The Narrative Spirals

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Through the community of women disciples, love’s unending mystery continues to co-create in willing hearts.   I firmly believe that human history spirals and has a direction. The direction is meant to be the increase of love-justice in the world. ‘The spiral represents a true revolution (from the word “to revolve”); a turning around, a turning from, a turning toward and a turning on.’ It is divine creation unfolding through us with us and in us – everywhere, all the time. This co-creative energy informs people’s lives as gospel narrative everywhere in every moment. In my own work with Reiki, I increasingly feel connected – specifically, to women of faith and wisdom – as a companion to those in need of loving presence. And I feel infused with a sense of spirit that unites me to Ephesus and beyond.

I experience the grace and gift of this feminine thread of embodied spirit in my encounters as a hospice volunteer. In my capacity as a Reiki trained volunteer, I am often invited to accompany patients who find peace and solace in Reiki. Presently, I work with two patients who request these treatments. It is an extraordinary experience to spend a half an hour or more silently be-ing with someone, resting your hands on this person and holding sacred space together. I am in awe of the patient’s trust and confidence in my presence, and moved beyond words by the beauty of the surrender the patient models by moving deeper into the spirituality of life’s diminishments. In each instance, the diminishment travels a distinct course. Yet, in each instance, the patient encounters calm, serenity and peace for the moments that we are together in silent, sacred touch.

Yesterday, as I returned to my car I sat still and wondered inwardly how I might ever learn to hold this amazing gift. I feel a great reverence for these patients as holy teachers. It is an awesome thing to quietly hold presence in this way. It reflects a reality that our world typically averts. In my heart, I sense a powerful communion with the women who have gone before me in these moments. I feel the sacred energy of love itself as it flows in me, from me and to me.

 

The Road To Ephesus Part II

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Miriam walks out of her wounds after the violent death of her son and the awesome experience of encountering the empty tomb and begins her life anew. She is a woman in midlife who has endured the heartbreaking loss of her son dying violently before her. This must have so bereft her that she – like any of us – died with him and then labored to become someone who could sojourn on. This woman of dynamic faith entered through this moment into a process of suffering transformation. With sacred time, she eventually emerged from her heartward retreat with a fullness of being that graced her as a guardian of life and creation. Spiraling forward out of her deep connection to the ground of all being, she graced the world around her with spiritual values of love, serenity and service – wisdom’s gifts that keep on giving. These gifts would have evolved to create in Miriam the kind of mature woman who has the ability to tell the truth and the relational skills to be heard. As an apostle, her qualities would have been unsurpassed as powerful abilities to usher into being a new worldview.

So, Miriam withdrew to Mount Zion where she went inward and spent time with herself – doubtless weary of this world. In time, she propelled outward to connect – re-connect with the apostles through her return journey to Bethany. Firmly respected and honored for her faith and wisdom, she completed her life as gospel narrative by practicing resurrection in her heart and travelling onward to Ephesus. All the while continuing to serve as a role model of wonderment and an exemplar of Christ’s message of love and redemption. Her personal journey of spiritual growth grounded as it was in her courage, her steadfastness and her faith must have invited countless spiritual encounters and holy moments with the apostles who loved her and the community of women who companioned her. It is hard to imagine that anyone came to comprehend the notion of repentance (change of heart) as closely as Miriam. Nor anyone who lived more profoundly entering G*d’s quiet and telling out G*d’s stories of worlds within worlds.  And the world within her becomes a larger and larger spiraling space where G*d and all creation dwell.

And so it is not surprising that so many in the world pay homage to her or that Christianity sought to package her as a spiritual archetype for women – the heart of the feminine divine though less relevant than her son. Sadly, the more the idea of her expanded, the more distant the divine reality of her became. And so, the powerful, fierce, endlessly compassionate, enduring love and constancy of this humble Jewish woman of profound faith became bound by the initiatives of organized religion. Bound in an effort to fossilize her revolutionary love for the wild soul and her wisdom language of the sincere heart and soul.

This is how I hold Miriam in my heart, how I humanize her, how I untie, unbind her, and all women. I encounter her as a real woman who suffered, lost, and lost and lost – like so many women in this world. And then, she retreated into herself world-weary until such time as she was healed enough to emerge and live her life soul first as part of creation and the endless spiral of love. Her courage teaches me that our tears are the birthing waters of our souls and serve as mighty rivers that create new life and impel us somewhere, somewhere good, somewhere better…. These are the spiritual gifts and lessons beckoning to be learned through one woman’s life as gospel narrative, through one woman’s journey – the road to Ephesus.

The Road to Ephesus Part I

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“If it be true that none but a saint can rightly understand or describe the life of a saint; nay, if the very highest human intelligence is too weak, and human language too imperfect, to enable us to conceive and express the visions and ecstasies, the raptures of Divine love and the intimate communion with God which are often vouchsafed to humble and loving souls that serve God faithfully, who could hope to penetrate the secrets of that most close and perfect communion which ever existed between the Hearts of Jesus and Mary? What imagination could picture to itself the Divine colloquies and the sublime interchanges of love and confidence which must needs have passed between one and the other during so many years of the closest intercourse, ever tending to make the Mother more and more “conformable to the image of Her Son” (Rom. 8: 29), until at length She could exclaim even more truly and literally than St. Paul, “I am nailed to the Cross with Christ; and I live; now not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2: 20). “ James Spencer Northcote 

