A while back I received a review galley of Judith Dupre’s upcoming book, Full of Grace, Encountering Mary in Faith, Art and Life and although the proofs were in black and white, and there was no cover graphic, I could tell this book was going to be a substantive exposition on Mary in all of the ways we understand her, and a feast for contemplative eyes, as well.
Full of Grace will be released on November 2, but today I was lucky enough to find it in my mailbox, and all of my expectations were confirmed: this is a gorgeous and insightful book!
As I wrote for First Things:
In one of the 59 short but insightful essays, Judith Dupre includes in Full of Grace, Encountering Mary in Faith, Art and Life, we are invited to consider Jesus in the Temple, according to Luke. Both at his presentation and again when she and Joseph find Jesus among the elders, Mary is confounded by the son she loves but cannot fully understand, and by the world’s response to him.
Dupre relates these encounters to the parents of autistic children who endure “additional layers of surrender [and] the frustration arising from the mutual inability to enter the other’s world.” Recalling that Mary very likely (and probably more than once) heard Jesus ask a crowd “who is my mother?” in order to make his larger point about the family of God, Dupre completes the comparison, noting: “Although [Mary] nor the gathered crowds could always understand her son’s actions and words, she entrusted herself, and him, to God and to the seeming darkness that precedes the light of a new understanding.” It is a simple insight but one that manages to both humanize Mary and to make Jesus’ own point: within our differing lives there are threads of subtle sameness that bind us into a whole cloth of recognizable commonality, like a family. And who better to ponder the heart-squeezing mystery of parenthood with, than the human Mother of God?
With Christmas coming, I can’t think of a better gift for someone devoted to (or curious about) Mary, the Mother of the Jesus, the mother of God; Mary, the Theotokos. Because it considers Mary through the seasons of her life, Full of Grace is useful through all the seasons of the year, and can suit many moods. The essays are coupled with perfectly-chosen visuals from classical and modern sources – food for a contemplative day. The marginalia, meanwhile, contains poetry, prayer and historical notes that broaden perspective.
Like Mary herself, this gem of a book is a gift of consolation and understanding that will withstand revisiting-unto-intimacy. I can’t recommend it, enough.