Tuesday, July 31, 2007
(How’s that for a poorly written run-on sentence. And don’t get all excited, it’s just a book chapter, but it is exciting nonetheless since book chapters are sometimes Big Deals and I’ll be in good company. I’ll go into details about it once it’s finished and the piece is published, which will be a while.)
Here’s an original statue of Ignatius. It’s a small one (from what I have seen in some reproductions) at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Ghelph (Ontario, Canada) but it also graces the website of another Canadian Jesuit-run place, Camp Ekon, also in Ontario, and the perspective makes it look bigger. Perhaps there are several. This is a photo from Camp Ekon. Ekon is the name given by the Ouendat people to the seventeenth century Jesuit missionary and pioneer Jean de Brébeuf. The Ouendat, known to Europeans as the "Huron," respected Brébeuf for his physical strength and gentle disposition. Read more about the name and history here.)
What I had hoped to find was a reproduction of Ignatius's death mask, which is at his recently redone rooms in Rome near the Gesú church. Visiting Ignatius’s rooms a few years ago was very moving, and I was fortunate to have a Jesuit colleague show me around. Then I went back with my brother and showed him around.
Wait, here it is!
What’s so special about Ignatius’s rooms? They had been overlaid with all manner of complicated decoration, and the (Jesuit of course) restorer brought them back to the simplicity they had in Ignatius’s day. Yes, of course Ignatius lived in the Basque country, where he was born, and in Paris, and other places, but he ended up in Rome as well and this was the place. Or rather, the last place.
There is also a beautiful Baroque ceiling painting in one of the larger rooms, and that is more ornate, but it’s neither his bedroom nor his study nor his chapel. He lived quite simply.
And here is a brand new statue of Ignatius by the Bolivian sculptor Pablo Eduardo. It’s at Boston College, whose Committee on Christian Art wanted to get beyond the “traditional and static depictions” of Ignatius. (Grandmère Mimi will like this statue.)
Perhaps this visual representation (and see the news story via the link above, with some reflections by the artist) is better than any words I could write.
My love and prayers go to all my Jesuit friends and Jesuit mentors but also to my Ignatian friends, a much bigger crowd* influenced by the spirituality of Ignatius, and to the young women and men of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) and to my friends, former spiritual directees, and other folks who are JVC alums. AMDG.
* Did you Episco-folk know that former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold is strongly influenced by Ignatian spirituality and that when the House of Bishops was getting ready to vote on the confirmation of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, he led them in an Ignatian meditation and process?
P.S. Juana, the Jesuit. Yes, a woman. Did you know? (My name in Spanish is Juana, by the way -- or Juanita if you're being affectionate. My spirituality is more Benedictine these days, or perhaps my spirituality is a hybrid, as I am.) The article to which the link leads is by a most reliable Jesuit historian, John Padberg. He's much more cheerful in person --downright witty, in fact-- than the photo indicates.
[Note on July 31, 2011: I have just fixed about six links that were no longer live and the link to the Juana article is a new one: same article, different site. No picture of John P. there.]
[Note on July 31, 2014: fixed yet more links to websites whose address had changed.]
Off to Boston in a couple of days, but not before saying something about J.S. Bach and Ignatius of Loyola
Thursday at the crack of dawn I leave for Boston (yes, again) for a Huge Family Reunion.
Between now and then I have to finish up a short but hefty piece of writing.
What I really want right now is a nap.
P.S. Back in the land of my birth, the President of the Republic had this to say. President Bush, as far as I know, had no comment. I suspect George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy have differing tastes in films.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Go for the nostalgia, folks.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Quick précis here.
Timeline here. (And you think we have problems today, folks! Women weren't ordained as priests till that summer in 1974. But women did not get seated as lay delegates in the House of Deputies until 1970. They'd been trying for five decades.)
The ordination was --they did it on purpose-- the feast of Martha and Mary of Bethany. Today's feast is moved to tomorrow because it's Sunday.)
The women, who were all white, had almost all been involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Most of them understood themselves and spoke of themselves as feminists.
Here is a sermon preached by the Right Reverend Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion (now retired) on the 25th anniversary of those first irregular ordinations of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Barbara Harris served as crucifer at the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven, which took place at her home church in Philadelphia, the Church of the Advocate, a mostly African American congregation. Little did she or anyone there know that in 1989 she would be ordained bishop.
By the way, she has a few scathing things to say about Lambeth 1998 in that sermon.
The very first woman priest in the Anglican Communion, by the way, was the Rev. Li Tim Oi, ordained in Hong Kong during World War II. To her also I pay loving tribute today.
My Episcopal and Anglican history books are mostly at the office, but I may be able to post some references from there a little later this week, before I leave for Boston. (Yes, another trip to Boston: this time, a humongous family reunion.)
The photo is of the Rev. Jeannette Piccard, the oldest of the Philadelphia Eleven, ordained priest at the age of 79. She was also a noted balloonist (speaking of Christina the Astonishing, see below) and the first woman to enter the stratosphere, in 1934. She died in 1981, at the age of 86.
Jane, in your list of fabulous women in July, you haven't yet met St. Christine the Astonishing? I love her. She hated the stench of sin so badly that at her funeral she flew to the rafters til all the sinners left the church.
I once started a story about her showing up in our modern day wearing pink sneakers. She went around confronting sinners, pointing her finger at them and warning them about the stench of hell. Her followers would make a circle around the sinner and chant, "Pink, pink, you stink!"
I'll write that story one of these days.
Yes, folks, Christina Mirabilis, Christine (or Christina) the Astonishing (or Marvelous), is for real! Sorry to have missed her. She is not on the Episcopal calendar. That's what I get for emigrating from the Roman Catholic fold. As an ecumenist, I should be ashamed of myself: I'm supposed to be saint-watching all across the Christian spectrum, East, West, North, South. (Padre Rob is particularly good at connecting folks with Eastern saints, though he currently has a Western saint up, blessed Tammy Faye.) Thank Godde my old buddy Shannon is on the fabulous women watch. Thank you, Shannon. And yes, write that story!
