Relationship Through the Lens of Miriam of Nazareth — Part 2 of 5

*The main source for this reflections series was the book Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints, by Elizabeth A. Johnson. 

*This reflection series was initially published by Tau Center, a spirituality ministry of the Wheaton Franciscans.  

The Second Week of Advent — Miriam’s Relationship to the Divine: 

Women are not mentioned a lot in Scripture in comparison to men. Yet Miriam plays a key role in the New Testament, and it is from that collection of stories we can glean something about her relationship to the Divine (Peters, n.d.).  We know that Miriam was a first century Jewish woman.  As a devout Jew, she was part of the covenant between the people and the God of Israel (Johnson, 2003, p. 163).  At the heart of Judaism is the Shema, the fundamental teaching of Mosaic Law, which Miriam would have made as a confession of faith: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (New American Bible, Revised Edition, 2011, Deut. 6:4-5). 

Yahweh is the God of Miriam’s ancestors, revelatory and personal, a God who acts in history to encourage the redemption of his people (Johnson, 2003, p. 163). Miriam’s relationship with the Divine must have given her courage to endure a scandalous pregnancy that legally subjected her to severe punishment (p. 225). Her confidence in God allows her not to merely endure the path of an unwed mother, amidst horrible social and political consequences, but to actively trust that Yahweh stood with her, the outcast. Holding to her faith, Miriam answered her vocation of motherhood by simply doing the next right thing.  As Johnson puts it, because of Miriam’s choices “…henceforth God will be at home in the flesh of the world in a new way.” (p. 257). 

Like many organized religions, Judaism for Miriam was a mixture of beliefs and practices (p. 165). Theologians have deduced that she and Jospeh were observant Jews, following the laws and rituals of the time including daily prayer, attending synagogue, taking sabbath rest, and making pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem.  It is in their Jewish home that they raised Jesus who, though he challenged some of its teachings, never renounced the religion.  The faith of Miriam, Joseph, and Jesus is the ground upon which this Holy Family embraced the messianic adventure unfolding in their lives (p. 26). The story of an unwed mother could have gone quite differently, especially in that time period. Yet God blessed the situation, not just for Miriam but forevermore. 

It’s worth noting that this second week of Advent also holds the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  This feast day, celebrated on December 8th, honors Miriam as the Mother of God and references the teaching that she was conceived in her mother’s womb without sin.  Franciscan Theologian Duns Scotus suggested that Christ’s saving power is so perfect that sin never even entered her, demonstrating a gift given to Miriam and a sign of hope for us all (Shea, 2012).  Or, said another way by Elizabeth Johnson (2003), “The opposite of sin is grace, and the Immaculate Conception means that Mary was uniquely blessed at the outset with the gift of grace, God’s own self-communication.” (p. 108). 

There is a quality of mystery that accompanies each person’s relationship to the Divine, and Miriam is no different.  Yet we get a glimpse of what we cannot know about Miriam by what we do know.  She was dedicated to something larger than herself, with conviction and discipline, yielding to grace as a way of life. 

Point of Reflection: As I get a sense of Miriam’s relationship to the Divine, are there qualities of faith we hold in common?  What aspects of my spiritual life do I want to cultivate? 

Loving God with my whole heart, being, and strength… Looking for God’s acts of encouragement and redemption… Actively trusting God… Cooperating with Grace… Inviting God to be at home in the world through my flesh… Praying and resting… Embracing vocational adventures… Receiving gifts from God… Recognizing God’s self-communication… Being dedicated to something larger…  Yielding to grace 

What is one way I can improve my relationship to the Divine? 

May you be inspired! 


For further reflection, you can listen to Tammy Winn’s original song “Shema.”

Following are the lyrics. 


© 2003, Tammy Ann Winn (ASCAP) 


Keep these words written on your heart 

Share them both near and far 

Bind these truths all around your home 

The Lord our God is the Lord alone 


Remember God with all your might 

Love with your whole heart and soul 

Bear in mind this fact should you roam 

The Lord our God is the Lord alone 


The law of the Lord will last 

A privilege for us to hold up high 

Break off the shackles from the past 

And carry on in the light 


Please the Lord with compassionate strides 

Pray for the strength to go on 

Leave behind your heavy stones 

The Lord our God is the Lord alone 


Bind these truths all around your home 

The Lord our God is the Lord alone 

Bear in mind this fact should you roam 

The Lord our God is the Lord alone 

All of this I know you know 

The Lord our God is the Lord alone 


Use this link to read the PDF of this piece from Tau Center:  Miriam’s Relationship to the Divine

References for this reflection: 

Peters, M. (n.d.).  Jewish Identity of Mary.  University of Dayton. 

Johnson, E. (2003).  Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints. The Continuum International Publishing Group. 

New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011).  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Shea, M. (2012).  The Immaculate Conception: Enter the Subtle Doctor: Duns Scotus.  National Catholic Register.

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