“The feminine spirit is rising deep in the hearts of creation, to heal our battered world and bring new life.”
July 22 – Feast day of Mary Magdalene
Correcting over 2,000 years of misinformation, I hope you’ll be able to see that Mary is NOT the “sinner” that anointed Jesus feet with oil and wiped them with her hair. Instead, she is, as St. Augustine called her – “The apostle to the apostles.” She was the only recorded person to remain with Jesus from the cross to the grave and from the grave to the garden tomb on that First Day of the Week.
This week, Richard Rohr is focusing on this courageous woman who has been relegated to the backrooms of church history. In her place, the front stage has been given to men – who didn’t go all the way with Jesus in his hour of need, abandoning him for the safety of the upper room.
Mary chose the lower room – at the foot of his execution station and outside the tomb that could not contain him. For her faithfulness, she was rewarded with being chosen as the first person the Risen Teacher appeared to on that first day of the week.
He whispered her name, “Mary.”
Above: Artist Janet McKenzie’s portrayal of Mary Magdalene alongside Jesus
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations – Weekly Theme: Mary Magdalene
--above image used as the banner image for this week’s meds (Rx’s)
Love and Knowing Become One Sunday, July 19, 2020
Go Back to the Gospels Monday, July 20, 2020
She Does Not Run Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Faithful to the End Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Great Love Thursday, July 23, 2020
Come and See Friday, July 24, 2020
In Tuesday’s meditation, Richard notes: “ Though it may seem like a small victory to some, I think it’s significant that in 2016 Pope Francis decreed that Mary Magdalene’s feast day, July 22, is “to be ‘celebrated’ liturgically like the rest of the apostles.” See https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/06/10/160610c.html.
Janet McKenzie – Artist
--see “Liberation Theology” below
McKenzie’s portrayal of Jesus as a black man (above) got her death threats. William Paul Young was similarly criticized for his depiction of G-d as a black woman in his classic book “The Shack.”
Art can bypass our overly-opinionated & defended minds & penetrate our souls
So far, I haven’t been treated the same as McKenzie, Young and other artists for my artistic interpretation of Jamaican Jesus in my post about Jesus as a musician:
That said, I WAS censured for an email I sent to some church folks in which I portrayed Jesus praying in full lotus position.
Question: You’re a Sunday school teacher in a foreign land. How else would you present the Prophet, the Divine Lover, to local souls, including children? If he is to be accepted, it’ll help if he looks like one of them.
FYI – I looked online and was not able to find a dark-skinned version of the above.
Artists know what Paul knew when he said that he wanted to be all things to all people (1 Cor. 9). The Kingdom of G-d is like…a lotus blossom…
Jesus and Krishna
Jesus and Ganesha
“If you’re hungry, I’ll come to you as bread and feed you with my very self.”
--Jesus & Gandhi
For more on unconventional sacred imagery, see my Holy Thursday post:
“What if it’s simply to be together around the dinner table, perhaps a last meal together for a particular family member, who might be going away to school or moving to another state to start a new job, or getting married, or dealing with a serious illness, or……………..?”
Vulnerable Masculinity: Kitchen Table Spirituality
As a young man at parties, I often gravitated to the kitchen to hang out with the women. As I remember it, they seemed to go deeper than the macho world us guys inhabited.
By deeper I mean able to be vulnerable enough to express the things that were troubling, stuff we hadn’t figured out and were wrestling with. Women seemed to do this naturally. Thankfully, through the years, I did find a few guys that were comfortable in these scary and culturally off-limits places for men.
One of these safe places to be the vulnerable warrior with an exposed Achilles heel is in the groups to which I belong as part of the Illuman men’s organization – a male spirituality process that grew out of the pioneering men’s work of Richard Rohr.