So here are some biographies of Christina.
Scroll down a bit when you get to this one.
This one notes, as does the previous one, that Christine was in what is now Belgium. As is Saint Dymphna,* Christine is a patron of people with mental illness and nervous disorders. What is it with Belgium?
* Dymphna fled to the Low Countries as well and in present-day Belgium, the site of her martyrdom still has a community-based therapeutic community for people with mental illnesses.
I will have a chance to check this out first-hand, though not to visit various shrines, when I spend a few days in Leuven (a.k.a. Louvain) in November at an international conference.
Here's more on Christina.
And there's a (loosely based) book inspired by her!
And a theatre production in the U.K.! (Also mentioned here, a nice little write-up courtesy of the BBC.)
She's also inspired this little bit of silliness.
Christy at Dry Bones Dance, whom I've been reading for a year or so, has a 2005 post, it turns out, about this very same Christina.
This one is also interesting, from Ship of Fools.
I like this woman. I'm going to find a way to incorporate her into my History of Christianity course this fall since I have section on the 12th and turn-of-the-13th century. She'll be terrific as a counterweight to Aquinas: he was large and ponderous, she flew up to the rafters. Seriously -- I really am going to figure out some way to get her in there. I do have a set of women mystics in the course. Women couldn't go to university, so they had visions and revelations, and that is the theology we have from them.
And I've decided the next best thing to being rector of a parish called St. Mary of Magdala or St. Macrina would be to be rector, or vicar, of St. Christina the Astonishing. I don't yet know of any church by that name (there are a few St. Mary Magdalenes and Macrinas out there, though very few). So -- founding rector, St. Christina the Astonishing? Give me five or ten years.
I can dream big, can't I?
Meanwhile, I really must write this little devotional book called The Women of July.
Thanks again to Shannon for leading us to Christina. Check out Shannon's blog. She's a prison chaplain. Down-to-earth, spiritually alive, direct-talkin', and funny. She's pretty mirabilis herself.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I'm posting these without the references, sorry, because I have managed to clear the whole day and evening for thinking and writing and I am hogging it. It's raining in Greensboro, still warm and humid, but somehow easier to take (for this lover of Mediterranean climates who suffers in Southeastern weather) than the hovering-humidity weather when the skies don't open. It'll be back to muggy soon. A good day to be at home with the books.
Friday, July 27, 2007
The congregation is dear to me, as one of my closest and oldest friends has been an active member for years. I have accompanied him to Shabbat services on many occasions and have found them to be the most beautiful and joyful Jewish liturgical gatherings I have experienced.
The congregation was entirely lay-run for its first 18 or 19 years. As the devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic progressed and the need for pastoral care increased, CBST hired its first rabbi (now Senior Rabbi), Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. Its Associate Rabbi is a straight woman, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen. Both rabbis are noted public leaders and leaders in the Jewish community in addition to their roles within the CBST congregation. You can read about them by clicking their names on the upper left hand side of the CBST website.
CBST itself fulfills a vital public role in New York City and indeed internationally, with liturgical, social, educational, and many other aspects.
While CBST has a meeting space in the West Village, they have outgrown the space for services and for the last few years have been holding Friday night Shabbat services at the Church of the Holy Apostles, Episcopal, in the Chelsea neigborhood of Manhattan. (Some congregants of CBST refer affectionately to Holy Apostles in Yiddish as heiligen tzaddikim. A tzaddik means a righteous person and can also be a name for a rabbi or a Hassidic leader.)
Have a look at the exhibit! And if you are in NYC, whatever your gender or sexual orientation, do visit. All are welcome.
LGBTRAN is one of two major lgbt religious resources in the U.S., each with a distinctive mission. It is a project of CTS, the Chicago Theological Seminary. (Where, speaking of old friends, I see they have hired my esteemed colleague and friend Dr. Seung Ai Yang to teach biblical studies! Good for them. CTS is a seminary of the United Church of Christ. Seung Ai is Catholic and taught for some years at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She and her husband moved to the Twin Cities after their time in Berkeley, and she taught at the University of St. Thomas.)
The other resource is CLGS, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion (PSR), part of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) consortium in Berkeley. (CLGS's Programming and Development Director, currently Acting Executive Director of CLGS, is an old friend, the Rev. Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson, and a wonderful preacher and presider he is, too.)
Thursday, July 26, 2007
2. More art inspired by the one-mom-plus-one-dad parents of Mary, mother of Jesus, a.k.a. the most holy Theotokos (there! I wrote "LGBT Jewish" and "Theotokos" in a single post). Today is their feast. The tradition (but not the Bible, in which they do not appear) knows them as Joachim and Anna.
3. Random bits of religious scholarship.
4. Another song or two.
By "stay tuned," I mean it ain't gonna happen tonight. My work day isn't over yet. WHAT leisurely life of academe?
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Padre Mickey, who is always good with saints, tells a great story (with pictures) here. Man and woman cannot live on Harry Potter alone.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Back to the writings of Mercy Amba Oduyoye and related footnotes and insights and to the Impossible To Plan New Course Which I Have Never Taught Before And Just Inherited From My Predecessor. Oy.
P.S. On that link about Thomas (not Mimi's, the other one) I don't know how the source (which is slightly dubious, or at least not scholarly) knows Thomas was straight. Or what Luiz would say about that photo, though I have my suspicions. I do love that the site describes Thomas as "simple in worldly affairs" and "absent-minded." Glory be to Godde for the diversity of saintly personalities.
