Did Bruce Springsteen turn to the Virgin Mary  after 9 11 Tragedies?

   Perhaps – According to the recent book  The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen by Jeffrey B. Symynkywic  it seems quite evident  that Bruce Springsteen found spiritual comfort for himself and his family from the Blessed Virgin Mary. She also inspired the title to his 911 Album “The Rising”Springsteen’s great tribute to the victums of the World Trade Center disaster weaves  the spirit of Mary throughout the album.


In this book, author Jeffrey Symynkywicz shows that a large part of Springsteen’s enduring popularity is the deep sense in which his music connects to something essential to human experience. With a clear and inviting style, Symynkywicz treats each of Springsteen’s albums as a chapter, exploring the history and context of Springsteen’s music and the ways in which his songs express these spiritual themes.

From Mr. Synynkywic’s Chapter on the Album “The Rising” (with permissions from My. Synynkywic): 

The most upbeat song on the Bruce Springsteen’s  album The Rising is “Mary’s Place. It may well be the most explicitly religious.  The lyrics share a chorus with the song “Meet me at Mary’s Place” by the great soul singer Sam Cooke, but there the lyrical similarities (and certainly the connotations of meaning) pretty much end.

It is not stretching things too far to intimate that Mary’s Place” is addressed to the Virgin Mary herself and not the Mary of Thunder road and some of Springsteen’s earlier works, or to some generic character who just happens to be named Mary.  “I’m sure it’s the Catholic coming out in me,” Springsteen told Adam Sweeting from Uncut magazine.  “Mary was always the most beautiful name”

 

In Mary’s Place Springsteen provides further evidence of his long sometimes difficult effort to make peace with the Catholic faith into which he was born.  Even if he is not exactly singing an Exultant to the Blessed Virgin Mary in this song.  Mary’s Place” can be heard as an ode to that great figure of maternal comfort and grace and as the recognition of the need we all have for a community of faith to get us through the hard times of life.

Like so many people in the days following September 11, Springsteen found himself bringing his family back to Church.  This yearning for the power of community in times of need permeates “Mary’s Place”. Right from the stat, of course, we know this will be no sentimental or sanctimonious “Ave Maria,. Bruce’s world view is much too universalized for that: He has got “Seven pictures of Buddha” he sings and “The Prophet’ on his tongue.  “There are also “Eleven angels of mercy” mourning the havoc that has been wrought out on the horizon.  Then there is the call of faith: “My heart’s dark but it’s rising.”  The singer is sad but yearns for hope; he summons forth the faith that is within him; he hears the blessed voice calling out to him – commanding him, really to “meet me at Mary’s Place,” where “we’re gonna have a party,” where the celebration of life, the celebration of being joined in one community, will take place.

Here at last in this blessed community of memory and hope, we’ll get “this thing started.”  By “this thing” Springsteen could well infer a true spiritual revival that will transform the face of the world in an image of love and justice.  “Mary’s Place” sings forth the importance of communal celebration – and by extension religious worship – as the catalyst for ushering in a revolution in the sphere of humane consciousness.  “Your loving grace surrounds me” (such would be, of course, fine words for a good Catholic boy to address to the Mother of God).  Mary’s Place is a song of spiritual celebration -  celebration that can only be realized in community.

 

Similarly the “Li, Li, Lis” of the chorus of Springsteen’s song  ”The Rising” can be heard as abbreviated alleluias – a song of life in the midst of death. “The Rising” is truly an Easterlike anthem arising out of the darkness and despair of 9-11 a national Good Friday experience if there ever was one.

 

“The Rising is narrated from the viewpoint of a New York City firefighter racing into the flaming inferno of the World Trade Center.  This will be no easy journey, certainly, and soon we are taken right into the heart of terror.  “there’s spirits above and behind me” Springsteen sings, meaning perhaps the ghosts of those who have already perished or those who are about to.  The narrator’s fellow firefighters seem almost haunted; their faces are dirty with grime and soot or have completely   disappeared in the deep darkness; their eyes burn bright, with fear perhaps or simply reflecting the inferno that burns around them. “ Mar their precious blood bind me,” Springsteen’s  firefighter prays as he stands before his own final  judgment, invoking a prominent Catholic image of the Blood of Christ.

 

The “Li, Li, Li’s that then follow are the alleluias of a funeral mass, our prayers for the souls of our dearly departed brothers and sisters that usher them from this life to next.  Then comes the vision of transcendence and resurrection: The narrator sees “Mary in the Garden” in the garden of “a thousand signs” of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that is a cemetery,  where she weeps for the deceased, or comforts those who come to visit them there. Also in this beatific vision are the  “Holy pictures of our children” and one is reminded of the portraits of those who were missing that were posted all around New York City in the days after September 11, like prayer cards of the now departed saints.

link to Springsteen song “The Rising” (“I see Mary in the Garden”)


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