision of Mary, or would be “talked out of it” by his/her spiritual director, then God probably would take a different approach.
That’s my two cents. God’s two cents are worth infinitely more and may well be different than mine. 🙂