Video Footage Released of Execution Facility in North Carolina
RALEIGH - Captured on film, the warden of North Carolina's Central Prison (Marvin Polk) narrates the preparation and final hours before an execution in Raleigh, where the state execution facilities are located.
Warden Polk takes members of the press through the prison, detailing hour-by-hour the preparation, and carrying out, of a 2:00 am execution. Footage includes the deathwatch area, the table where the last meal is taken, the final holding cell, the IV preparation room, the witness room, and footage of Warden Polk and Captain Marshall Hudson wheeling the gurney into the execution chamber.
The short film includes candid discussion by the warden about the role of doctors in lethal injections as well as his own feelings on overseeing the executions.
Before each North Carolina execution (Fridays at 2:00 am, when scheduled), Central Prison offers a media tour on the preceding Monday morning to explain the execution protocol and answer questions from the press.
The film was shot during a media tour in November 2005, between the executions of Steven McHone (11/11/05) and Elias Syriani (11/18/05) by Scott Langley, a Boston-based photojournalist who has been documenting the death penalty for nearly ten years.
Watch the full 10-minute video here.
(A shorter edited 3-minute video focusing on the role of doctors is also available for viewing at the above link.)
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And this is from me:
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty is here.
Amnesty International's death penalty resources and campaign are here.
Amnesty International-USA's resources on the same issue are here.
Monday, July 23, 2007
My Russian is rusty (MadPriest, I wrote this just to get a rise out of you -- I actually only had a year and a half of Russian and it was 35 years ago in college) but if I read correctly, this icon is of Olga and Vladimir, patrons of the church in today's Russia and Ukraine. Why, you ask, does he look so old? Icons aren't meant to be realistic, and Olga and Vladimir didn't do their thing contemporaneously. Which is too bad, because the vision of an older woman and her little grandson bopping around performing a few miracles and talking about Jesus and spreading good deeds is kind of appealing.
According to St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newark, New Jersey, Olga was a clever woman and a devoted Christian:
The first Eastern Slav ruler to adopt Christianity was a woman, St. Olga. Olga converted to Christianity in Constantinople while she served as regent for her young son.
According to legend, the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine VII, was much taken by the Kievan ruler and wanted to marry her. Olga respected Constantine VII, and had him be her godfather at her baptism. After her conversion, Constantine did ask Olga to marry him, but wily Olga said no. Since he was her godfather, the marriage was illegal under Church law. Constantine VII's reaction was "Oh Olga, you have outwitted me."
Olga returned to Kiev and unsuccessfully tried to get her people to convert to Christianity in her lifetime. Later on, after her grandson converted the nation to Christianity, Olga was made a saint.
Olga's grandson, Prince Vladimir (called Volodymyr in Ukrainian), was the ruler of Kievan Rus who successfully evangelized the ancestors of today's Ukrainians. According to a legend recounted in the chronicle of the monk Nestor, Vladimir had representatives come from all the major religions. Vladimir rejected Judaism because the Jews were scattered around the world, with no homeland. Vladimir rejected Catholicism (then just Western Christianity) because of its fasts. Vladimir rejected Islam because "drinking is the joy of Rus." Finally, Vladimir accepted the Eastern style of Christianity and married the Byzantine princess Anna, shown here at Vladimir's left. Notice the water in the foreground the mosaic. The water represents the Dniepr river, in which Vladimir's baptism took place.Vladimir's conversion took place in 988, when the division between Western Christianity (Catholicism) and Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy), did not officially exist. Only after the Great Schism in 1054 did the Eastern Orthodox-Roman Catholic division became de jure and permanent. The Church in Kievan Rus at the time kept its Eastern Rite, but did stay in contact with the Pope.
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Two of Vladimir's sons, Boris and Gleb, were later martyred. This is a long family story.When Olga was baptized, she took the name Elena (Helen in English, Yelena in Slavic languages). Scandinavians call her Helga.
Today is the feast of Birgitta of Sweden. We are all over the map this week, from the Mediterranean land of Israel yesterday to the Northern climes of Scandinavia today. Actually, just in one day, since Mary of Magdala got displaced and moved to today, thus displacing Birgitta of Sweden, whose real feast day it is. (Not a bad matron saint to have, JohnieB.) Here's James Kiefer's take on Birgitta of Sweden. Manuscript of Birgitta's Revelations, in her own hand (as opposed to the hand of one of her confessors, see below).
I want to pay tribute to Swedish-born, U.S.-dwelling scholar Brita Stendahl, who first introduced me to Birgitta, and to British-born, Italy-dwelling Julia Bolton Holloway, who coined the term "Mystics' Internet" to speak of the 14th century women of Europe who, remarkably in an age where travel and letter-writing were slower and more risky than in later centuries, kept up with each other and enriched each other's visions. And they weren't just mystics. Some, like Birgitta and Catherine of Siena, were church activists and most of them also cared for the poor and sick. Have a look here at what Julia Holloway writes. There is a nice little essay on Birgitta there, too.
And I just realized I forgot Olga and Vladimir, who got displaced on yet another Sunday, July 15. The liturgical calendar is just too, too busy this summer. How's a woman supposed to keep up? I feel a little book coming on: Praying July: A Retreat with Strong and Holy Women. Shall I write it? Little beach or mountain book for people to take on vacation with them.
