Reflections on questions & doubt: Thomas as a model of curiosity, questioning, and courage

Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving. 
– Frederick Buechner


I talk to God but the sky is empty. ― Sylvia Plath

I think the trouble with me is lack of faith… often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. – C.S. Lewis

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! ― Douglas Adams

Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one. ― Voltaire

Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith?… We’ve all experienced this, me too. – Pope Francis

… the Old Testament, which is where many of the questions (and questioners) are. The Old Testament proves that God honors questioners. Remember, grumpy Job emerges as the hero of that book, not his theologically defensive friends. — Philip Yancey

Songs about DOUBTS & QUESTIONS:

A Sonnet for St. Thomas the Apostle
Malcolm Guite

“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.
 

QUESTIONING: An Act of Faith

When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics (Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, David Hume) or the newer ones (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations.  I have respect for a God who not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use in the Bible.  God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually. — Philip Yancey

In other words, no matter how strong our faith is, at some point we may experience doubt. But instead of being a sign of weakness, doubt can actually be something that causes us to dig deeper into our relationship with God, and can even make our faith stronger. — Jesse Carey

Certainty is so often overrated. This is especially the case when it comes to faith, or other imponderables. — Julia Baird

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith… Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful. – Paul Tillich

Belief in God does not exempt us from feelings of abandonment by God. Praising God does not inoculate us from doubts about God. – Eugene Peterson

Surely… we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. – John Calvin

I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.  – Charles Spurgeon

The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men… Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”– Madeleine L’Engle

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate… I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. – Brennan Manning

We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt. – Dallas Willard

All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it, tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.‘  — C. S. Lewis

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. — Anne Lamott

Who among us—everybody, everybody!—who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith? Everyone! We’ve all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them … If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason—the place of God in my soul is blank—There is no God in me—when the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God … The torture and pain I can’t explain. — St. Mother Teresa

For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God. — Martin Luther

The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble … Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. — Charles Spurgeon

If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. ― Yann Martel

COMMENTARY on THOMAS as a DOUBTER

Here’s my simple contention about this passage: Thomas is not so much a doubter as he is a realist. Think about it. Everything we know about Thomas up to this point suggests that he is forthright, genuine, and even courageous …
      Thomas, I would contend, is at heart a pragmatist, one who likes his truth straight up and who relentlessly takes stock of the situation before making a decision.
     
Which leads me to believe that what changes when Thomas is confronted by the risen Lord is not that he is no longer a doubter – he never really was – and certainly not his realism. No, what changes is his perception of reality itself. Of what is possible. Of what God can do. Even of what God can do through him….
     Jesus comes and takes his mocking words and turns them back on him, not to humiliate or scold him, but simply to confront him with the possibility that his reality was too small, his vision of what is possible too limited. And when Jesus calls him to faith, he’s actually inviting him to enter into a whole new world. …
      And this issue of having too small a vision of reality is what I find interesting. Because I also fall into a worldview governed by limitations and am tempted to call that “realism.” Which is when I need to have the community remind me of a grander vision. A vision not defined by failure but possibility, not governed by scarcity but by abundance, not ruled by remembered offenses but set free by forgiveness and reconciliation …
    There are, I suspect, a lot of Thomases in our congregations…. who should not have to surrender their sense of realism, but instead be invited to a whole new reality that God created  — David Lose

So, two things I noticed and wondered about when reading this passage.
     First, Thomas only asks to see what the other disciples have already seen. … Thomas asks for no extraordinary proof to move his extraordinary doubt, but only requests what the others had already been given.
    Second, is Thomas’ reaction one of doubt or realism? Might it be that Thomas was, above all else, a realist? And that reality had come as never before ….— David Lose

This week’s gospel lection offers us a secret room, and, with it, an invitation to touch, to cross more deeply into Jesus’ story and our own… History has labeled this disciple Doubting Thomas, as if his uncertainty were the most memorable thing about this follower of Jesus who, elsewhere, is the first to step up and say he is willing to die with him Yet Jesus, as is his way, gives Thomas what he needs  — Jan Richardson

I was reminded that in the story of the raising of Lazarus, Thomas is the one—the only one—who steps forward and expresses his willingness to die with Jesus. In this week’s reading, Thomas once again crosses into a place where others have not ventured: into the very flesh of the risen Christ… The wounds of the risen Christ are not a prison; they are a passage. Thomas’s hand in Christ’s side is not some bizarre, morbid probe: it is a union, and a reminder that in taking flesh, Christ wed himself to us.— Jan Richardson

Inventory ― Dorothy Parker
Four be the things
I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow,
a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things
I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity,
freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things
I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and
sufficient champagne.
Three be the things
I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope
and a sock in the eye.

ON DOUBT

We learn from failure, not from success! ― Bram Stoker

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. ― René Descartes

Doubt everything. Find your own light. ― Gautama Buddha

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.― William Shakespeare

To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what running is for a horse. – Blaise Pascal

Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.
― George Carlin

Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess. ― Walt Whitman

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrased, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life. ― Rainer Maria Rilke

THE GIFT of DOUBT —from Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister (Penguin Random House)

As Voltaire remarked, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
      The problem is that certitude seduces us. It enables us to believe that what was said to be true is true because someone else said so. It simply cuts off thought. It arrests discussion in midflight. And yet we yearn for it with a passion. We spend endless, sleepless nights grappling with intellectual options in order to wiggle them into a satisfying kind of certainty without so much as a scintilla of evidence.
     Rulers of all stripe and type dispense certainties—theirs—with great abandon. They do whatever it takes—define cultural dogmas, assert organizational doctrines, impose decrees, and use power, force and penal systems—to suppress the ideas of anyone who dares to question them. Ideas, after all, are dangerous things. Ideas have brought down as many myths and mysteries as they have toppled kingdoms.
     But there is another way to live that runs hot and bright through darkness. There are always some in every population who know that life is not meant to be about certainty. Life, they realize, is about possibility. They see certitude as a direction but not an end.
     Doubt is what shakes our arrogance and makes us look again at what we have never really looked at before. Without doubt there is little room for faith in anything. What we accept without question we will live without morality. It is in populations like this that monarchs become dictators and spiritual leaders become charlatans and knowledge becomes myth.
     An ancient people tell the story of sending out two shamans to study their holy mountain so that they could know what their gods expected of them. The first shaman came back from the north side of the mountain to tell them that it was covered with fruit trees, a sign that their god would always bless them abundantly. The second shaman came back from the south side of the mountain to tell the people that it was barren and covered with rock, a sign that their god would always be with them but intended them to take care of themselves. So, which shaman was right? If both, then it is dangerous to dogmatize either position.
     It is doubt, not certitude, that enables us to believe, because it requires us to think deeply about an entire subject, and not simply depend on the side of reality that is on our side of the mountain. Only when we look beyond absolutes to understand every level of life can we possibly live life to the fullest, with the deepest kind of insight, with the greatest degree of compassion for others.
     Voltaire was right, of course. Certainty is comfortable but always unlikely and forever disruptive. As life changes so must our explanation and response to it.

The Blessing of Thomas
— Maren Tirabassi

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” — John 20:29b

Blessed are the ones, says Thomas,
to those who listen to him, this eastertide,
who don’t need a sanctuary to worship God.
Blessed are those who don’t need a choir to hear holy music,
and who don’t need to sit in a pew
to open their hearts in prayer,
and who don’t need a stained glass window,
or a preacher or even bread and cup
to find the good news.
Blessed are those who really touch
even with gloves on,
who really smile with a mask,
who can be kind on Facetime or Zoom,
who follow a livestream to find Jesus alive.
But also blessed is the Thomas in every one of us
who acknowledges our longing
to hold someone’s real warm hand
not just the story of a hand
that reaches out to someone else, and who wants to feel
not Jesus’ long-ago bleeding side
(we congratulate ourselves about that)
but at least to feel side by side
with other Christians
in order to be side by side with Christ.
Blessed is the Thomas in all of us, who lives with doubts and hopes,
and learns to let go of all expectations
when waiting to meet God.

Reflections on mothers and matriarchs

… give them to all the people who helped mother our children. … I don’t want something special. I want something beautifully plain. Like everything else, it can fill me only if it is ordinary and available to all. — Anne Lamott

Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are. – Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Just when you think you know love, something little comes along and reminds you just how big it is. – unattributed

Motherhood takes many forms… there are step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, and moms who have been estranged from their kids. — Ryan Nelson

We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name. — Maya Angelou

Songs about and for Mothers:

What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black
(Reflections of an African-American Mother)

(excerpt) — Maya Angelou
… So this I will do for them, If I love them.
None will do it for me.
I must find the truth of heritage for myself
And pass it on to them.
In years to come I believe
Because I have armed them
with the truth, my children
And my children’s children will venerate me. 
For it is the truth that will make us free!