Jimi Hendrix (& Tom) on Mary Magdalene
Knowing that Jimi wrote a poem about Mary (see “The Story of Life” further down), I re-listened to his “The Wind Cries Mary” and offer some reflections [in brackets] for your consideration…
THE WIND CRIES MARY
After all jacks are in their boxes
And the clowns have all gone to bed
You can hear happiness staggering on down the street
Footprints dressed in red
[the religious and political leaders (“clowns”, “jacks”) with bloodstained feet are rejoicing that their “problem” (Jesus) has been eliminated]
And the wind whispers Mary
[“wind” is a common metaphor for Spirit – here the Spirit whispers her name]
A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterday's life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife
[“broken pieces of yesterday's life: the old – Mary’s & everyone else’s - has gone, the new is about to be risen…]
[“queen” could be Pilate’s wife who, after having a dream about Jesus, sends Pilate a message urging the ruler to release him]
And the wind, it cries Mary
[“Cries” – a now more forceful Spirit utterance…Mary hears it in her heart of hearts…and waits…]
The traffic lights they turn a blue tomorrow
And shine their emptiness down on my bed
The tiny island sags downstream
'Cause the life that they lived is dead
[“'Cause the life that they lived is dead” – a rephrasing of “broken pieces of yesterday’s life” – the new life of the risen Jesus replaces what came before – the old life]
And the wind screams Mary
[“screams” – Spirit is even more forceful, more demanding…more inviting…and Mary waits…by the tomb…]
Will the wind ever remember?
The names it has blown in the past
And with its crutch, its old age and its wisdom
It whispers "no, this will be the last"
And the wind cries Mary
[Over 2,000 years of history – and the winds of time - attest that because of Mary’s courage and faithfulness, her carrying of Jesus’ message to the apostles, that, “YES, this will NOT be the end of this message of love and reconciliation]
[finally, recognizing the person she thought to be the gardener, Mary’s eyes receive Jesus’ loving gaze, as he gently whispers her name…]
Let me know what you think of these reflections…
On the night before he died…he took paper and blessed it with words…words that he never got to sing…Jimi’s farewell poem – “The Story of Life”
These would be Jimi's last lyrics - composed in London, 17th of September 1970 – the night before he died. Later, Curtis Knight, who co-wrote songs with Jimi, recorded a version of “The Story of Life.”
The Story of Life - Jimi Hendrix
THE STORY OF LIFE
The story of Jesus
So easy to explain
After they crucified him,
A woman, she claimed his name
The story of Jesus
The whole Bible knows
Went all across the desert
And in the middle, he found a rose
There should be no questions
There should be no lies
He was married ever happily after
All the tears we cry
No use in arguing
All the use to the man that moans
When each man falls in battle
His soul it has to roam
Angles of heaven
Flying saucers to some,
Made Easter Sunday
The name of the rising sun
The story is written
By so many people who dared,
To lay down the truth
To so very many who cared
To carry the cross
Of Jesus and beyond
We will guide the light
This time with a woman in our arms
We as men
Can't explain the reason why
The woman's always mentioned
At the moment that we die
All we know
Is God is by our side,
And he says the word
So easy yet so hard
I wish not to be alone,
So I must respect my other heart
Oh, the story
Of Jesus is the story
Of you and me
No use in feeling lonely,
I am searching to be free
Of life is quicker
Than the wink of an eye
The story of love
Is hello and goodbye
Until we meet again
Mary in songs and a movie
--be sure to read the songwriter’s testimony
Regardless of its historical accuracy, this portrayal shows a courageous woman facing her fears and the social restrictions her society imposed on her because she was a woman.
As I’ve written before, the literal, black & white versions of sacred texts can only take us so far. To go deeper into the heart level of Mysteries, we need the help of mystics who offer themselves as artists, writers, sculptors, poets, musicians and other storytellers.
“The Kingdom of G-d is like…”
…a musician looking for his soul…
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault on Mary as a wisdom figure
Mirabai Starr on Mary as prophet
Sr. Joan Chittister on Mary as faithful friend
--an article about friendship &, in particular, the one between Mary and Jesus. The icon of the saint is below.
“Easter confronts us with the greatest challenge of them all: faith in darkness. Just because we know that what we’re doing is right does not mean that it will be easy. It certainly does not mean that even our best efforts will prevail. It finally does not mean that what we live for will happen in our lifetime.”
“Mary Magdalene is our model. She was one of the women who, according to Luke’s Gospel, ‘followed Jesus, supporting him out of their own substance.’ She banked her whole life on the fact that the vision of this Jesus would come to fullness.”
“Sisters of True Charity” on Mary as friend of G-d and prophet
--article presents women religious who are actively working for peace and justice. It fits in with this post in that it includes both a meditation on Mary Magdalene and artwork by Mary Southard, CSJ, whose quote opened my reflections.