About that manuscript, above:
From the National Library of Sweden, via the European Library website:
Recently St. Birgitta of Sweden became a patroness of Europe together with two other female saints. St. Birgitta, the only woman canonised in the fourteenth century (1391), was already during her lifetime (1303-1373) one of the most intriguing persons in Europe. Through her revelations - Revelaciones - she tried to influence ecclesiastical life in Rome as well as the politics of the European royal courts. In most cases her revelations were written down in Latin by her confessors, but there are two unique documents in which Birgitta herself has written down two of her revelations in Swedish. The smaller autograph (B) is depicted above. The beginning of the text reads 'fyrst vil iac Þik sighia huru Þik aeru andelik understandilse gifin sea oc hora' i.e. 'First I want to tell you how you are given spiritual understanding to see and hear', which in the Latin version is rendered 'intelligentia spiritualium visionum' i.e. 'the understanding of spiritual visions'. The Latin text is found in the Revelaciones, book VIII, chapter 56. It is the Virgin Mary who turns to Birgitta in an apparition and speaks to her. This particular revelation, probably from 1361, had political implications in Sweden at the time. In the revelation St. Birgitta turns to four instigators, mentioned by name, giving them instructions for a rebellion against the Swedish King Magnus. Later, when the revelation was translated into Latin, some changes to the content had been made in order to suit readers in other parts of Europe. The king’s name, for instance, does not appear in the Latin version. As regards the manuscript itself, at some time the names of the four instigators have been erased. The erasing can clearly be seen at the end of line 11 in the text above.
The highlighting is mine. --JCR
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A sermon preached at a special liturgy for the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala, Thursday, July 22, 2004, All Saints’ Chapel, Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), Berkeley, California.
The Rev. Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller, Dean of the Chapel at CDSP, was the presider.
Note: The Gospel was John 20:11-18; earlier in the liturgy, we read a passage from a non-canonical gospel, the Gospel of Mary.
Mary of Magdala. First witness to the Risen Christ –in all four Gospels. Apostle to the Apostles, as she is known in Catholic tradition. Equal to the Apostles, as she is still called in the Eastern Churches. Faithful to the end in times of betrayal, public torture, and death, and preacher and builder of new beginnings, not just for herself but for a whole community.
And then ... there is Mary of Magdala, or as she has more often been called, Mary Magdalen, in centuries of Western art and religious re-telling. Luscious, sensuous sinner –sexual sinner of course– saved by Jesus and then repentant, penitent, sorrowful, almost disembodied and nearly hidden devotee-at-a-distance.
And even more importantly, why do we need this feast? Why do we need to remember? Why indeed do we honor Mary of Magdala?
Many of you are probably wondering what in the world that first reading was, and perhaps why we didn’t really go all out and read something from The Da Vinci Code. True confessions: I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code yet. It’s also gotten mixed reviews at best from the biblical scholars, though I gather it’s a riveting read. Some very smart church staff, both clergy and lay, and a publisher or two, have taken advantage of the public interest in the book and created spin-off adult education programs and study sessions to explore some of the questions it raises.
What I have read, and what you heard a little piece of, is a second-century document, one of those non-canonical gospels about which we hear much more these days than we used to, lost for fifteen hundred years until papyrus fragments resurfaced in discoveries of the 19th and 20th centuries. Most recently it comes to us thanks to the careful scholarship of Harvard professor Karen King. It is called, appropriately enough, “The Gospel according to Mary.”
Now, we don’t need this 2d century document to tell us that Mary of Magdala was one of the most important disciples and apostles. In the four gospels that are officially part of our canon –our approved-by-the-Church biblical books– there she is. The four gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John come to us from four very different early Christian communities and even more strands of early Christian traditions, brought together in these four accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Yet in every single one of them, Mary of Magdala is recorded as the first witness to the Resurrection –and as one who goes forth to speak, yea even to preach, the good news to Jesus’ other close friends. This in itself is remarkable, since women of that time and place were not permitted to be legal witnesses of anything. So the chances are good that Mary really was both an actual person and the faithful friend, receiver and preacher of good news that the gospels say she was.
What the Gospel of Mary does show is yet another witness to both Mary’s importance in the early church and the resistance with which she met because of her gender.
It is yet another early witness to the strength of her relationship with Jesus, to her wisdom and courage, and to the controversies and disagreements with which the church has been plagued, it seems, ever since there has been a church – in fact, since before there was a church. “Indeed, these teachings are strange ideas.”... “Are we to turn around and listen to her?” ... “If the Savior considered her to be worthy, who are you to disregard her? For he knew her completely and loved her steadfastly.”
What is not in the Gospel of Mary, of course, and what is not in the Gospel of John either, or in any of the other three canonical gospels, is any account of Mary’s being a fallen woman, a sexual sinner, or a prostitute.
For this –and I am abridging a very long story into a few sentences– we can thank the third and fourth centuries, Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century, and years and decades and centuries of our own --Christians’ own-- promulgation and acceptance of a “romanticizing, allegorizing, mythologizing” of Mary into the epitome of both unredeemed sensuality and ascetic spirituality, bolstered by images which, though exquisitely beautiful, are often what one writer has called “little more than pious pornography.”
Mary, a Jewish woman from the commercial town of Magdala on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, had been, the gospel of Luke tells us, healed by Jesus of an illness referred to as “seven demons” –something we would probably identify today as either epilepsy or some other neurological disorder, or as mental illness. She experienced this healing in body and soul, and, thus freed, made the decision to follow Jesus and become a leader in the early community of Jesus people, known not by whose mother or sister or wife she was, but by her own name, and the name of the town from which she came.
We do not know what her age was when she joined Jesus and his other friends, whether her face was smooth or wrinkled, or whether she still bore traces of the illness from which Jesus had caused her to recover. We do know that Mary [Miriam, Mariam] was a common woman’s name in the time of Jesus. This combined with the closeness to one another in the Gospel of Luke of (on the one hand) the story of the unnamed woman who was a sinner and anointed Jesus’ feet and wept and (on the other hand) the naming of Mary of Magdala and the other women who ministered to and with Jesus -- and with the way women live in the imagination of men, and sometimes of other women. All this and more led to the persistent image of Mary as fallen woman who repents rather than disciple who proclaims.