From “understory” Craig Santos Perez
my daughter, i know
our stories are heavier
than stones, but you
must carry them with
you no matter how
far from home the
storms take your canoe
because you will always
find shelter in our
stories, you will always
belong in our stories,
you will always be
sacred in our ocean
of stories…

OF MOTHERS

We are born of love; Love is our mother. — Rumi

What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb, Of how beautiful they are … — Maya Angelou

Motherhood takes many forms… there are step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, and moms who have been estranged from their kids. — Ryan Nelson

You know, there’s nothing damnable about being a strong woman. The world needs strong women. There are a lot of strong women you do not see who are guiding, helping, mothering strong men. — Ginger Rogers
 
… these old photos of our mothers feel like both a chasm and a bridge. The woman in the picture is someone other than the woman we know. She is also exactly the person in the photo — still, right now. Finally, we see that the woman we’ve come to think of as Mom — whether she’s nurturing, or disapproving, or thoughtful, or delusional, or pestering, or supportive, or sentimental — is also a mysterious, fun, brave babe. She’s been here all this time. — Edan Lepuck

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. — Abraham Lincoln

Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face. — George Eliot

For when a child is born the mother also is born again.—  Gilbert Parker

OTHER MOTHERS: SPIRITUAL PARENTS
… my main gripe about Mother’s Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men … — Anne Lamott  

Our images of God, then, must be inclusive because God is not mother, no, but God is not father either. God is neither male nor female. God is pure spirit, pure being, pure life — both of them. Male and female, in us all. — Joan Chittister

I know how lucky I am to have such a wonderful woman and heroine in my life. Also, I do recognize that not everyone has this blessing. This is why Mother’s Day can sometimes bring out many different emotions in people. Some women have lost their mothers, women who have absent mothers, women who are desperately trying or have tried to have a baby and become a mother themselves, and women who are single mothers having to be a mother and father to their children. The list goes on. We all know women like this or are those very women ourselves. So this year and every year let me suggest something. On Mother’s Day, let’s not only celebrate our mothers and the mothers of the world but let’s celebrate the women in our lives who have helped us become the women WE are today…
         These women are everywhere. Maybe they are your favorite teacher, your aunt, your grandmother, your stepmother, your neighbor, or a friend. We all have “mothered” someone and have shown them love and support in their time of need. So, let’s thank and celebrate those women in our lives too. To me these women are not only my mother, they are my Aunt Barbara and my dear friends who for years have given me unwavering love and support. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
         So again, on Mother’s Day I want us to celebrate not just mothers of the world, but the women that helped you become the strong and beautiful woman that you are.  — Nina Spears

God as Creator: Source Code of Grace— Nadia Bolz-Weber
In the beginning, all there was, was God. So in order to bring the world into being, God had to kind of scoot over. So God chose to take up less space—you know, to make room. So before God spoke the world into being, God scooted over. God wanted to share. Like the kind-faced woman on the subway who takes her handbag onto her lap so that there’s room for you to sit next to her. She didn’t have to do it, but that’s just who she is . . . the kind-faced subway lady’s nature is that she makes room for others.
Then God had an absolute explosion of creativity and made animals. Amoebas. Chickens. Crickets. Bees. Orangutans.
Then God said, “Let us create humans in our own image and likeness.” Let us. So, God the community, God the family, God the friend group, God the opposite of isolation, said, “Let us create humanity in our image and likeness. Let there be us and them in one being.”
So God created every one of us in the male and female image of God. Then God gave us God’s own image —something so holy that it could never be harmed, and never be taken away. A never-aloneness. An origin and destination. A source code of grace…

ACKNOWLEDGING HURT

We can’t pretend like Mother’s Day is a cheery holiday for everyone. It’s not. If you’ve experienced mom-related trauma like abuse, addiction, mental health issues, abandonment, or death, this is a time when people … grieve something they lost or never had. … people … struggle with motherhood or have been hurt by this relationship … — Ryan Nelson

The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the world passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. ― Anita Diamant

Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering. The illusion is that mothers are automatically happier, more fulfilled and complete ... I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure … — Anne Lamott

PRAYER — Hannah Kardon
To the Moms who are struggling, to those filled with incandescent joy.
To the Moms who are remembering children who have died, and pregnancies that miscarried.
To the Moms who decided other parents were the best choice for their babies, to the Moms who adopted those kids and loved them fierce.
To those experiencing frustration or desperation in infertility.
To those who knew they never wanted kids, and the ways they have contributed to our shared world.
To those who mothered colleagues, mentees, neighborhood kids, and anyone who needed it.
To those remembering Moms no longer with us.
To those moving forward from Moms who did not show love, or hurt those they should have cared for.
… honor the unyielding love and care for others we call ‘Motherhood,’ wherever we have found it and in whatever ways we have found to cultivate it within ourselves.

Reflections on meeting disciples involved in post-resurrection appearances & seeing anew: Mary Magdalene (Apostle to the Apostles)

Lately it seems there are mysteries everywhere, as if you’ve only just opened your eyes. ― Stewart O’Nan

What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them. ― John Lubbock

I am sitting under a sycamore by Tinker Creek. I am really here, alive on the intricate earth under trees. But under me, directly under the weight of my body on the grass, are other creatures, just as real, for whom also this moment, this tree, is “it”… in the top inch of soil, biologists found “an average of 1,356 living creatures in each square foot… I might as well include these creatures in this moment, as best as I can. My ignoring them won’t strip them of their reality, and admitting them, one by one, into my consciousness might heighten mine, might add their dim awareness to my human consciousness, such as it is, and set up a buzz, a vibration…Hasidism has a tradition that one of man’s purposes is to assist God in the work of “hallowing” the things of Creation. By a tremendous heave of the spirit, the devout man frees the divine sparks trapped in the mute things of time; he uplifts the forms and moments of creation, bearing them aloft into the rare air and hallowing fire in which all clays must shatter and burst. ― Annie Dillard

When referring to the earliest followers of Jesus, the Gospel writers often speak of two groups of disciples: the Twelve and the Women. The Twelve refer to the twelve Jewish men chosen by Jesus to be his closest companions and first apostles, symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Women refer to an unspecified number of female disciples who also followed Jesus, welcoming him into their homes, financing his ministry, and often teaching the Twelve through their acts of faithfulness and love. Just as Jesus predicted, most of the Twelve abandoned him at his death (John 16:32). But the women remained by his side—through his death, burial, and resurrection. — Rachel Held Evans

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles … that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

SONGS about SEEING:

SONGS of MARY MAGDALENE

Interviews:

The Magdalene’s Blessing
— Jan Richardson

You hardly imagined
standing here,
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.

And now
you do not know
how to abide this ache
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
slams shut
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.

I tell you,
this is not a banishment
from the garden.

This is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate.

This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed,
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.

So let the tears come
as anointing,
as consecration,
and then
let them go.

Let this blessing
gather itself around you.

Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.

You will not remember
the words—
they do not matter.

All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.

A Poem for Reflection (excerpt)— Maren C. Tirabassi”

Do you see what I see? … Do You Hear what I Hear?” by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne

God … once came in hearing and seeing …

God, we thank you that Christ

comes alive through the extravagant gifts

of people who do not see starlight

but can explain it to a child,of those who do not hear

a voice as big as the sea,

but understand what heart-song means,

of those who known in different ways,

like the unconditional kindness

often found among people

with the Down syndrome,the quick perception and sustained focus

now attributed to autism spectrum

and long ago to angels,and those whose specific memories

limited by dementias,

let them pray for peace every,and for everyone.

LEARN MORE

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Far from being easily deceived, women were the first to make the connection between Christ’s teachings from scripture and his resurrection, and the first to believe these teachings when they mattered the most. For her valor in twice sharing the good news to the skeptical male disciples, the early church honored Mary Magdalene with the title of Apostle to the Apostles. That Christ ushered in this new era of life and liberation in the presence of women, and that he sent them out as the first witnesses of the complete gospel story, is perhaps the boldest, most overt affirmation of their equality in his kingdom that Jesus ever delivered. — Rachel Held Evans

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Who was she? From the New Testament, one can conclude that Mary of Magdala (her hometown, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee) was a leading figure among those attracted to Jesus. When the men in that company abandoned him at the hour of mortal danger, Mary of Magdala was one of the women who stayed with him, even to the Crucifixion. She was present at the tomb, the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection and the first to preach the “Good News” of that miracle. These are among the few specific assertions made about Mary Magdalene in the Gospels. From other texts of the early Christian era, it seems that her status as an “apostle,” in the years after Jesus’ death, rivaled even that of Peter…           

Again, it helps to have a chronology in mind, with a focus on the place of women in the Jesus movement. Phase one is the time of Jesus himself, and there is every reason to believe that, according to his teaching and in his circle, women were uniquely empowered as fully equal. In phase two, when the norms and assumptions of the Jesus community were being written down, the equality of women is reflected in the letters of St. Paul (c. 50-60), who names women as full partners—his partners—in the Christian movement, and in the Gospel accounts that give evidence of Jesus’ own attitudes and highlight women whose courage and fidelity stand in marked contrast to the men’s cowardice.           

