December 2021 WATERritual: Reimagine Mary as A Woman Today

December 14, 2021 WATERritual

Reimagine Mary as A Woman Today

By Diann L. Neu

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims your greatness, O God.”
—Luke 1:46

Listen to the audio recording of the December 2021 WATERritual here.


If you wish, have near bread (stollen), napkins, and cup of hot cider.


Call to Gather

Mary is “the most powerful woman in the world,” according to National Geographic. This first-century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth and the mother of Jesus has left an indelible influence in art, culture, and social justice. Besides having appeared to faithful ones in Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, and Medjugorje, she has made her mark across the ages. From religious iconography to pop culture, socialist revolutions to feminist movements and beyond, she is everywhere and in our everyday lives. Though she is presented in myriad forms and ways today, her presence is as ubiquitous as her name: Mary.


December is filled with feasts of Mary. On the eighth, Immaculate Conception. On the ninth, Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos (Greek title for the bearer/mother of God). On the twelfth, Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the twenty-fifth, Christmas. This liturgy looks at the many faces of Mary and focuses on her as a symbol of those who are oppressed, forgotten, and in search of a home for their children.


Song: “Spirit of Our Elders” by Kathy Sherman, CSJ, Song of the Universe (© 2008 Ministry of the Arts), adapted. Used with permission.

Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)



“Searching the Faces of Maria,” by Nicola Slee, from The Book of Mary (London: SPCK, 2007), 128-9.

“We should work to find out if there is a Maria among us, in the faces of our sisters.”
Marcella Althaus-Reid, Argentina

I’m seeing Maria in this woman of courage
who has left her gender behind

to take on everything new

who battles daily with the sickness in her gut

that is using her body up

who plays electric guitar like an old rock star

and loves the taste of Nigella’s food in her mouth

In her face I’m seeing a Maria of tenderness

a Maria of fierce intelligence

a Maria of beautiful fortitude

“Spirit of Our Elders”
Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)

I’m seeing Maria in this woman of fearfulness
who has left her country and children
and lives in a bedsit in Coventry

She came here seeking safety and found only obscurity,

working illegally for the meagre pounds the government won’t pay her

I hardly know her but I pray for her daily

In her face that I’ve never seen

I’m seeing a Maria of desperation

a Maria of tenacity

a Maria desperately missing her people and her children

“Spirit of Our Elders”
Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)

I’m seeing Maria in this solid, straight-talking, uppity woman

who is a tenacious survivor

of a long life of kicks and bruises

She can infuriate

She dominates any group that will allow her into it

She can pierce the crap of church, state or academy in seconds

She speaks truth as well as her own insistent neediness

whether we want to hear it or not

In her face I’m seeing an irksome Maria

a spirited Maria

a Maria who will not take no for an answer

“Spirit of Our Elders”
Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)

I’m seeing Maria in this woman, my friend, who died of cancer

But she would have hated this description,

she who lived passionately to the last day of her life

for her children and husband and her neighborhood and her beloved Africa

for the work she did to make prison places of justice and humanity

for her God who she hoped, to the end, might yet heal her

In her face I’m seeing a Maria of compassion

a Maria of mercy

a Maria who can’t bear the thought of never seeing her two sons grow older

“Spirit of Our Elders”
Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)

Once I start looking I’m seeing Maria everywhere:

in the faces of the sleek, glossy women

in the magazines I’m given to read at the hairdressers

in my mother’s face that looks back at me out of the mirror

in the faces of my sisters, which are now, heaven forbid, middle-aged

in the faces of women on the bus into Birmingham

in the distorted faces of Iraqi women on the news whose homes are lying in rubble

with nowhere to take their children

“Spirit of Our Elders”
Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)

Too many faces to catalogue or notice or count

I have to work to find their faces of Maria

demanding my attention, my intelligence, my care

Come closer, Mother, and show me

all the women I’ve failed to look at closely

who were your presence to me if I’d but realized it

waiting to be recognized, loved, adored

“Spirit of Our Elders”
Many faces of Mary, dance, oh dance in me. (2x)


Litany of Mary of Nazareth

As we reimagine Mary as a woman today, let us pray a litany of Mary of Nazareth.


Reader 1: Praise to you, Divine Providence, Creator of the Universe,

Breathe into us life and creativity.

Praise to you, Guiding Ancestors, Liberator of the Oppressed,

Free us to do the work of justice with peace.

Praise to you, Divine Wisdom, Sophia Spirit,

Enkindle in us a fiery passion for justice.


Reader 2: Mary, Woman of faith . . . guide us.

Woman of vision . . .

Woman of patience . . .

Woman of wisdom . . .

Woman of peace . . .

Woman filled with questions . . .

Woman of truth . . .


Reader 1: Mary, Mother of all cultures . . . walk with us.

Mother of those who are immigrants and refugees . . .

Mother of those who have been disappeared . . .

Mother of those living with HIV/AIDS . . .

Mother of those who are sick and dying,

especially women with cancer . . .