This has begun to change. But even some of the recent scholarship and rediscovery is problematic: “She’s not a prostitute! She’s the top disciple!” Both of these are true. Mary was not a prostitute. She was indeed the first witness to the ultimate Good News. But the way that we well-meaning revisionists describe this can fall into the same pitfall as did the paintings of the bare-breasted harlot or statues of the emaciated penitent of centuries past.
She’s the top disciple; she’s not a prostitute. In other words, she’s not a bad girl! She’s really one of the good girlsl! This kind of thinking is part of our problem. It keeps pitting the good girls against the bad girls, as we still see done today in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of places.
This attitude ignores the fact that prostitution is not a sin but very often the only way that economically poor women have been able to support themselves.
It ignores the fact that women really can be, and are, spiritual AND sexual AND smart and gifted for ministry. All at once.
It also ignores the fact that pitting the good girls against the bad girls is not something Jesus ever, ever did. One thing that is abundantly clear is that he spent time with, and taught, and had dinner with, all kinds of women – “respectable” ones like Mary of Magdala and Mary his mother and Joanna and Salome and Mary the mother of James and John, and yes, a goodly number of prostitutes, whose names unfortunately are lost to us, doubtless because good Christians have felt that the names of bad girls are not worth remembering.
In fact, Jesus’ message was and is of a divine hospitality so great that in the eyes of God –and we see this in the life and ministry of Jesus and yes, in his death and resurrection too– there does not exist the kind of separation we tend to make between the good girls and the bad girls, the good boys and the bad boys.
So we remember. Today we teach the story, or stories, of Mary and we let her teach us.
Besides setting the record straight, we have some things to learn from this first among disciples, this apostle to the apostles, this bearer of good news.
Mary’s feast reminds us that we are called to live our lives consciously as Easter people: people who know that we preach Christ crucified, and who know equally that the Resurrection is real, and who live accordingly, and in whose lives it shows.
Think about it: It is very hard to face suffering and evil and death. We know that the women, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the other women stayed by the cross, witnessing. By that time they were not really able to “do” anything. Sometimes we can and must resist evil actively and sometimes there is only presence, only witness, especially in the face of death; but witness is, contrary to popular belief, not nothing. And that is what Mary and her companions did.
But it is harder still to enter into joy. Think how hard it is to let go of your sadness, of your grief, of your resentment. To sing “Alleluia” and let it rip.
Today we honor one of our earliest and greatest saints, Mary, friend of Jesus, bearer in body and word of the Good News of resurrection; Mary, who experienced healing and witnessed death, and had to go through, as we all do, the sorrowful search for the living among the dead, the disbelief and the transformation.
This feast gives all of us a huge challenge: the challenge of living in resurrection mode. Now, every day, all the time. To live with that constancy and inner peace which Mary exhibits in our first reading today. To live as one who has understood, as Mary finally does in our second reading, that we have moved into a new relationship with Christ and with our world.
How many of us really, truly believe that change, real change, deep change, transformation into a new creation, is possible? How many of us believe it when we look at the morning paper or the television news? How many of us believe it when we look at the church? How many of us believe it when we look at ourselves?
It is this message of transformation that Mary of Magdala bears. She is the reminder. She goes before us, and she accompanies us, first among the cloud of witnesses who are not far away, but who are close at hand, walking by our side.
* * * * * * * *
Collect for Mary of Magdala / Resurrection of Christ
by Janet Morley
O unfamiliar God,
we seek you in the places
you have already left.
and fail to see you
even when you stand before us.
Grant us so to recognize your strangeness
that we need not cling to our familiar grief,
but may be freed to proclaim resurrection
in the name of Christ, Amen.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
But I preached today's version here in the Southland. We are a small, university-related, though not entirely university-populated, Episcopal/Anglican congregation in a medium-size (small compared to your basic metropolis) North Carolina city, with members ranging from young to eighty-ish years old. Enjoy.
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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (Proper 11)
Sunday, July 22, 2007
St. Mary’s House Episcopal/Anglican
Greensboro, North Carolina
Genesis 18:1-10a Psalm 15 Colossians1:15-28 Luke 10:38-42
Over the years,
I have come to refer to this Sunday’s Gospel as
“The Martha-Mary Double Bind.”
It reminds me of an episode in my life
when I was a young campus minister in her mid-twenties –
just a few weeks, in fact, before I preached on this text for the first time.
I had gone home for the holidays with my then-boyfriend,
and we were having supper
with his very friendly and somewhat traditional family
in Brooklyn, New York.
One father, one mother, siblings of both genders, and us.
I think there were an uncle and aunt there that evening,
perhaps a cousin or two as well.
The end of the meal arrived.
The women headed for the kitchen.
It was their job to clean up.
The men headed for the living room.
It was their job to sit around and talk.
And there I was, as full of feminist fervor
as I was of good manners.
My inner conversation
went something like this:
I am not going to go in the kitchen just because
that’s what the women in this family do.
I don’t approve of this setup
and I don’t want to be a part of it.
I’m staying here and hanging out with the guys.
I don’t want them to think of me as
“the little woman.”
The other half
of my inner conversation
went like this:
I can’t abandon these women
who are doing all the work!
These are my sisters.
Besides, it would be rude.
I don’t want them to see me as
some snooty young thing
who thinks she’s too good for the kitchen.
I’m not too good for the kitchen.
Plus, I want to spend time with them too;
they probably have interesting things to say,
and none of them
an impossible situation.
Dammed if I did,
dammed if I didn’t.
Eventually of course,
though I was still a Roman Catholic at the time,
I carried out some awkward version
of the Anglican via media,
the “middle way” on which Episcopalians and other Anglicans pride ourselves:
I stayed for a while chatting with the men,
joined the women for the second half
of that post-dessert period,
chatting with them,
and stacking plates.
The upshot of that little episode
in a middle-class Irish-American household in Brooklyn
was not the fact that I managed some sort of poor compromise,
but that the impossibility of the situation
stayed with me as I encountered this Gospel
as a preacher a few weeks later.