But by phase three—after the Gospels are written, but before the New Testament is defined as such—Jesus’ rejection of the prevailing male dominance was being eroded in the Christian community. The Gospels themselves, written in those several decades after Jesus, can be read to suggest this erosion because of their emphasis on the authority of “the Twelve,” who are all males. (The all-male composition of “the Twelve” is expressly used by the Vatican today to exclude women from ordination.) But in the books of the New Testament, the argument among Christians over the place of women in the community is implicit; it becomes quite explicit in other sacred texts of that early period. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the figure who most embodies the imaginative and theological conflict over the place of women in the “church,” as it had begun to call itself, is Mary Magdalene. — Smithsonian

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In 1969, Pope Paul VI removed the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the “sinful woman” from the General Roman Calendar, but the view of her as a former prostitute has persisted in popular culture. Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. In 2016 Pope Francis raised the level of liturgical memory on July 22 from memorial to feast, and for her to be referred as the “Apostle of the apostles”. Other Protestant churches honor her as a heroine of the faith. wikipedia.com

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In 597 pope Gregory the Great delivered a homily on Luke’s gospel in which he combined Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany (Martha’s sister), suggesting that this Mary was the same woman who wept at Jesus’ feet in Luke 7, and that one of the seven demons Jesus excised from her was sexual immorality. The idea caught on and was perpetuated in medieval art and literature, which often portrayed Mary as a weeping, penitent prostitute. In fact, the English word maudlin, meaning “weak and sentimental,” finds its derivation in this distorted image of Mary Magdalene. In 1969, the Vatican formally restated the Gospels’ distinction between Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the sinful woman of Luke 7, although it seems Martin Scorsese, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Mel Gibson have yet to get the message. — Rachel Held Evans

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Easter Egg Miracle —Whitney Hopler

The tradition of using eggs to celebrate Easter began soon after Jesus was resurrected since eggs were already a natural symbol of new life. Often, ancient Christians would hold eggs in their hands as they proclaimed “Christ is risen!” to people on Easter.
      Christian tradition says that when Mary met the Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar at a banquet, she held up a plain egg and told him: “Christ is risen!”. The emperor laughed and told Mary that the idea of Jesus Christ rising from the dead was as unlikely as the egg she held turning red in her hands. But the egg did turn a bright shade of red while Tiberius Caesar was still speaking. That miracle caught the attention of everyone at the banquet, which gave Mary the opportunity to share the Gospel message with everyone there.

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Confusions attached to Mary Magdalene’s character were compounded across time as her image was conscripted into one power struggle after another, and twisted accordingly. In conflicts that defined the Christian Church—over attitudes toward the material world, focused on sexuality; the authority of an all-male clergy; the coming of celibacy; the branding of theological diversity as heresy; the sublimations of courtly love; the unleashing of “chivalrous” violence; the marketing of sainthood, whether in the time of Constantine, the Counter-Reformation, the Romantic era, or the Industrial Age—through all of these, reinventions of Mary Magdalene played their role. Her recent reemergence in a novel and film as the secret wife of Jesus and the mother of his fate-burdened daughter shows that the conscripting and twisting are still going on. — James Carroll

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A Litany of Women for the Church Sr. Joan Chittister
Dear God, creator of women in your own image,
born of a woman in the midst of a world half women,
carried by women to mission fields around the globe,
made known by women to all the children of the earth,
give to the women of our time
the strength to persevere,
the courage to speak out,
the faith to believe in you beyond
all systems and institutions
so that your face on earth may be seen in all its beauty,
so that men and women become whole,
so that the church may be converted to your will
in everything and in all ways.
We call on the holy women
who went before us,
channels of Your Word
in testaments old and new,
to intercede for us
so that we might be given the grace
to become what they have been
for the honor and glory of God.
Saint Esther, who pleaded against power
for the liberation of the people, –Pray for us.
Saint Judith, who routed the plans of men
and saved the community,
Saint Deborah, laywoman and judge, who led
the people of God,
Saint Elizabeth of Judea, who recognized the value
of another woman,
Saint Mary Magdalene, minister of Jesus,
the first evangelist of the Christ,
Saint Scholastica, who taught her brother Benedict
to honor the spirit above the system,
Saint Hildegard, who suffered interdict
for the doing of right,
Saint Joan of Arc, who put no law above the law of God,
Saint Clare of Assisi, who confronted the pope
with the image of woman as equal,
Saint Julian of Norwich, who proclaimed for all of us
the motherhood of God,
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who knew the call
to priesthood in herself,
Saint Catherine of Siena, to whom the pope listened,
Saint Teresa of Avila, who brought women’s gifts
to the reform of the church,
Saint Edith Stein, who brought fearlessness to faith,
Saint Elizabeth Seton, who broke down boundaries
between lay women and religious
by wedding motherhood and religious life,
Saint Dorothy Day, who led the church
in a new sense of justice,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
who heard the call of God and answered,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
who drew strength from the woman Elizabeth,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
who underwent hardship bearing Christ,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
who ministered at Cana,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
inspirited at Pentecost,
Mary mother of Jesus,
who turned the Spirit of God
into the body and blood of Christ, pray for us. Amen.

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Magdalene—The Seven Devils — Marie Howe

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out” — Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.

The second—I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.

The third—I worried.

The fourth—envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too—its face.    And the ant—its bifurcated body.

Ok   the first was that I was so busy. 

The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn’t have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.   

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth—if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched  the left arm a little harder than I’d first touched the right then I had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.  

The seventh—I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive, and I couldn’t stand it.
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word—cheesecloth—
to breath through that would trap it—whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in.

No.  That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy.  I had no time.   How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn’t eat food if I really saw it—distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate. 

Ok. The first was that. I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
love?  

The fourth was I didn’t belong to anyone. I wouldn’t allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn’t know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked   when she was dying, 
the sound she made—her mouth wrenched to the right and cupped open
so as to take in as much air… the gurgling sound, so loud
we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn’t stop hearing it—years later—grocery shopping, crossing the street—

No, not the sound—it was   her body’s hunger
finally evident—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,   
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath.  That was the first devil.   It was always with me
And that I didn’t think you—if I told you—would understand any of this—

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Magdalene— Marie Howe

You know it was funny because he seemed so well the night before
I stayed over to meet a student before class

—sitting at the picnic table…already so hot so early.
I must have been looking for a pen or something

when I thought of the car keys and, rummaging through my bag,
couldn’t find them and was up and walking across the grass when

I heard myself say, I feel as if I’m going to lose something today,
—and then I knew, and ran the rest of the way.

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MARY MAGDALENE Quotes

If you have the courage to imitate Mary Magdalene in her sins, have the courage to imitate her penance! — Pio of Pietrelcina

It is important to note that when Mary Magdalene and other women were chosen by Jesus to bring the important news to the men, the men did not believe the women. Today 2,000 years later men still don’t believe women when they say “We are also chosen by Jesus to be leaders in the church— Roy Bourgeois

Mary Magdalene beat her breasts and sobbed,
His dear disciple, stone-faced, stared.
His mother stood apart. No other looked
into her secret eyes. Nobody dared.
— Anna Akhmatova

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Childlike in ignorance,
her thought athirst
For that diviner knowledge
which the priests
Had never taught in her
far-distant home,
Stood earnest listening
to the words that fell
From the firm lips of Jesus.
Day by day
They sank upon her
heart like blessed rain,
Calling the secret powers
that lay within
Deep buried, forth to
beauty and to life.
— Mrs. Sarah Dana (Loring) Greenough

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On SEEING
 Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ― Confucius 
The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love. ― Meister Eckhart

Study me as much as you like, you will not know me, for I differ in a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see. — Rumi
After all, the true seeing is within. ― George Eliot
Being is seeing in the human dimension. ― Stephen R. Covey

If my vision comes to a halt at the surface of a thing, I have missed the whole of the thing. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

I trust only you and the dark always to look at me so honestly. ―Meredith Duran

See as much as you can see, I guess. Rachel Carson said most of us go through life “unseeing.” I do that some days…I think it’s easier to see when you’re a kid. We’re not in a hurry to get anywhere and we don’t have those long to-do lists you guys have. ― Jim Lynch

If we can see the little things, we can see the entire universe. ― Donna Goddard

To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Young children remind us how to see. ― Wayne Gerard Trotman 

What I aim to do is not so much learn the names of the shreds of creation that flourish in this valley, but to keep myself open to their meanings, which is to try to impress myself at all times with the fullest possible force of their very reality. I want to have things as multiply and intricately as possible present and visible in my mind. Then I might be able to sit on the hill by the burnt books where the starlings fly over, and see not only the starlings, the grass field, the quarried rock, the viney woods, Hollins pond, and the mountains beyond, but also, and simultaneously, feathers’ barbs, springtails in the soil, crystal in rock, chloroplasts streaming, rotifers pulsing, and the shape of the air in the pines. And, if I try to keep my eye on quantum physics, if I try to keep up with astronomy and cosmology, and really believe it all, I might ultimately be able to make out the landscape of the universe. Why not?”
― Annie Dillard