Miriam (Mary), mother of Yeshua and co-equal with Christ as divine co-redeemer, lived her gospel narrative forward out of her crucifixion and tomb experience. She is transformed by it all and emerges both a bearer and symbol of G*d’s renewed Creation. Her unique and special character and presence at Calvary and her union with Yeshua’s suffering and violent death provide a very particular sharing on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection. This is very important as the transformation of the women disciples who stay, and first re-cog-nize the empty tomb corresponds with an intentional valuing of their worth as persons and apostles. This place value emphasizes the inclusive and transformative message of Christ. Yeshua’s mother, an ordinary woman acts with uncommon faithfulness reminding us that it is not who she is but what she does that illuminates her transforming faith. The tromos kai ekstasis (trembling and ecstasy) that impel her out of the empty tomb exemplify her awe at the spiritual perception of what she witnesses. She is a participant in divine Wisdom’s community, an ongoing, inclusive community whose meaning reveals the ‘dynamism of divine Wisdom’ as a perpetually unfolding mystery. Surely her life is an example of spiritual understanding, moral strength, unwavering faith a commitment to the word and assisting others.

After the Easter story we find Mary mentioned only one more time. The book of Acts says that she joined the other disciples in an upper room for prayer on the Day of Pentecost “They all joined constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14) After that, Mary disappears from scripture. The assumption of most biblical scholars is that she lived out her life in the company of the disciples and eventually died of old age. So, little is really known for certain about Mary’s post Pentecostal life-only the speculative writings of men some 300 years later. In Pope Pius XII affirmed the tradition that Mary died between three and fifteen years after Christ’s ascension into heaven (Acts 1.9-10); and, St. Juvenal, the Bishop of Jerusalem, asserted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 that Mary had died in the presence of all the Apostles.

And so it is that imaginative consideration of what unfolded for Mary as an aging, transformed woman of faith emerges. She is purported to have lived for three years on Mount Zion, for three years in Bethany, and for nine years in Ephesus. In the New Testament, Zion refers to God’s spiritual kingdom. ‘It is the most holy place in the world for Jews, seen as the connection between God and humanity.’ Bethany means house of figs a symbol of Endtime abundance and as a location is a reminder of Yeshua’s entrance into Jerusalem. Ephesus means the desired one and is a place where many Jews migrated after Pentecost. It figures largely in the spread of Christianity and apostolic travel and activity. Could it be that these locations parallel Mary’s healing, her life story as gospel narrative, her pistikos (bearer of the oil of faith)? Did she not sustain, support and deepen the faith of all of the apostles – men and women -spreading faith through community? Is not her road to Ephesus her gospel narrative? “Her union was so intimate that it knew no interruption… She who at the foot of the Cross did not for a moment cease to recognize God in Him Who hung thereon, had no need to see to believe; Her faith depended not upon sight…” James Spencer Northcote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastertide with Mary and John

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I often ponder Mary and John’s relationship after the crucifixion. Perhaps, in giving them to one another from the cross, Yeshua was recognizing the openness and surrender of their hearts to this pivotal moment in his own journey – G*d’s presence and G*d’s mystery. Perhaps he understood the great reverence with which his mother held sacred all things in her secret heart. He surely knew how her faith in life as sacramental allowed the divine spirit to work in her, with her and through her. She must have exemplified this as she raised him – he must have been aware of her enlightened, strong, faithful heart and presence as G*d’s gifts to him. How tremendous to extend these gifts to John and to know that Mary and John would spiritually heal and deepen in their mutual companionship.

Only hearts full of faith can assent to G*d even in the midst of unexpected moments   that exceed human intelligence or calculation. Such events can only be comprehended in the light of a faith that perceives the hidden sense of things and situations and reveals the sacred in all things -G*d’s presence and G*d’s mystery. John had recently faltered in his faith and run from the horror befalling Yeshua. It is unknown how it is that he recovered himself and lived into being present at the foot of the cross. Perhaps, Mary assisted him in that – perhaps she reached out to him, consoled him…

A soul united to G*d’s purpose carries the seed of love incarnate in its heart. It guides the living of life as the beautiful expression of that seed unfolding toward G*d. Maybe living life in this way is the richest path of living forward the gospel. One’s life becomes a gospel narrative. Living into G*d’s purpose heart and soul continues the spiraling heart of the empty tomb – unending Love. John and Mary lived this way I am certain. Maybe together they kept all things in their hearts, especially those they did not fully understand, honestly holding an open space for the hidden sense of things that faith ensured existed; faith in G*d’s presence in every moment. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Perhaps, focusing so much on the structured canonical gospels has diminished the vitality of the sacredness in every human life – our own lives as living gospel narratives. What would it mean if the story of the gospel is unfinished? How might we live if we stepped into the story and worked together to shape the meaning of the gospel through our lives?

Mary’s life has been so coopted by Christianity that she has become an archetype of western culture’s constrained view of women – much like Mary Magdalene and of course, the overlooked women disciples. What would happen if we released her from these ties that bind us? “We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18). Surely her life is an example of spiritual understanding, moral strength, unwavering faith, a commitment to the word and assisting others. Clearly, these are gifts that exceed and cannot be contained in her worldly status(woman) and qualfifications (mother)as conferred upon her by history and the church.

This Eastertide I am wondering in my heart and soul about Mary’s gospel narrative after the cross. I experience her as a living presence and as a beating heart in the communion of women. Her life makes clear to me that we are the gospel narrative – now, in this moment; and the divine spirit makes the willing heart an artist of the living word.