Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life
by Judith Dupré
Random House, 352 pages, $40
In one of the fifty-nine short but insightful essays Judith Dupré 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 Mary 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.
Dupré relates these encounters to the plight of parents and their autistic children who endure “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?” to make his larger point about the family of God, Dupré completes the comparison, noting, “Although [neither 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 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?
Dupré’s Full of Grace can suit a reader’s many moods; the essays are coupled with perfectly chosen visuals from classical and modern sources, food for a contemplative day. The marginalia, meanwhile, contain poetry, prayer, and historical notes that broaden the perspective. Like Mary herself, this gem of a book is a gift of consolation and understanding that will withstand revisiting-unto-intimacy.
Elizabeth Scalia writes at The Anchoress blog on FirstThings.com.