You can’t see what you don’t understand. But what you think you already understand, you’ll fail to look at. ― Richard Powers

Seeing is the property of our eyes. But we also use this word in other senses, when we apply the power of vision to knowledge generally. We do not say ‘Hear how that flashes’, or ‘Smell how bright that is’, or ‘Taste how that shines’ or ‘Touch how that gleams’. Of all these things we say ‘see’. But we say not only ‘See how that light shines’, which only the eyes can perceive, but also ‘See how that sounds, see what smells, see what tastes, see how hard that is’. So the general experience of the senses is the lust, as scripture says, of the eyes, because seeing is a function in which eyes hold the first place but other senses claim the word for themselves by analogy when they are exploring any department of knowledge. ― Augustine of Hippo

We’re so used to just glancing at the environment through the eyes of the past that we’re frequently not certain if we are in fact paying attention or if we merely think that we’re paying attention. Dynamic meditation in everyday existence involves the act of truthfully seeing. Many of us have changed some aspect of our appearance only to have this go unnoticed by friends. Perhaps you’ve shaved off a mustache, added a tattoo, or altered your hairstyle, but your acquaintances failed to initially notice. In such a case, your friends were looking at their environment through the eyes of the past instead of actually seeing what was taking place in the present. ― H.E. Davey


“Imagine you come upon a house painted brown. What color would you say the house was?”
“Why brown, of course.”
“But what if I came upon it from the other side, and found it to be white?”
“That would be absurd. Who would paint a house two colors?”
He ignored my question. “You say it’s brown, and I say it’s white. Who’s right?”
“We’re both right.”
“Non,” he said. “We’re both wrong. The house isn’t brown or white. It’s both. You and I only see one side. But that doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t exist. To not see the whole is to not see the truth.”
― Megan Chance


 There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.
― Mary Oliver

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Introduction to Secrets of Mary Magdalene — Elaine Pagels
Who was she, that elusive–and fascinating–woman in the circle around Jesus of Nazareth? For nearly two thousand years, Mary Magdalene has lived in the imagination of Christians as a seductive prostitute; in our own time, contemporary fiction pictures her as Jesus’ lover and wife, mother of his children. Yet the earliest sources that tell of Mary Magdalene–both within the New Testament and outside of it–do not describe either of these sexualized roles, suggesting that the woman herself, and how we have come to see her, is more complex than most of us ever imagined. Was she, then, one of Jesus’ followers, whose wealth helped support him, as the earliest New Testament gospel, the Gospel of Mark, says? A madwoman who had been possessed by seven devils, as Luke says? Or Jesus’ closest disciple, the one he loved more than any other, as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene tells us? Or, in the words of the Dialogue of the Savior,the woman who understood all things?

When we investigate the earliest available records, we find all of these conflicting images, and more. What we discover, too, is that which answer we find depends on where we look. What is probably the earliest story comes from the New Testament Gospel of Mark, written about forty years after Jesus’ death. Mark tells us that while Roman soldiers were crucifying Jesus Mary Magdalene stood among a group of women watching the execution, grieving, although the male disciples had fled in fear for their lives. Standing with Salome and another woman named Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), Mary Magdalene continued her vigil until Jesus finally died; later, along with her companions, she saw his body carefully wrapped in strips of linen, entombed, and sealed into a cave cut out of rock.

Mark explains that Mary, Salome, and the other Mary  were among those who  followed Jesus and provided for him–probably meals and a place to stay, perhaps money for necessities–when he was in Galilee. The morning after Sabbath, the women carne to offer their teacher the final service, bringing aromatic spices to complete his burial. But Mark’s account ends on a note of confusion and shock: finding the tomb open, the body gone, the women, hearing that Jesus is not here; he has risen, run away, shaking with terror, for trembling and astonishment carne upon them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were terrified. Matthew, who wrote his version with Mark’s account before him, repeats the same story but changes the troubling ending. Mary and her companions did leave the tomb quickly, he says, but did so with fear and great joy. And instead of intending to say nothing, they immediately run to tell his disciples. Then, while they were on the way, the risen Jesus himself appeared before them, and spoke to them.

Luke, like Matthew, has Mark’s story before him, but has something different in mind when he revises Mark. To make clear to the reader that women–any woman, much less Mary–could not be among Jesus’ disciples, Luke initially leaves out Mark’s comment that Mary, Salome, and the other Mary followed Jesus (since saying this could be understood to place them among the disciples). Then Luke deliberately contrasts the twelve –the men whom he says Jesus named as disciples–with those he calls “the women,” whom he classifies among the needy, sick, and crazed members of the crowds that pressed themselves upon Jesus and his disciples. Thus, Luke, unlike Mark, says that Mary carne to Jesus driven by demonic spirits, and as only one among some women who had been healed from evil spirits and from illnesses. Luke identifies these women as “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna….and Susanna, and many others,” who, he concedes, provided for (Jesus and his disciples) from their resources.

When Luke tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, he changes three passages in which Mark had named Mary Magdalene, leaving her nameless in each of these three stories, standing among an anonymous group he calls the women. Only after the anonymous women testify about what they saw to the eleven (the inner circle that Luke had called the twelve until Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, had left them) does Luke name three women. For at this point, apparently, their witness matters to validate their testimony and he now names the three that he sees as the most prominent: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and Joanna. Although Luke, like John, sometimes speaks positively about the women, we may wonder why, at other times, he denigrates Mary and downplays her role.

Now, thanks to the recent discovery of other ancient gospels–gospels not included in the New Testament, which remained virtually unknown for nearly two thousand years until their recent discovery–we may be able to understand what Luke had in mind. For these other gospels, found translated into Coptic in Egypt, originally had been written earlier, in Greek, like the New Testament gospels. Scholars debate when they were written, but generally agree that most of them come from the first two centuries of the Christian movement. What we find in these discoveries is surprising: every one of the recently discovered sources that mention Mary Magdalene–sources that include the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Wisdom of Faith, and the Dialogue of the Savior–unanimously picture Mary as one of Jesus’ most trusted disciples. Some even revere her as his foremost disciple, Jesus’ closest confidant, since he found her capable of understanding his deepest secrets. We can see that Luke apparently did not want to acknowledge that some of those he had simply called the women previously were actually regarded as disciples themselves. Although in this introduction we cannot discuss these remarkable texts in detail, let us briefly look at each of these gospels in turn.

First, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene pictures Mary taking a leading role among the disciples. Finding the male disciples terrified to preach the gospel after Jesus’ death since they feared that they, too, would be arrested and killed, Mary stands up to speak and encourages them, turning their hearts to the good. When Peter, acknowledging that the Lord loved you more than other women, asks Mary to tell us what he told you secretly, Mary agrees. When she finishes, Peter, furious, asks, Did he really speak privately with a woman, and not openly to us? Are we supposed to turn around and all listen to her? Did he love her more than us? Distressed at his rage, Mary replies, “My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?” Levi breaks in at this point to mediate the dispute: Peter, you have always been hot-tempered. Now I see you contending against the women like (our) enemies. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Lord knew her very well; that is why he loved her more than us. The Gospel of Mary ends as the others agree to accept Mary’s teaching, and the disciples, including Mary, go forth to proclaim the gospel.

Like the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas pictures Mary as one of Jesus’ disciples. Strikingly, it names only six disciples, not twelve, and two of these are women–Mary Magdalene and Salome. Yet like the dispute between Peter and Mary in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, several passages in the Gospel of Thomas indicate that at the time it was written, probably around 90-100 C. E., the question of whether women could be disciples already had triggered explosive controversy. In saying 61, for example, Salome asks Jesus to tell her who he is: Who are you, man, that you have come up on my couch, and eaten from my table? Jesus answers, I come from what is undivided; that is, from the divine, which transcends gender. He thereby rejects what her question implies–that his identity involves primarily his being male, as hers does being female. Salome instantly understanding what he means, recognizes that the same is true for her. Thus she immediately answers, I am your disciple.
Here, too, however, as in the Gospel of Mary, Peter challenges and opposes the presence of women among the disciples. According to saying 114 in The Gospel of Thomas, Peter says to Jesus, Tell Mary to leave us, for women are not worthy of (spiritual) life. But instead of dismissing Mary, as Peter insists, Jesus rebukes Peter, and declares, I will make Mary a living spirit, so that she–or any woman–may become as capable of spiritual life as any man would have been in first century Jewish tradition .
We find yet another account of an argument in which Peter challenges Mary’s right to speak among the disciples in the dialogue called Wisdom of Faith. Here, after Mary asks Jesus several questions, Peter breaks in, complaining to Jesus that Mary is talking too much and so displacing the rightful priority of Peter and his brother disciples. Yet, here too, just as in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Thomas, Peter’s attempt to silence Mary earns him a quick rebuke, this time from Jesus himself. Later, however, Mary admits to Jesus that she hardly dares to speak with him freely, because, she says, Peter makes me hesitate; I am afraid of him, because he hates the female race. Jesus replies that whoever the Spirit inspires is divinely ordained to speak, whether man or woman.