Thirty years later, it is still with me.
The story of Martha and Mary
in their Jewish household in Bethany
resonates in my mind and heart with the same impossibility,
the same flavor of dilemma,
the same lack of resolution
as that evening of many years ago
in a Christian household in Brooklyn.
It’s got that same
“What's wrong with this whole picture?” feel.
Every time I read or hear this Gospel story,
“This is a bad resolution.
If everyone went into the kitchen –including Jesus–
we’d all have more time for contemplation and study.
And the dishes would get done, too.”
And, of course, we’d be in the presence of Christ
the whole time.
Now, Jesus’ point in the story seems to be
not to condemn Martha, who was
exercising a ministry of hospitality
that is sacred in most cultures
and goes back a long time
–witness Abraham and Sarah,
her ancestors in faith
His point is
to remind Martha and Mary
that hearing the word of God
and dwelling with Jesus the living Word
and following him
take precedence over everything else
and time honored traditions and roles and customs.
And of course we today
need the same reminder,
since we live
not only with habits and roles and traditions
which we may or may not question
but with a culture of busy-ness
that overschedules us nearly to death
and literally beeps in our ears
in such a way as to muffle the voice of God in our lives
which is sometimes just a whisper
albeit an insistent one:
a voice that invites us to slow down
and sit down
We need to refocus our attention.
That’s why we come here on Sundays
to break open the word together,
to sing, to pray,
to meet at the table of God’s hospitality
where all are welcome.
We come here
to be reminded that all our tables
and households and communities
are to be welcoming as God is welcoming
and that this hospitality
is our calling, our vocation;
that in welcoming
both friend and stranger
we also welcome God.
But the double bind
in the story from Luke’s Gospel
after all, someone has to do the cooking.
I often ask, quite seriously:
“While the great theologian was writing all those books,
who was doing the laundry?”
How can we make room
for all of us
to take Sabbath time,
that time of prayer and reflection
and resting in God
and lingering with Jesus and with each other?
How can we live
so that all of us,
male and female, young and old,
rich or working class
or middle class or poor
can answer God’s call to each of us
to all of us
and still survive the daily demands
that few of us can avoid?
This may involve some rearranging
of all our priorities.
Following Jesus, yes,
that is our call.
No ducking that one.
But how can we free
and then our relationships
and our household arrangements
and work arrangements
so that all who so desire
can be free to follow the call?
Speaking of imagination –
let’s go back to the Gospel story
of the two sisters, Martha and Mary,
and their guest, Jesus.
It turns out
that my mixed reaction to this story
is not an isolated phenomenon.
A little detective work
in the history of interpretation,
both visual and verbal,
yields many traces of this ambivalence in the Christian community
down through the centuries.
See, biblical stories come to us
not only with the history of their writing, their composition,
but with the history of their use,
the history of their hearing and their retelling.
And this story of Martha and Mary has been heard and used
in multiple ways.
It has resonated in ears, hearts and minds
in as many ways, perhaps,
as it echoed in our many ears and hearts and minds right here:
Some of you may have the same reaction I do to the story; others not at all.
God has given us different ears and hearts and minds.
A wealth of clues attest to the long history
of hearing and re-telling,
from Renaissance paintings of the two sisters
to church groups named for Martha
to contemporary feminist readings of the Gospel.
The scholars and artists and popular story-tellers
who have picked up on the story
and each heard it and retold it
–in words, in painting, in actions, in institutions–
do not agree with each other.
They disagree in living color.
We have Mary the contemplative
and Martha the busybody do-gooder.
We also have Mary in more recent decades
the model for women in theological education.
We have a biblical commentary by a Filipina scholar
reminding us that Martha
was a head of household.
We have an English group
once opposed to the emancipation of women
named the Martha Movement.
We have a Martha Church
adjoining an ancient hospital and dedicated to the care of the sick.
And we have a little ditty produced by a Reformation-era pastor:
Martha and Mary in one life
Make up the perfect vicar’s wife.
We also have forgotten images of Martha,
including frequent medieval European paintings of her
“a proud housewife with a fettered dragon stretched out at her feet.”*
That’s right: Martha, brave housewife and capturer of dragons.
Move over, Saint George.
And there is a Fra Angelico depiction of Gethsemane
–the place of Jesus’ agony,
the night before his capture and crucifixion–
in which Martha and Mary
sit awake in the foreground, vigiling,
while the male disciples
Mary reads a book
with bowed head;
her hands in prayer
in the same gesture
Clearly, there is something going on here.
Is Martha kitchen worker
Or is she both?
Is Mary meek in silence
or bold in learning?
Are the two sisters competitors or partners?
If the history of the text’s life after its writing
is this complex and contradictory,
you can be pretty sure
that it contains some hot-button issues for the Christian community,
issues traveling the centuries
from the early church to the present day:
The roles of women and men.
And the nature and shape of Christian discipleship.
Just for starters.
As for the text before and during its writing,
we have a few clues as well,
in the conflict that is written right into the story.
We know the conflict is written into the story.
But we look at one side and the other,
and not always at the reality of the conflict and
the nature of the conflict.
Martha and Mary were friends of Jesus:
their names have come down to us
in two of the New Testament Gospels.
Did they also represent, in the story’s conversation and conflict,
a set of questions and conflicts
the early Christian communities had?
And the nature of Christian discipleship
for all persons, women and men?
Interestingly, Martha and Mary
–same sisters, same friends of Jesus–
have a whole other flavor in the Gospel of John,
where they are portrayed very differently
in the story of the raising of Lazarus, their brother.
Remember that other story of Martha and Mary?
–the edgy Hausfrau who gets put down, or at least admonished, by Jesus
in the Gospel of Luke–
in the Gospel of John is the one
who calls Jesus to task,
not the other way around.
