April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
Mary, Theotokos and so much more! God-Bearer. Disciple. Priesthood Personified. Divinization. Spirit Bearer. Not necessarily in that order.
In the post which precedes this post, I laid the groundwork for what I hope to do here. I provided a scriptural underpinning for our common humanity with both Mary and her son (who receives his humanity from her and wants to share his Divinity with us).
Instead of just putting my comments into words, I hope to do so through images. For it is not just a saying that “one picture is worth a thousand words” but indeed our right hemisphere codes meaning in “flashes” you might say, in imagery, packing “wholeness” for us, which pages and pages of words can only try to unpack.
So without further ado, I want to present several images. Images which “show” what I hope to say here, images which tell us theological truths about Mary, the Theotokos, and also about our own calling, to be transformed into God-Bearers ~ in order to exercise a Priestly Calling: to bring all things into Christ.
We are all called.
As Moses was called.
As Mary was called.
We live into it.
As best we can.
Mary, Theotokos, tells us everything
I’m trying to say.
Our hearts and Mary’s heart.
Streams of Life running through us.
The Gift of Tears.
The Sacred in the Ordinary.
A Heart crushed and broken!
On Fire with Love!
Mary’s Calling and our Calling. The inner priesthood of the heart. Note Mary’s upturned hands in the orans or priestly position. The inner Christ. Presiding in Temple of our Heart. The flame of the Spirit within our hearts.
See Alexander Golitzin’s wonderful paper (in two parts) on Liturgy and Mysticism, which does a far better job than I could ever do in putting all this together. See also this wonderful description by him of the Place of the Presence of God – in the living presence of a divinized holy person. (These articles require time and attention, but yield much fruit!)
March 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Dedicated, with love, to Margie, who gave her final “Yes” to God on the Feast of the Annunciation.
Did you then pass on this “final gift” to me from your new abode? For first thing, that same morning, a question from John’s Gospel illumined my heart.
Who can plumb the depths of scripture? There is so much there. Poetic passages. Words and phrases and whole chapters which cause our hearts to burn or our minds to stretch and ponder. Especially does John’s Gospel do this.
For a long time I’ve been pondering the Foot Washing (more on that eventually..) Which happened at the Last Supper. But recently I shifted my attention from the “last” banquet to the “first”: The Marriage Feast of Cana. Where Jesus’ mother plays a role. Except that Jesus addresses her as “Woman” – a strikingly impersonal word. But why?
Then, in the very next story he cleanses the Temple (of the money-changers and the merchants of birds and animals), and refers to it as “my Father’s House.” Hmm….
What’s fascinating, here is that while these first two stories allude to the “parentage” of Jesus, in each case there is a startling aspect to the information. And what startles, of course, also draws our attention. When Jesus calls his mother “woman” instead of mother, we take notice and we wonder what that means. In the Temple story, when Jesus claims the Temple as my Father’s House, it startles us, for this contradicts what one disciple has already asserted is common knowledge: “Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Here too, we take notice and we begin to wonder. Not only about Jesus but about his mother as well. What mystery surrounds her and his birth? For John’s Gospel does not tell us what we hear from Luke and Matthew, though its Prologue carries hints.
The mother of Jesus enters John’s Gospel only twice – near the beginning, at the wedding feast, and near the end, from the cross. On both occasions Jesus addresses her as “Woman”. And we have to assume this has meaning. Indeed, my commentaries tell me that everything in John’s Gospel is oriented to theological meaning.
So, why does Jesus address his mother as “Woman”? And what does this say theologically?
I know neither Greek or Hebrew. But I do have two books that look at Greek terms in the Four Gospels and at Hebrew terms in the Pentateuch. The Gospel index tells me that John uses woman (in Greek) only in John, both times when addressing his mother. The Pentateuch index tells me woman (in Hebrew) occurs in the second and third chapters of Genesis. Now, this is significant, for John’s Gospel begins immediately with allusions to Genesis, to creation, to the Word’s role in creation, together with the Word coming into the world – unrecognized until witnessed. (And indeed, Jesus has just promised, right before the story of the wedding feast, that the disciples will witness revelations more amazing than Jacob who said, after a theophanic dream: “God was in this place and I did not know it.”)
Now, maybe you’ve already looked up the story from Genesis to which I went the morning Margie died: the part where the first human (made from humus, soil) is all alone in the Garden and God decides to make him a “helper” – one of his own “flesh and bone”. The Hebrew term for “woman” means “helper” I am told. It is a generic term. One of those Hebrew words which can refer to a single individual and to a class, a people – at the same time. (Like Jacob who was renamed Israel, a term which stands for a man and a whole people.) Perhaps you recall the story, where after God has put the man to sleep and “fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman”:
Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.’
If this verse underlies Jesus calling his mother “Woman” in John’s Gospel, what then is its theological significance? Several things come to mind. In addition to underscoring that Jesus did indeed inherit from his mother flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone, the generic term “woman” (which links her with all of humanity) is an indicator that we too, her brothers and sisters, thereby share “flesh and bone” with Jesus. That we too are now transformed – like water into wine.
So it’s as if John’s Gospel, in its first two stories, introduces the Incarnation while theologically hinting at the way in which this Mystery elevates all of humanity at the same time. Forecasting, as well, the event at the foot of the cross – where the glorified Jesus joins his beloved disciple (each of us) with the one he again calls Woman.
So let us briefly consider Mary’s role at the wedding feast. Yes, she functions as “helper” – one who calls Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine and who instructs the servants to “Do whatever he tells you to do.” She is also specifically linked (by Jesus) to the first Woman in Genesis, thereby underscoring that her humanity is inherited by Jesus and so partaken of by us all. So that when Jesus first reveals his Glory (through the miraculous change of water into wine) he also reveals something about us.