This theme of conflict between Mary and Peter that we find in so many sources–conflict involving Peter’s refusal to acknowledge Mary as a disciple, much less as a leader among the disciples–may well reflect what people knew and told about actual conflict between the two. We know, too, that since women often identified with Mary Magdalene, certain people in the movement told such stories about her–or against her–as a way of arguing about whether–or how–women could participate in their circles.

Note, for example, that the very writers who picture Peter as the disciple whom Jesus acknowledges as being their primary leader–namely, the authors of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke–are the same ones who picture Mary as no disciple at all, but simply as one of the women, or, worse, in the case of Luke, someone who had been demon-possessed. What makes their accounts important historically, of course, is that these are three of the gospels that carne to be included in the canon of the New Testament–often invoked, even now, to prove that women cannot hold positions of authority within Christian churches.

Let us note, too, how this works in reverse: every one of the sources that reveres Mary as a leader among the apostles were excluded from the New Testament canon. When these texts came to be excluded–among them the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, Wisdom of Faith, and the Dialogue of the Savior–many Christians excluded as well the conviction that women could–and should–participate in leading the churches.

The Dialogue of the Savior, another ancient text discovered with these alternate gospels, claims to recount a dialogue between the risen Jesus and three disciples he chooses to receive special revelation–Matthew, Thomas, and Mary. Yet here, after each of the three engage in dialogue with Jesus, the Dialogue singles out Mary to receive the highest praise: This she spoke as the woman who understood all things. Finally, before turning to the fascinating studies that are found in this book, let us look at one of the most fascinating sources of all–the Gospel of Philip. This gospel shows how many early Christians saw Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ constant companion. Certain contemporary readers have taken this literally to mean that she was Jesus’ lover and wife. It is true that the Gospel of Philip pictures her as Jesus’ most intimate companion, and that the Greek term (syzygos, companion) can suggest sexual intimacy. Plus, like the other sources we have looked at, the Gospel of Philip attests to a rivalry between Mary Magdalene and the male disciples: The companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene. (But Christ loved) her more than (all) the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her (mouth). The rest of the disciples were offended by this. They said to him, Why do you love her more than all of us? The Savior answered and said to them, Why do I not love you as much as I love her?

This statement, in which the Gospel of Philip pictures Mary as Jesus’ companion, and perhaps even his partner, helped inspire one of Dan Brown’s most controversial plot points in The Da Vinci Code. For the purposes of his fiction Brown tends to take these suggestions literally. But had he gone on to read the rest of the Gospel of Philip, he would have seen that its author sees Mary Magdalene as a powerful spiritual presence; as one who manifests the divine as it appears in feminine form–above all as divine Wisdom, and the Holy Spirit.

When Israel’s prophets and poets spoke of the divine spirit and wisdom, they recognized the feminine gender of Hebrew terms. The Biblical Book of Proverbs speaks of wisdom as a feminine spiritual presence who shared with God the work of creation: The Lord created me at the beginning of his work…before the beginning of the earth; when there were no deep waters, I was brought forth….before the mountains had been shaped, I was there… when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world, and delighting in the human race.

So the Gospel of Philip sees Mary as divine wisdom-hokhmah, in Hebrew, sophia, in Greek, both feminine terms–manifest in the world. Jewish mystical tradition often speaks of God’s presence in the world not only as wisdom, but also as shehkina, as his presence. Over a thousand years after the Gospel of Philip was written, kabbalistic tradition, using the language of mystics throughout the world, would celebrate this feminine aspect of God as his divine bride.

Simultaneously, the Gospel of Philip celebrates Mary Magdalene as manifesting the divine spirit, which this gospel calls the  virgin who came down from heaven. When Christians spoke of Jesus born from a virgin, this author agrees–but refuses to take it literally. So some people, he says, take this literally to mean that Jesus’ mother became pregnant apart from any man, apart from sexual intercourse. But this, he says, is the faith of foolS who fail to comprehend spiritual matters (although, as we note, it can be seen in the birth narratives offered in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke). Instead, continues the Gospel of Philip, Jesus was born physically, just as all humans, as the son of biological parents. The difference, says the author of this gospel, that he was also born again in baptism–born spiritually to become the son of the Father above, and of the heavenly Mother, the Holy Spirit.
Many other texts discovered with Philip echo the same language. The Gospel of Truth, too, declares that grace restores us to our spiritual source, bringing us Into the Father, into the Mother, Jesus of the infinite sweetness. The Secret Book of John tells how the disciple John, grieving after Jesus’ crucifixion, went out into the desert, filled with doubt and fear until suddenly The whole creation shook, and 1 saw…an unearthly light, and in the light, three forms. As John watched, amazed, he heard the voice of Jesus coming forth from the light, speaking to him: John, John, why do you doubt, and why are you afraid? I am the one who is with you always; I am the Father; I am the Mother; and I am the Son.” Startling as this may be at first glance, who else would we expect to find with the Father and the Son if not the divine Mother, the Holy Spirit? But this early formulation of the trinity apparently reflects the Hebrew term for spirit, Ruah, as a feminine being–a connotation lost when spirit was translated into the New Testament’s language, Greek, in which the word becomes neuter.

Even this quick sketch suggests the wide range of characterizations and wealth of meanings the early Christians associated with Mary Magdalene, many of which the essays in this book explore and amplify. From the first century through our own time, poets, artists, and mystics have loved to celebrate this remarkable woman who understood all things. Now, through the research presented here, and through discussions now engaged, we may discover new aspects of Mary Magdalene–and, in the process, of ourselves.

Reflections on Easter: rebirth and renewal

The people of this world are like the three butterflies in front of a candle’s flame.
 The first one went closer and said:
I know about love.
 The second one touched the flame lightly with his wings and said:
I know how love’s fire can burn.
 The third one threw himself into
the heart of the flame and was consumed. 
He alone knows what true love is. — Rumi

What are we to make of Christ?’ There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. —  C. S. Lewis

Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soil. The sun rises. — Anne Lamott

SONGS of NEW BEGINNINGS & EASTER:

FOR A NEW BEGINNING — John O’Donohue
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown
.It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
 
Guardian of the seasons,
keeper of every time,
tune us so to your rhythms
that we may know
the occasion for stillness
and the moment for action.
May we be so prepared
so aware
so awakened
in our waiting
that when you prompt us
into motion,
our hands may be your hands
and our purposes
your own.
— Jan Richardson
 
PRAYER
Our Feather,
one small brush of the grand and lifting wing,
holy are all the names of God.Your kindness come
and your kiss be felt warm
on every lump of soil,
gust of wind,
lapping of salt sea and fresh water.Give us today
and let us recognize it
as a gift —
the bread and beauty of it —
and that it is like no other.Forgive us all the love
we owed but hoarded,
and our careless or angry trespassing
on the lives of your children,
even as, with unbearable effort,
we forgive
the taking and the trampling
of what is precious to us.Draw your hush across our lips,
and pull us back
from what we would regret.
Find us an escape or stay with us
when there is none,for yours is the place our hands are held,
yours is the courage of the sequoia
and the broken atom,
yours are galaxies of starlight,
and the hum of bees –Now … and when we come to sing
all our todays
into your tomorrow.
amen.

One Or Two Things — Mary Oliver
1
Don’t bother me
I’ve just
been born.

2
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes

for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze of the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower

3
The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things; I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever,

4
which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.

5
One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning — some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.

6
But to lift the hoof!
For that you need
an idea.

7
For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,
and vanished
into the world.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
— Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

RESURRECTION & REBIRTH: New Beginnings

Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness. ― Mary Oliver

On this Easter morning, let us look again at the lives we have been so generously given and let us let fall away the useless baggage that we carry — old pains, old habits, old ways of seeing and feeling — and let us have the courage to begin again. Life is very short, and we are no sooner here than it is time to depart again, and we should use to the full the time that we still have.
We don’t realize all the good we can do. A kind, encouraging word or helping hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. We weren’t put here to make money or to acquire status or reputation. We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously. The dawn that is rising this Easter morning is a gift to our hearts and we are meant to celebrate it and to carry away from this holy, ancient place the gifts of healing and light and the courage of a new beginning. — John O’Donohue

But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are. We find God in our human lives, and that includes the suffering. I get thirsty people glasses of water, even if that thirsty person is just me. My friend Tom goes through the neighborhood and picks up litter, knowing there will be just as much tomorrow. We visit those shut-ins whom a higher power seems to have entrusted to our care – various relatives, often aging and possibly annoying, or stricken friends from our church communities, people in jails or mental institutions who might be related to us, who benefit from hearing our own resurrection stories. My personal belief is that God looks through Her Rolodex when She has a certain kind of desperate person in Her care, and assigns that person to some screwed-up soul like you or me, and makes it hard for us to ignore that person’s suffering, so we show up even when it is extremely inconvenient or just awful to be there. ― Anne Lamott

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold’s funeral, that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