“If you had been here, my brother would still be alive!” she says to Jesus
when he arrives at the house.
Martha –in the Gospel of John–
is the one to whom Jesus reveals who he is,
and who boldly and openly acknowledges him as Messiah.
holds such a privileged position.
In John’s story, the women,
and their respective places and roles in the community,
are not in competition with each other,
nor placed in an impossible situation that leaves
both of them incomplete.
But we have here today
the Martha and Mary of the Gospel of Luke.
The story is almost set up to make us take sides
and still to feel uncomfortable after we have done so.
Now, taking sides is often necessary; it’s not always something to avoid.
Lukewarm is not a Gospel temperature!
But this story
is not one of those cases where taking sides will be life-giving.
Why pit the sisters against each other,
or oppose, even for the sake of making a point,
of domestic management and service on the one hand
and attention to the living Word
on the other?
The story challenges us to discover or rediscover
in daily life.
the story can and does and should
fill us with holy suspicion:
We need to ask,
what is the cost of taking sides here?
And for whom will there be a cost?
It’s good to ask questions of the story
and to let the story, with its ambiguities and rough edges,
ask questions of us.
Are you uncomfortable with some part of the story?
This is good! Use it!
Are you suspicious? Pray the suspicion!
Let’s use the discomfort and the suspicion
to break open our imaginations
to try out new possibilities
or Sabbath and work,
of household arrangements,
of community structures.
We are the sequel
–not just the heirs, but also the living sequel–
of all those artists
and hospital founders
and students and householders
and people who argued with each other in communities of faith.
It’s our turn.
It’s our godly challenge
as we take strength, together,
from the Word of God
which is both demanding
as we receive hope, together,
from the welcoming table
set by Jesus for his friends,
We are part of a long tradition
of hearing and telling
and conversation and conflict,
How can we converse with each other,
with our traditions,
and with Christ,
in a way that will build a church and a world
in which all ministries are honored,
whether in the kitchen or in the living room,
in the factory or in the pulpit,
at a computer or in a committee meeting
in intimate settings and in public ones?
How can we do so in a way that enables all of us
to have time and space
to hear and respond to the call of God,
whether it leads us to deepen our current path of life
or to change it in radical ways?
How can we converse with each other,
with our traditions,
and with Christ,
so that the shape of our ministries
can meet the needs of a hungry world?
*This description comes to us from the German scholar Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, who has done her own detective work on the story. The Western art references are mostly from Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel's The Women Around Jesus. Feminist biblical commentaries are many and I consulted several, from The Women's Bible Commentary (Jane Schaberg's article) to Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Luise Schottroff, as well as some older, less sophisticated ones which paved the way for the more recent works. I am also indebted to a commentary by Jurgette Honculada of the Philippines in a collection of biblical reflections by Asian women (published in Korea) for the reminder that Martha was a head of household, and to Dylan's Lectionary Blog (summer 2004) for pointing out the issue of respectability.
As I was answering the first couple of them, I figured, "Eh, with these answers, they're going to tell me I'm Hermione with a little bit of someone else thrown in."
In the order I took them (and I was consistent in my answers -- the questions weren't all the same, but there were recurring themes):
You're dreamy and absent-minded, though you often show startling intelligence. Sometimes you're Luna Lovegood, Harry's spacy acquaintance; at your best, you're Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, far more serious-minded than your behavior might imply.
(I kind of liked that one since I love Dumbledore*. And don't spoil my fun, I only read the first four HPs and I have to catch up. And I haven't seen any of the movies yet. One of my fully grown friends just took himself to see the latest one tonight, though, so I may get a report.)
*He's a priestly/episcopal/wise one figure.
(And you KNOW Hermione could end up as Head of School.)
Quiztron says I'm Draco Malfoy:
You're the bad guy out of the group. Although you don't do any real damage, you like to pick on people, and you feel superior to others around you. You are from an uptight family who is very strict.
HP Devo Network / Magical Obizuth says I'm Hermione...
For 33 % you are: HERMIONE GRANGER -- You're smart, witty--just be careful not to intimidate people. ROCK ON, GIRL!
You could also get this result:For 20 % you are: RON WEASLEY -- You're a loyal friend, but you can be somewhat rude. Try paying some more attention to your classes, and think your actions through. CANDY, CANDY, CANDY!
Or even this one:For 20 % you are: GINNY WEASLEY -- You're kind, funny, outgoing, smart, popular, fiery, and you've probably got a REALLY hot boyfriend. YOU ROCK!
Or even this one:For 13 % you are: HARRY POTTER -- You're brave, and you have a bit of a saving-people-thing. Your friends mean more than anything to you, and you're just a tiny bit girl-challenged. LOOK OUT, YOU-KNOW-WHO!
Or even this one:For 13 % you are: LUNA LOVEGOOD -- You definitely march to a different drum. Way to be different! People find you funny, but are unlikely to take you seriously. CRUMPLE-HORNED SNORKACKS RULE!
Maybe I'm Luna (after all, she came up twice), but I am SO not a blonde.
I guess some folks would say that HP quizzes are like newspaper horoscopes...
A big fat P.S. on Sunday night:
I took one more quiz after reading Philocrites's report on his results, and this quiz was longer and more complex than any of the others. Age-appropriate, Philocrites called it. Guess what, I'm Dumbledore again. With --again-- a good dose of Hermione and Harry; and Sirius Black! And the Weasleys. But who is Remus Lupin? I haven't read an HP book in two or three years.
|You scored as Albus Dumbledore, Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.|
Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Otherwise, put down whatever you're drinking before you read or you will spew it all over the keyboard.