Mother of those who are abused, violated, and

sexually assaulted . . .

Mother of all families, especially those with Covid . . .


Reader 2: Mary, Model of persistence . . . pray with us.

Model of gracious hospitality . . .

Model of strength . . .

Model of independence . . .

Model of passion . . .

Model of vulnerability . . .

Model of holy rage . . .


Reader 1: Mary, Liberator of the oppressed . . . empower us.

Bringer of justice . . .

Comforter of the afflicted . . .

Provider of sanctuary . . .

Sign of contradiction . . .

Protector of those who are vulnerable . . .

Dreamer of new possibilities . . .



“Blessed Is She” by Colleen Fulmer, from Cry of Ramah (© 1985). Used with permission.

Blessed is she,

Who believed that the promise made her by her God
Would be fulfilled, would be fulfilled.



Mary of Many Names, empower us with your Wisdom during these days of Advent, especially in the midst of Covid, despair, and the underlying dread about where our world and democracy are heading. Teach us to see clearly that our vision may bring light to the world. Inspire us to act justly, to love tenderly, to set ourselves free, and to heal those who are brokenhearted. Amen. Blessed be. May it be so.


“Blessed Is She”

Blessed is she,

Who believed that the promise made her by her God
Would be fulfilled, would be fulfilled.


Reflection | Sharing

Think about the many faces of Mary raised up here, and the other ones you know. Let us take time to reflect in groups of 3 or 4 for 10 minutes on these questions:

What are your thoughts about Mary?

How is she significant in your life or the life of someone you know?

When you get into your group, say your name and where you live, then share your thoughts about Mary.


Prayers of the Faithful

Who needs our prayers today? Speak their names so we can pray with and for them.
Our response is: Mary, embrace them with your love and care.


Blessing Bread (Christmas Stollen)

(Hold the bread.) Blessed are you, Gracious and Loving Holy Wisdom, for giving us this festive bread. Bless us as we eat and give thanks for the many faces of Mary in the world. May those who need it most receive the bread of life this day.


Blessing Cider or Tea

(Hold the cider or tea.) Blessed are you, Source of Life and Being, for the warm nourishment of this drink. Bless us as we drink and give thanks for the many faces of Mary in the world and for the abundance of women’s gifts. May those who need it most receive a soothing drink this day.



“Magnificat for Today” from Women Church Speaks (Chicago, 1983).

The Magnificat is a scriptural prayer that speaks of the holiness of women.

Our souls magnify the holiness that dwells within us.
And our spirits rejoice in the presence of the Holy One.
Because we as women have been touched and called.

Yes, from this day forward all generations will call us blessed.

For great things have been done through us and those who have gone before us.
Holy is our name and we have shown mercy and strength as women, from age to age.
We have gathered our courage and steadfastness and worked to heal the brokenhearted with tenderness and care.

We have called forth truth and created a new shape for living what we believe to be just.

Yes, we have been hungry and have filled each other with good things.
For we have kept our promises and journeyed and struggled in the hope of our dreams . . . touching and healing, laughing and crying . . . questioning and loving . . .

Yes, indeed by our living and our faithfulness, by our passion and our courage . . . all generations of women from this day forth will be blessed.


Take Action

Let us put our prayers into action this month. Here are some possible ways:

  • Visit a shrine of Mary in your neighborhood and clean it if necessary.
  • Sing a Mary song that you remember from your youth or listen to one on YouTube.
  • Pray the Litany of Mary of Nazareth in this liturgy and add more to it.
  • Engage in Mary-like ministry—feed those who are hungry, donate to those who are poor, visit those who are sick.


Sending Forth

Let us go forth, like Mary, to recognize truth and say yes.

Let us go forth to see Mary in the faces of our sisters.

Let us go forth to bring Divine life into the world.



“I Am with You” by Kathy Sherman, CSJ, from Always with You

(© 1992)

I am with you on the journey, and I will never leave you.

I am with you on the journey, always with you.


Learn More from These Resources

Castañeda-Liles, María Del Socorro. Our Lady of Everyday Life: La Virgen de Guadalupe and the Catholic Imagination of Mexican Women in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Elkins, Kathleen Gallagher. Mary, Mother of Martyrs. Feminist Studies in Religion Books, 2018.

Gebara, Ivone, and Maria Clara Bingemer. Mary: Mother of God, Mother of the Poor. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987.

Johnson, Elizabeth A. Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints. New York: Continuum, 2003.

Kateusz, Ally. Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership. London, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2019.

Lee, Courtney Hall. Black Madonna: A Womanist Look at Mary of Nazareth. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017.

National Geographic: Mary; World’s Most Powerful Woman. 2015.

National Geographic: The Story of Mary; From the Biblical World to Today. 2018.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Mary: The Feminine Face of the Church. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1977.

Slee, Nicola. “Searching the Faces of Maria.” In The Book of Mary. London: SPCK, 2007.


ⓒ 2021 Diann L. Neu,, adapted from Stirring WATERS: Feminist Liturgies for Justice