The promise to each of us is that we will never be called to walk the lonely path of suffering without seeing the footprints ahead of us which lead eventually over the brow of the hill where Resurrection awaits us. Behind the darkness of suffering, a subtle brightening often manifests itself. Two lines in a poem by Philippe Jaccottet echo this: “Love, like fire, can only reveal its brightness / on the failure and the beauty of burnt wood.” There is consolation and transfiguration here. The fires of suffering are disclosures of love. It is the nature of the lover to suffer. The marks and wounds that suffering leave on us are eventually places of beauty. This is the deep beauty of soul where limitation and damage, rather than remaining forces that cripple, are revealed as transfiguration. — John O’Donohue

New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming –never even hoped for –but ends up being what we needed all along.“It happens to all of us. God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, andour addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.  ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Rather, at the heart of the Gospel is the promise that God is both with us and for us at all times and through all conditions. In sorrow or joy, triumph or tragedy, gain or loss, peace or fear, scarcity or plenty, God is present. That promise is, more fully, two-fold. In the cross God promises that, while always available to us, God meets us especially where we most need God (and often least expect to find God): in hardship, struggle, loss, and death. Because of the cross, that is, no experience, no matter how difficult or awful, and no person, no matter how sinful or lost, is truly God forsaken, because God is always where we most need God to be. And in the resurrection, God promises that all the harsh realities of this life – hardship, struggle, loss, fear, disease, hunger, death – these realities – though painful they most certainly are – do not have the last word. Rather the resurrection promises that God’s light is more powerful than darkness, that God’s love is stronger than hate, and that the life God offers through Christ prevails over all things, even death itself. — David Lose

Risen: For Easter Day
—Jan Richardson

If you are looking
for a blessing,
do not linger
here.

Here
is only
emptiness,
a hollow,
a husk
where a blessing
used to be.

This blessing
was not content
in its confinement.

It could not abide
its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench
of death.

So if it is
a blessing
you seek,
open your own
mouth.

Fill your lungs
with the air
this new
morning brings

and then
release it
with a cry.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice,

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again,
wanting you to
repeat it,
but louder,

how it draws you,
pulls you,
sends you
to proclaim
its only word:

Risen.
Risen.
Risen.

Seen: A Blessing for Easter Day
— Jan Richardson

You had not imagined
that something so empty
could fill you
to overflowing,

and now you carry
the knowledge
like an awful treasure
or like a child
that roots itself
beneath your heart:

how the emptiness
will bear forth
a new world
that you cannot fathom
but on whose edge
you stand.

So why do you linger?
You have seen,
and so you are
already blessed.
You have been seen,
and so you are
the blessing.

There is no other word
you need.
There is simply
to go
and tell.
There is simply
to begin.

EASTER (2008) 

An old blog entry by Rev Gail from the first year after Jessie died, and our family coped with holidays. — — Rev Gail

At the table this season, we light candles. In particular, we use a candleholder carved out of stone. It stands in the shape of three human figures holding hands and encircling a single flame.
 
Symbolic, isn’t it? Three mortal figures, clasping hands, backs turned to the darkness, focused inward on the flame and whatever burns brightly within it. Only three…once upon a time we didn’t use this candleholder…because it didn’t include the correct number of living family members.
 
Our circle is smaller, and the candleholder can represent us now…if we want it to. And even offer a metaphor for Jessie, too.
 
… reasonably often, we sit down together. Inhale, wait until someone at the table sighs and offers to go first, and then we say ‘grace’…sometimes rote and sometimes improvised…we hold hands as we pray. Then we let go. But the flame burns and the meal begins, and we are together.
 
Occasionally we are joined by friends, but mostly it’s the three of us. Seating arrangements have changed since Jessie died…mom sits where Jessie once sat, closing the gap and creating a cozy triangle at the end of the table.
 
Over the meal, dad reads an inspirational “quote of the day” and then asks his question, “What’s one thing you learned today?” Conversations start, and sometimes they resonate and meander where they will, building connections. Other nights our dialogues stumble or go off track, and we retreat into the silence of forks scraping across plates. Someone leaves the table early, unable to stay any longer.
 
Ever since we started the journey through childhood cancer, and its aftermath, we have journaled about community. And of course, meals.
 
During Jessie’s 6 years on treatment at the hospital, we could build a sense of community. We remember how we depended heavily on family, friends and community throughout the years of Jessie’s treatment. We were good at tag-teaming, moving between hospital, clinic and home, and sharing responsibility for two daughters, and very different lives…the cancer-centric one in Boston and the everyday world of Ipswich. It all worked because of  the support of many other people.
 
Holidays highlighted those connections every year. Some years, friends made and brought a feast that served staff and families on the entire oncology unit. Later on, we were home for the holiday, and celebrated it vigorously. (Yes, and took naps after big meals.)
 
This year, the emotional weight of such holidays seems to isolate our family. We all handle grief differently. We rush toward social connections in order to buffer our feelings, or we withdraw into quiet, introspective states. We desire companionship, or we feel the need to escape and be alone.
 
Easter just highlights, in many ways, how wounded we are. How differently each family member experiences this season that is sharpened by loss. We all want and expect such different things. We all seek comfort somehow.
 
And yet nothing really feels good and safe anymore. Old familiar traditions don’t fit. New ones seem alien and painful. Being alone—three of us together, but each one of us in a different place along this grief journey—just holds up Jessie’s absence and makes it more immediate. Being with anyone else is complicated, fraught with expectations, feelings and chances for miscommunication.
 
What is left?
 
We thought that living with cancer, and spending extended time in the hospital, was probably the toughest season we’d ever experience. And back then, it was.
 
Right now, it seems that this season…perhaps this whole year…is even harder.
 
It makes us realize how difficult holidays are for so many people. Folks who are trying to overcome addictions, economic hardships, disease, illness, war, violence, crime, changes in habitat or relationships, the aftermath of natural disasters, or just living in geographic isolation from those they love. For many reasons, people can be quite alone at times when the community gathers to celebrate.
 
Sometimes, the best to hope for is sheer survival. Stability, safety. One more day.
 
And how do we find our way through this time of vulnerability and sorrow, which was once a time of joy and celebration, even in the middle of crisis? Yes, sometimes we get past the holidays through service. Going to soup kitchens or large communal settings to join the bustle of people finding community. Sometimes we share it with friends or kin. Sometimes we just step back, and stay home, and let it all slide by.
 
This season, we are trying. Someday we hope Easter will hold more comfort for us again. Right now, it’s not easily found. But we pull out the recipes and go through the motions, after weeks of debating whether to run away, travel, or ignore the holiday altogether.
 
Unlike the candleholder on our table, our family is not carved out of stone. We are human. Flesh. Mortal.
 
Unlike the figures carved into a candleholder, we may hold tight to each other, but then we let go. We might face inward toward the light, but we might also choose to stare outward at the darkness, confronting what we fear most, or turning away from what we’re missing.
 
Perhaps we seem unified, but we are each alone, too. We are connected, but also isolated. We appear whole, but we are broken.
 
And the light in the center of the circle? The one around which three vulnerable people stand, clasping hands, defying darkness?
 
Strike a match. Light such a candle. Watch the nimbus around its flame and the long dancing shadows it casts. Both are true.
 
We may feel the light, heat and warmth. But we are also visible, embodied in the leaping, twisting shapes thrown by its flickering, uncertain light. Distorted. Changing. We aren’t sure what comes next. Or who we are. We do know this…we are lost. Broken. Humbled. Confused. Trying to find our way.
 
The journey continues.

****

Look!
The stone’s rolled back.
Not his, but yours!
Get up!
Go!
The time is now and there is work to do!
Resurrection.
Easter blessings all.
Now let’s get to work.
— Paul Alcorn

THE WORK of EASTER — Maren Tirabassi

When the lilies lose their petals,
when trumpets are quiet, new shoes scuffed,
chocolate eggs melted by small fingers,
bunnies returned to the shelter,
and sermons start to doubt themselves,
the work of Easter begins —
to offer spring cleaning or garden care,
errands or a mini-respite
to a family on hospice,
to learn Narcan and carry it always,
to write thank-you to funeral directors
who drop prices beyond break-even
for low income families,
to offer deep and tender comfort
especially to those who do not expect it,
mourning a miscarriage,
an elder with dementia,
a long–time companion animal,
to name resurrection in the midst of life
for the poor, the refugee,
the vulnerable,
and the groaning creation –
Justice is risen,
Compassion is risen indeed!
and, as for music —
to make Hosannas beyond the church,
and Alleluias in the heart.