It's from The Onion, courtesy of PeaceBang. Thank you, PeaceBang.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Symposium honors the late Vine Deloria Jr.
by Debbie Royals and Jan Nunley, July 20, 2007
[Episcopal News Service] From July 10-13, some 50 Native elders and indigenous theologians gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Native theologian Vine Deloria, Jr.'s most challenging work, God is Red, at the God Is Still Red Symposium, held at the Vancouver School of Theology in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Full story here.
Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Amelia Bloomer.
Kiefer's piece on Elizabeth Cady Stanton (in the link above, from the Daily Office site) isn't very good and mentions neither her conversion experience and contact with Charles Grandison Finney nor her work on the Seneca Falls gathering on the rights of women in 1848 for which she is best known, and it doesn't do justice to her on The Women's Bible.
This photo of Sojourner Truth is one of the lesser known ones. I'll post one of the better known ones below.
Here are two photos of Stanton, one as a young woman with one of her many children, the other as an old woman with her friend and colleague Susan B. Anthony.
Work commitments prevent me from doing these women full justice here, even though they are some of my favorite women in recent history (recent meaning the last couple of hundred years), but here are some pictures. I'll add some more links about those pioneers of African Americans' and women's rights throughout the day. I teach about them in some of my classes (except for Amelia Bloomer, whom I must add somewhere!) so I have documents about them, but I'm headed back into heavy work days for both my summer writing and preparation for the semester's teaching. We should have added some labor activists!
Read about Amelia Bloomer here. Here she is in her comfortable clothes; no hoop skirts or corsets!
Read about Harriet Tubman here and here. (The second is a commercial site.) The photo is a later one, many years after she had served as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.
And here is the better-known photo of Sojourner Truth.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Today, July 19, the Episcopal Church invites us to celebrate Macrina, also known as Macrina the Younger.
Believers and theologians of both the Eastern and Western churches recognize and remember as "The Cappadocians" two Gregories and a Basil, three men whose influence on the spirituality of the church, the theology of the Trinitarian God, and the formation of monasticism --among many other aspects of 4th century and later church life-- is immeasurable. I always include Macrina among "The Cappadocians" when I speak of them.
Elder sister of two of the "Cappadocian Fathers," Gregory of Nyssa and Basil of Caesarea (the other Gregory was their good buddy, known as Gregory of Nazianzus), Macrina was so influential in Gregory's life that he wrote a biography of her. Named for her grandmother (Macrina the Elder), Macrina was really a proto-abbess. She founded a religious community in her home and presided over it with charity and steely will. Her faith commitment was rooted in that of her family. While she was born into a family of means, with land and property and money, she was also in a family familiar with the suffering that comes from commitment; some of her forebears had known persecution because they were Christians.
Today it is hard for most of us to understand an early vow of singleness and celibacy as a positive. For a woman of the ancient world (and later the medieval world) it was, however, an alternative to submission to a man, multiple pregnancies, and early death in childbirth; put more positively, it was a path to cultivating the life of the mind, the life of the spirit, and life in community. While Basil is known as the author of the early rule for Eastern monks (which the Western founder and Benedict knew) he was --remember this-- the younger brother of Macrina, who established and lived a rule first with her community of women.
Paul Halsall of Fordham University, who has for at least a decade made available all kinds of historical resources, has put Gregory's Life of Macrina online along with an introduction and bibliography. You can find this resource here.
Because she was a woman of the Christian East (Cappadocia is in present-day Turkey), Macrina can be a bridge between East and West in our contemporary conversations.
Interestingly, one of the newest congregations (a project, not a parish) of the Episcopal Diocese of California, a child of the creative St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, is named for Macrina. Naturally, they have a website. It's the first I've heard of a Western Christian congregation named for Macrina. (There are, of course, Eastern Christian ones named for her, including one in a small jurisdiction, the Orthodox Catholic Church in America, an Orthodox but not always "orthodox" community.)
I also named a cat after Macrina last winter. Alas, I turned out to be allergic to her (this was last winter) and had to return her to her friendly foster humans after a few days, and she took back her old name. But perhaps she was Macrina the Elder, and a non-allergifying Macrina the Younger will come someday to stay and will, true to her namesake, run the household and make sure that there is contemplative time and that the hungry are fed.
Foodie postscript: Macrina also has a bakery named after her in the Seattle area. And a Russian Orthodox (ROCOR) women's group in Virginia which is sponsoring a cookbook.
The book sounds good (based on the interview and on the excerpt on the website) and perhaps good for use with a college students' class or for a congregation- or community-based reading group or discussion group.
I'll post a few notes (scribbled in the kitchen -- I keep little pads of paper everywhere!) if I have time later on. Particularly interesting is the focus on youth and young adults and formation for religiously pluralistic living vs. formation for fanaticism.
Meanwhile, have a look (and a listen if you wish; the audio link is up) and let me know what you think.
An excerpt from the book on the "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" site speaks, as does the "Talk of the Nation" interview, of the influence of the Catholic Worker movement on Patel, who is a committed Muslim.
There was also a program featuring Patel, "Religious Passion, Pluralism, and the Young" on Krista Tippett's radio show "Speaking of Faith."
Media sites to bookmark:
Talk of the Nation
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly
Speaking of Faith
The Simple Village Organist's church has become a sanctuary in the New Sanctuary Movement. Blessings on them and on those whom they shelter. There is a link to the New Sanctuary Movement's website in SVO's post.
For a glimpse of the "old" Sanctuary Movement, have a look at:
A moving (2001, National Catholic Reporter)
obituary to movement co-founder Jim Corbett, a Quaker. His co-founders were a Presbyterian minister and a Catholic priest, so the movement was ecumenical from the start. In fact, it was interfaith, as is the New Sanctuary Movement. *
And another moving story (from 2002, Tucson Weekly), that of Luisa Orellana, who fled El Salvador to the U.S. over two decades ago with her family and lived in a church basement in Spokane.
* Recent sermon by rabbi Laurie Coskey, in Spanish!