Mary’s name used in vain & in pain
--In the first 2:30 Joni begins by telling the story…
For over 230 years in Ireland, the church and government operated asylums for the reputed purpose of reforming women: prostitutes, rape victims, unwed mothers, those too pretty to look at (potential temptresses), and others deemed unfit for society. They named these places of slave labor “Magdalene,” incorrectly associating Mary with the “sinner” who anointed Jesus feet. At these workhouses, they labored long hours for free and were subjected to all forms of abuse by the nuns who acted like prison wardens. In many cases they were stripped of their very identities and given new names.
This horror became front page news in 1992 when the religious order (Sisters of Charity) that owned one of these places sold land to a developer who, subsequently, unearthed mass unmarked graves. The order could not produce death certificates for most of the bodies. Subsequently, all of the religious orders involved have refused to disclose records or contribute to the victims compensation fund established by the government.
How Ireland Turned ‘Fallen Women’ Into Slaves (history.com-2018)
The above article points out the inconsistency of Ireland’s pro-life policies. While they maintained a constitutional ban on abortion until 2018, they also supported these horror houses and “the systemic practice of forced and illegal adoptions, often without records, which preserved an illusion of Catholic chastity while depriving unwed mothers of their children and children of their birth identities.” See next link.
Another reminder about the need to reform our American penal system with its profit-driven, retributive justice model – that’s historically ineffective.
Deserving a post of its own, here’s a short meditation that helps provide some context to the themes of this post about Mary Magdalene.
One of the great themes of the Bible, which begins in the Hebrew Scriptures and is continued in Jesus and Paul, is called “the preferential option for the poor”; I call it “the bias toward the bottom.” We see the beginnings of this theme about 1200 years before Christ with an enslaved people in Egypt. Through their history God chooses to engage humanity in a social and long-standing conversation. The Hebrew people’s exodus out of slavery, through twists and turns and dead ends, finally brings them to the Promised Land, eventually called Israel. This is a standing archetype of the perennial spiritual journey from entrapment to liberation. It is the universal story.
Moses, himself a man at “the bottom” (a murderer on the run and caring for his father-in-law’s sheep), first encounters God in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Like so many initial religious experiences, this happens while Moses is alone—externally and interiorly. The encounter is nature-based and transcendent at the same time: “Take off your shoes; this is holy ground” (see Exodus 3:5). This religious experience is immediately followed by a call to a very costly social concern for Moses’ own oppressed people, whom he had not cared about up to then. God said, “I have heard the groaning of my people in Egypt. You, Moses, are to go confront the Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go” (see Exodus 3:9-10).
There, at the very beginning of the Judeo-Christian tradition, is the perfect integration of action and contemplation. First, the transformative experience takes place through the burning bush. Immediately it has social, economic, historical, and political implications. How did we ever lose sight of this when our Scriptures and tradition begin this way? The connection is clear.
There is no authentic God experience that does not situate you in the world in a very different way. After an encounter with True Presence you see things quite differently, and it gives you freedom from your usual loyalties and low-level payoffs—the system that gave you your security, your status, your economics, and your very identity. Your screen of life expands exponentially. This transformation has costly consequences. Moses had to leave Pharaoh’s palace to ask new questions and become the liberator of his people.
I believe the Exodus story is the root of all liberation theology, which Jesus fully teaches and exemplifies, especially in the three synoptic Gospels (see Luke 4:18-19). Jesus is primarily a healer of the poor and powerless. That we do not even notice this reveals our blindness to Jesus’ obvious bias.
Liberation theology focuses on freeing people from religious, political, social, and economic oppression (i.e., what Pope John Paul II called “structural sin” and “institutional evil”). It goes beyond just trying to free individuals from their own particular “naughty behaviors,” which is what sin now seems to mean to most people in our individualistic culture. Structural sin is accepted as good and necessary on the corporate or national level. Large organizations—including the Church—and governments get away with and are even applauded for killing (war), greed, vanity, pride, and ambition. Yet individuals are condemned for committing these same sins. Such a convenient split will never create great people, nations, or religions.
Liberation theology, instead of legitimating the self-serving status quo, tries to read reality, history, and the Bible not from the side of the powerful, but from the side of the pain. Its beginning point is not sin management, but “Where is the suffering?” Our starting point makes all the difference in how we read the Bible. Jesus spends little time trying to ferret out sinners or impose purity codes in any form. He just goes where the pain is. I dare you to try to disprove that.
Resource for Sacred Feminine Spirituality
…Pax, Pais, Paz, Peace…
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