“But Mary was preserving these matters, carefully bringing together and considering them in her heart”: Ethical Listening, Contemplation, and the Cultivation of a Sexuating Silence

Julie Kelso


Twice in Luke's gospel, and only ever in Luke's gospel, we are presented with the curious response of Mary to mysterious events concerning her son: "but Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:19) and "but his mother kept all these things in her heart" (Lk 2:52). We are never told exactly what Mary makes of these things she witnesses and hears. Her silence extends to us here, in the present, from this distant past. And indeed, this is quite a different response to that which she earlier gives her cousin Elizabeth, when she bursts into song. Of course, many have offered their own interpretations of Mary's silence, especially that she ideally demonstrates the piety required in the face of the divine truth of the son and as such is a Christian role model. Mary's response is not just silence, but a contemplative silence. However, rather than universalising Mary's meditative reaction, as indicative of the best way for men and women to respond to what is deemed the truth of the divine, I want to insist on interpreting these biblical moments as a contemplative silence for women. I shall do so by developing Irigaray's work on the cultivation of the breath and silence to promote the possibility of "becoming woman". Here, I draw specifically from Irigaray's stunning, though, to many perplexing recasting of the Madonna, and her insistence that "women mindful of their liberation" need to imitate Mary and not Jesus.


Luke; Mary; Luce Irigaray

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391