EASTER DARKNESS — Rev Gail 
We are standing
In the same sort of darkness
That Mary Magdalene, that sister –Who wasn’t yet the first prophetess
And apostle we all heard about just now 
She wouldn’t be that woman
For a few more minutes anyway
Right now, in about the same wee hours of the morning
As we are experiencing together
She dared to endure the darkness 
She was just a mortal woman
Persistent in her love
And restless in her loss 
She walked through the same darkness
That gathers round us
Close as love’s embrace
Drawing us into communion
Tinted with something more
With expectation of sunrise
And love’s awakening 
But we feel that way
All tingly with anticipation
Hushed with hope
Because we know how the story ends
Don’t we? 
Shhhh, don’t give it away to her.
Right now she’s walking out of that same darkness
Into uncertainty limned by the light
Following the presence of a love
That’s already moved ahead of her
But she doesn’t know that, either Right now she steps
Quickly, anxiously, tenderly
Toward what she expects
But she doesn’t find
What she supposed she would 
And she’s not sure
She can bear one more sorrow
But she will face it
If she must What must it have sound like?
The roar of wind
The beat of the waves
Like a heartbeat roaring in her ears
Pounding out the sheer impossibility
Of what she sees
The rolled stone 
Silence swallows all the sounds of the garden
The morning birds tuning themselves to the song
Of the warming earth
And the sigh of the lavender-lidded horizon She cries out
But there’s no immediate answer
Just emptiness
And absence
Where she thought she would
Find death’s confirmation 
Her expectations are overturned
But she doesn’t yet know how
It’s just a yawning open question
A theft An insult An injury
Another wound, so she feels and thinks
Running Breathless Calling out 
Oh, that sister, she runs something fierce
Runs to Simon Peter and the others
Closed up inside their own grief
Behind closed doors
Hiding Hurting Waiting 
Waiting for what?
Waiting for something … else.Something more. 
She has grit, that sister,
And they answer when she calls.
In fact, they run, too.
Through chill dawn hours
Beneath a bruised and changing sky
Aching, desperate, afraid
But they run toward their fear
Through the rising light
Run to investigate 
And what do they find?
There’s nothing there for them
Except discarded clothes
And the impossibility
Of what their senses tell them
So they leave again
Troubled Confused Worried Believing 
But believing what? And Mary M.?
That sister stays back in the garden
Alone beneath the long shadows and the growing light
Walking between trees
Touching stone
Trembling and trying to find the remains
Of her beloved teacher and friend 
Sure enough
She sees two angels
And the impossibly empty space between them
Those messengers may be a little more gilded than her,
But she’ll be a messenger soon enough 
Remember, we know this story.
We’ve heard it before.
We know the end, don’t we? 
Mary M, that sister, she asks
Those angels for directions.
“Just tell me where to find him, won’t you?
Where is his body?
Give me some directions
Toward what I seek.” 
She’s bargaining with angels
On the edge of the new day
The first day
The beginning of all things. 
She’s working her way
Out of the same darkness
That’s leaving us behind, too.
And she’s drawing closer — and bringing us with her —
Nearer to something she just can’t imagine.
Every question she asks.
Every step she takes. 
We’re right there with her,Aren’t we?
Searching. Trying to make meaning? 
She came to keep vigil
To watch over what was lost
To mourn what was past
To puzzle out some answers
And find some way into tomorrow. 
Her queries push like green shoots
Where has he gone? Where is he?
The stone is rolled away
And the tomb
Oh, the tomb … it’s empty!
Her queries emerge
Out of the pregnant darkness
Into the softness of a welcoming world.
The first stirrings of a greater question 
And then she meets the gardener
The gardener Who names her
And asks why she weeps 
She doesn’t even recognize
The one she’s looking for
He’s so changed
And she’s just not ready to meet him there
Right in the middle of her sorrow
And stubbornness
And searching 
But that’s just where he meets her
And finally, she knows him.
Oh, she knows him. 
And as she reaches for him,
He cautions her
Don’t hold on Let me go. 
He’s telling her, I’m on the move
But go, go, tell my brothers, I am risen.
I am alive. I’ll be with all of you soon.
And eventually you’ll be with me. 
By now
The sky is streaked with purple and peach
The nearest star – earth’s own star — reaches up
Into the vaulted heaven
And her heartbeat is drumming
It pounds so loud in her ears
Keeping time with the worldsong 
Her mind races,And she takes the next step
The first step 
She utters the first words
That awaken all of us
Into this new day 
Oh, Mary M. That sister, smart as she was,
She didn’t know
That it was love
That moved the stone
That emptied itself
Into new life 
Love
Lost and found again
Moving ahead of her
Moving among us
Moving through our darkness
Like her darkness
Drawing out our dawn 
She didn’t know then
But she knows now
Mary M. has told us That’s why we knew the end
Of the story, isn’t it?
Except it’s not the end, of course.
It’s just the beginning.
Loves meets us
just where we are.
And then moves out ahead
To prepare the way.
And whispers to us
Go on, sisters.Go on, brothers.
I am with you always.
Although you may not recognize me
When you meet me. 

Feast Days: Thanksgiving – Christmas
— Annie Dillard (excerpt)

… creation:
outside the great American forest
is heaving up leaves and wood from the ground.
Inside I stand at the window, god,
with your name wrapped round my throat like a scarf.
. . .
I dreamed I woke in a garden.
Everywhere trees were growing;
everywhere flowers were growing,
and otters played in the stream, and grew.
Fruit hung down.
. . .
Woman, why weepest thou?
Whom seekest thou?
–John

. . .
God empties himself
into the earth like a cloud.
God takes the substance, contours
of a man, and keeps them,
dying, rising, walking,
and still walking
wherever there is motion.
. . .

Jesus —  Michael Nau (of Page France)

I will sing a song to you, and
You will shake the ground for me
And the birds and bees and old fruit trees
Will spit out songs like gushing streams

And Jesus will come through the ground so dirty
With worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy
To call us his magic, we call him worthy
Jesus came up through the ground so dirty

I will sing a song for you, and
You will stomp your feet for me
And the bears and bees and banana trees
Will play kazoos and tambourines

And Jesus will dance while we drink his wine
With soldiers and thieves and a sword in his side
And we will be joy and we will be right
Jesus will dance while we drink his wine

La la la la, la la la la…
La la la la, la la la la…

Jesus will come through the ground so dirty
With worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy
To call us his magic we call him worthy
Jesus came up through the ground so dirty…

SOIL MEANS LIFE (excerpt)
— Science Learning Hub (full article: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/889-soil-means-life)
Soil, dirt, earth, muck – there are lots of words for soil. One we don’t often hear associated with soil is life…

Soil keeps us alive

Where would be without soil? According to one soil scientist, we’d be “hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless and breathless”. Our food comes from soil. Even fish and other things that live in lakes or the sea depend on soil. Nutrients wash off the land and into the water, helping things to grow.

Soil cleans and stores the water we drink. This might sound odd – wouldn’t soil make water dirty instead? When it rains onto streets, farms or other areas, water droplets can pick up pollutants from oil or cow poo. If this water goes straight into a stream or river, it carries the pollutants with it. If the water seeps into the soil first, the soil can hold on to these pollutants. Soil microbes recycle some of these pollutants – so soil can clean the water. We pump water from under the ground, clean it a bit more and then drink it or bottle it to sell.Soil keeps us warm and dry

Much of our clothing comes from the soil. Cotton grows in the soil. Silk and wool come from animals (silkworms and sheep) that eat plants grown in soil. Buildings are made of wood, brick and concrete. Trees grow in soil. Bricks are made of clay from soil. Concrete uses sand and other minerals from the soil.Soil helps us breathe

Even the air we breathe has a soil connection. Plants that make our oxygen grow in soil. Plants take water from the soil and combine it with CO2 and light to make their own food – and give off oxygen.Soil means life for other things

Soil is a habitat for a wide variety of life. One quarter of the Earth’s biodiversity (living things) live in soil. This includes things we can see like insects, earthworms and rabbits. It also includes things too small for us to see like bacteriafungi and other microorganisms – billions of microorganisms! There are more tiny living things in one teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people living on Earth!Soil recycles our wastes

Soil organisms break down wastes and recycle the nutrients. Think about a compost bin and how food scraps go in. Later, dark nutritious compost comes out. We add the compost to the soil to reuse the nutrients and keep the soil healthy. Imagine if our food scraps, dead leaves and cow poo stayed around forever!Protect soil and protect life

We need to look after soil. Like water, it is a special resource. If we pollute it or lose it, we cannot buy or make more. Soil is lost when wind or water move it away (erosion). We can no longer use soil once we cover it with roads or buildings. Some types of farming can make soil unhealthy by removing too many nutrients or ruining the soil structure.

Healthy soil means healthy life.

Reflections on Holy Friday: last seven words

1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion.