And if I’m on the right track, then the cleansing of the Temple in John’s Gospel (which other evangelists place at the end of his ministry, but John places at the beginning) adds to the theological message. For in addition to manifesting his Divine parentage and thus his authority in the Temple, equating the Temple to his body – already linked to ours in the previous story – tells us that our bodies too are spiritual temples.
There is way more here, however. For our intimate connection to Jesus and our common humanity with Mary, his mother, speaks to the Divine illumination of the inspirited Mary ~ as our calling too. For Mary is a “type” for divinized humanity (Theotokos, “God Bearer”) – just as Jesus is a “type” for the Temple. Put them together. And consider: Within our own hearts, as in Mary’s womb, is the place of the Word’s conception (or birth, as Eckhart suggests). The place of our transformation ~ the Divinized Heart. I have more to say on this, indeed I intend to “show” what I mean – through a series of icons, but that is for another post.
July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Corporate Personhood. It’s basic to Judaeo-Christian heritage, though neither religion uses that term. Not only is it basic to how ancient Hebrews viewed themselves, but it profoundly grounds Christian experience as inextricably corporate: a body of believers in a mystical unity so profound, of such depth that I think it reaches into silence. For it strikes one dumb – in Awe. Or comes to fruition in prayer, in poetry, in actions of self-giving and the gift of self-transcendance. To seeing, as Paul did, Christ within (oneself and others) and all of us in Fellowship – in Him.
The Eucharist is precisely the Sacrament of this Mystery. Whose beginnings can be traced back to Genesis. As John’s Gospel makes clear.
Corporate Personhood. We see it first in Jacob. The man who wrestled with God. The man whose name was thereafter changed to Israel. A very human man, a trickster who was later tricked again and again. A man who had to flee his homeland (as later Moses had to flee) in fear of his life. A man who (like Moses) met God alone in the wilderness. Was promised God would be with him.
Jacob, Israel, stands for both a person and A People: Corporate Personhood. To speak of Israel is to recall Jacob as Father of a people and as this People’s We Identity – in terms of both nation and religion.
The Temple, so important to Israel’s public worship, so mourned by the Hebrews in exile, that when they were exiled (and deprived of Temple worship) they arrived at a deeper understanding of Yahweh as present in His word, His Torah. Yahweh: A God who called. Who promised. Who traveled with His People. Who heard their cries and supplications. Who inspired Prophets and Psalmist alike, whose actions were alive in history. A God who Spoke. A Living God. A Personal Holy Presence.
It was this Presence in Jesus: God With Us.
John’s Gospel, which so profoundly presents this Mystery of Corporate Personhood flowing from Christ, speaks early on of Jacob, of the ladder stretched between heaven and earth, what Jacob termed the Gate of Heaven, and Jesus promises his disciples they will see more than Jacob did. And John’s Gospel does not disappoint.
When Paul speaks of Mystical Body he is speaking of Corporate Personhood. Of the Fellowship with each other in Christ, in the Trinity – a mutual sharing of Divine Life.
In Christianity the concept of Temple (so revered, longed for, loved) was replaced by Christ Himself. Christ in each believer. Christ in the Body of Believers. Christ, The Word. Christ shared out. Paul understood this so well. Both mystically and practically.
There is so much more one could say about this…. Let us just dwell with it.
September 23, 2010 § 1 Comment
You might actually be working in the vineyard already. All it takes is an open heart. A heart open to wonder. A heart open to suffering: One’s own suffering and the suffering of others. A grateful heart.
This blog is pondering the priesthood of the faithful. The inner priesthood which was already in evidence in the psalms.
September 18, 2010 § 3 Comments
This blog is following allusions. Taking side turns to consider turns of phrase and words that provided linkages from one thing to another, thus gradually deepening understanding of all of them. Thus the circuitous route I am taking in tackling these subjects here.
Allusions to the title above: I got the idea for this title from Pima Chödrön because of a comment by another trope, which was very helpful. So I took the book off my shelf and started to read. Pretty soon she mentioned, with regard to insight meditation (being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings, while accepting them), the words: “nailed to the present moment”. That set off a lot of thoughts for me: One blog. Now this one. Nailed, of course, made me think of Jesus. The cross. Suffering. Redemption. Lifting up, as prayer. And the words “present moment” reminded me of a French spiritual writer, a very helpful one actually, whose book, published long after his death I think, is called: Sacrament of the Present Moment. That title relates to the genesis of this blog and the reason for this post. Sacrament. Priesthood of the Faithful. Our task in order to grow into that priesthood.
First, let me say right here and now how much I love Buddhism. And how much I revere the Buddha. Eastern traditions, and that includes the Orthodox, have long delved into the psychology of the spiritual path. They’ve nailed it! In my book. Indeed the part of the early church that most interests me is the church that developed in northwestern Iraq. Yes! Where East meets West. Lots of similarities in some ways between insight meditation and what the Orthodox call “guarding the heart”. It’s practically the same thing – to me. Though I find the word “guarding” to be a mistranslation. Or maybe I’ve been too much influenced by Buddhism. To be honest my interest in Buddhism seems never to have dissuaded God from radically breaking into my life. So I take that as a comfort. Unless the inbreakings have some other meaning… which I am missing.
September 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
Lifting up one’s heart is a priestly act. It is prayer. Today is the Feast of the Lifting up of the Cross.
Whether you are aware of it or not.
Whenever you lift up your heart and soul, you too are participating in an inner Liturgy prayed by the Holy Spirit in the depths of each heart.