Book review: Walking with Mary by Edward Sri

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It’s my personal belief that you can never have too many books about Mary.  My  own bookshelves are proof of how fully I embrace this philosophy; I’ve got everything from 1950s kids’ books to reference tomes to Marian-themed poetry.

But I’ve never come across a book exactly like Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross, by Dr. Edward Sri.  It’s a fascinating  book that feeds both the intellect and the soul.

This book, as the title indicates, follows Mary’s experiences throughout the Gospels, unpacking the significance of each story.  Other books have done this, but the strength of Sri’s book is the level of contextual analysis he provides.  He goes in for a close look at the details of the Gospels, and brings his own hefty academic knowledge to offer a context to the story that the average reader wouldn’t know.

To cite an example, when the angel appears to Mary in the Gospel of Luke and greets her by saying “The Lord is with you,” (1:28), Sri talks about how this phrasing — the Lord is with you — shows up also in the stories of Jacob, Moses,  and David, among others. In other words, as Sri explains, Mary “is being called to stand in the tradition of Israelite heroes like Moses, Joshua, David, and Jeremiah — people who suffered, sacrificed, and gave themselves radically for the Lord.  She is now being called to a daunting mission that will involve many challenges and hardships, and the future of God’s people will depend on how she responds.”

One of my favorite lines in the whole Bible is when Luke writes that  Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  (Luke 2:18).  Sri unpacks this verse as well, explaining that the Greek word “to keep” (synterein) is used in the Old Testament in contexts where an individual is reflecting on the meaning of profound events, especially concerning divine revelation.  He also explains that in the Wisdom tradition of the old Testament, the verb “describes someone seeking not only to interpret the message correctly, but also to observe it — to live it out.”  (italics mine).   As Sri writes, “Mary reminds us that God is always trying to teach us something, even through the difficultes and sufferings we face in life.  Her example teaches us that we should keep all these things and ponder them in our heart.”

As detailed and analytical as the book is, it’s far from dry.  Sri writes in a very accessible style that invites full participation in Mary’s story.  And, as we see in the paragraph above, Sri always connects the dots of his analysis to real life, showing how a richer understanding of Mary can transform our own lives.  If you’re looking for a model of radical faith and true discipleship, read this book.  It shows how the young girl from Galilee is all that, and more.

Many thanks to Image Books for the review copy.

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