  1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
  2. Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
  3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.
  4. Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  5. John 19:28: I thirst.
  6. John 19:30: It is finished.
  7. Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

MUSIC BASED on CHRIST’S LAST SEVEN WORDS:

PRAYERS and COMMENTARY BASED on LAST SEVEN WORDS

PRAYER about FORGIVENESS

Forgive me that I have not loved enough. Forgive me so that I can love you and others, no matter what their sins may be. Forgive me that I have not fully believed in the possibility and power of forgiveness. Forgive me so that I can forgive— others and myself. Amen.
—Maren Tirabassi and Joan Jordan Grant

FORGIVE

If I develop bad feelings toward those who make me suffer, this will only destroy my own peace of mind. But if I forgive, my mind becomes calm. — Dalai Lama

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King

What I refuse to forgive continues to harm me. It consumes my heart, poisons my mind, drains my energies and cements my soul. — Sr. Joan Chiitster

Well, probably the most radical part … is that it begins with kindness to yourself in the same measure with which you would be very, very kind to others. Sort of automatically — especially women — [we] are outgoingly warm and friendly to other people because we were raised to believe that this was where our value lay. And yet with ourselves, men and women both, we tend to be harsh. And we tend to be easily exasperated with ourselves.
    So, the radical part of kindness is about stroking your own shoulder and stopping the bad self-talk. And that’s where my belief in healing — both ourselves and our families and the world — begins, is that we put our own oxygen masks on first.
    I mean, the hardest work we do is forgiveness. But for me, it’s easier to forgive someone I just abhor, than it is to forgive myself some of the time. I am so exasperated, and kind of stunned by how disappointingly I behave. Eventually, I forgive everyone, because there’s that old saying that “not forgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the rat to die.” And we’re the one who suffers from holding onto resentments and staying clenched up, and bitter. — Anne Lamott… I read this, which is at the very heart of [Viktor] Frankl’s teaching: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. And I finally begin to understand that I, too, have a choice. This realization will change my life…
    The choice to accept myself as I am: human, imperfect. And the choice to be responsible for my own happiness. To forgive my flaws and reclaim my innocence. To stop asking why I deserved to survive. To function as well as I can, to commit myself to serve others, to do everything in my power to honor my parents, to see to it that they did not die in vain. To do my best, in my limited capacity, so future generations don’t experience what I did. To be useful, to be used up, to survive and to thrive so I can use every moment to make the world a better place. And to finally, finally stop running from the past. To do everything possible to redeem it, and then let it go. I can make the choice that all of us can make. I can’t ever change the past. But there is a life I can save: It is mine. The one I am living right now, this precious moment…
    And to the vast campus of death that consumed my parents and so very many others, to the … horror that still had something sacred to teach me about how to live—that I was victimized but I’m not a victim, that I was hurt but not broken, that the soul never dies, that meaning and purpose can come from deep in the heart of what hurts us the most—I utter my final words. Goodbye, I say. And, Thank you. Thank you for life, and for the ability to finally accept the life that is. — Dr Edith Eger (Holocaust survivor)

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger. However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him. — CS Lewis

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. — CS Lewis

… Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Jesus always seems to be pairing God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. But why? Why is he always pairing them together? I kind of always thought that it was a way of guilting us into forgiving others … Our human culture would say that evil is fought through justice and might. The way we combat evil is by making sure that people get what they have coming to them. An eye for an eye. You attack me and I’ll attack you. Fair is fair. … Because it would seem that when we are sinned against, when someone else harms us, that we are in some way linked to that sin, connected to that mistreatment like a chain through which we absorb it. And we know that our anger, fear, or resentment doesn’t free us at all…it keeps us chained. And evil persists. Sin abounds. Brokenness prevails… But Richard Rohr reminds us that we can tell a lot by what a person does with their suffering: do they transmit it or do they transform it? So while it’s true that God may not prevent evil, and we may never fully understand why… God does have a way of combating evil. It’s not punishment and it’s not retaliation, fear, or anger. It’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s way of combating evil. Of course this offends our impulse for justice or retaliation. But that’s the God revealed in Jesus. Like it or not, this is what we see at the cross. At Calvary, God allows our human system of scape-goating, fear, and retaliation to play its natural course, which ends as it always does: in the suffering of God. And then in turn, God shows us God’s system by not even lifting a finger to condemn those who put him on the cross, but instead proclaims, of all things, forgiveness… But the problem with this is: doesn’t forgiving a sin against us, or an evil done to many, come perilously close to saying that what they did was okay? Isn’t forgiving over and over just the thing that keeps battered women battered? … I thought that maybe forgiveness is actually the opposite of saying that what someone has done is okay…it’s saying it’s so not okay that I am not going to absorb it any more. I simply won’t be tied to it. … That’s why we need to forgive. Because we can’t be bound to that kind of evil. Lest it find the evil in our own hearts and make its home there.—Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber

PRAYER about SALVATION

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. — Thomas Merton

SALVATION

I used to think that being saved from my sins meant being saved from hell. Salvation was something that kicked in after death, like a gift that had “Do not open until eternity” on the tag…It was something that happened once but applied for all eternity—once saved, always saved. 
     … Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and reexamined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what is in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to my mind: liberation.
      Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudice, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin.
      What I’m trying to say is that while I still believe Jesus died to save us from our sins, I’m beginning to think that Jesus also lived to save us from our sins. the apostle Paul put it more eloquently in his letter to the church in Rome when he said, ‘For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to hi m through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10).
     If it’s starting to sound like I believe in works-based salvation , it’s because I do. While I don’t for a second think that we can earn God’s grace by checking off a to-do list, I do believe that there is liberation in obedience. When we live like Jesus, when we take his teachings seriously and apply them to life, we don’t have to wait until we die to experience freedom from sin. We experience it every day as each step of faith and every good work loosens the chains of sin around our feet. It’s hard, and it’s something that I fail at most of the time, but it’s something I’ve experienced in little fits and starts along the way, enough to know that it’s worth it. Jesus promised that his yoke will be light, because he carries most of the load.  — Rachel Held Evans

God’s grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God’s grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word … it’s that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn’t about God creating humans and flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace – like saying, “Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be the good guy and forgive you.” It’s God saying, “I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new. —Rev  Nadia Bolz-Weber

However we imagine the intent of the question, Jesus’ answer is disquieting. The way to salvation – and we should keep in mind that the word we translate as “saved” also means “to be made whole” and “to be healed” – is narrow, challenging, not a given. Beyond that, oddly, Jesus doesn’t say a lot. Strive to enter by the narrow way. That’s about it…. What, then, is the narrow way? I suppose that if, at this point… we still need to ask, we probably aren’t on it. Because from beginning to end Jesus is on the side of the down and out, the dispossessed, the poor, the sick, those in need… So does this mean that only the poor will experience salvation/healing/wholeness? Or only the poor and those who side with them?
    I also think it might be worthwhile hearing that, to Jesus, the narrow way – the way God invites us to walk given all the other options that are available to us – is to care for those around us, to be generous with what we have, to recognize that blessing is always given to be shared, and to look out especially for those in need.
    So perhaps the best way to address the question of salvation is to resist the urge to see it as a place or goal or prize but instead to reclaim the larger meaning of the word and hear it as both command and invitation to seize salvation, healing, and wholeness right now by joining ourselves to those around us and living into the kingdom and community of God that Jesus proclaims.
    Perhaps the best way to deal with the question of salvation, that is, is to stop worrying about it and instead simply live as those people who are already saved by the grace of God and therefore free to share all that we have and are with those around us. — Rev. David Lose

So we are called to love both Jesus and Christ. You can begin with either Jesus or Christ, but eventually it is easiest to love both. Too many Christians have started and stopped with Jesus, never knowing the universal Christ. Many non-Christians have started with loving the Christ by another name. I have met Hindus, Muslims, and Jews who live in this hidden mystery of oneness; and I have met many Roman Catholics and Protestants who are running away from the Christ Mystery, as either practical materialists or pious spiritualists.
    Tertullian (160–225), who is called “the father of Western theology,” rightly taught that “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Caro salutis est cardo). [1] The incarnation of flesh and Spirit is Christianity’s most important contribution to spirituality, and this is the meaning of “The Christ,” although you do not need to name it as such.
    Now “the world, life and death, the present and the future are all your servants, for you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:22-23). Full salvation is finally universal belonging and universal connecting. Our Christian word for that is “heaven.” This is why Jesus can say to a man dying in time, “This day you are with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Christ is now, here, everywhere, and always.— Richard Rohr

… Scripture is very clear about the place of work in human life. The Book of Genesis is explicit: we were put into the Garden “to till and to keep it.” We work to complete the work of God in the world. Work, then, may be the most sanctifying thing we do.
     The implications of a spirituality of work in a world such as ours are clear, it seems. Work is my gift to the world. It is my social fruitfulness. It ties me to my neighbor and binds me to the future.
     Work is the way I am saved from total self-centeredness. It gives me a reason to exist that is larger than myself. It makes me part of possibility. It gives me hope. Martin Luther wrote: “If I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today.”
     Work gives me a place in salvation. It helps redeem the world from sin. It enables creation to go on creating. It brings us all one step closer to what the reign of God is meant to be. 
     
Finally, work is the way we really live in solidarity with the poor of the world. Work is our commitment not to live off others, not to sponge, not to shirk, not to cheat.
     Work is our sign that God goes on working in the world through us. It is the very stuff of divine ambition. And it will never be over. The philosopher wrote, “Do you want a test to know if your work in life is over? If you are still alive, it isn’t.” God needs us to complete God’s work. Now. — Sr. Joan Chittister

PRAYER for RELATIONSHIP

Please Call Me By My True Names
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am also the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

RELATIONSHIP

Only holiness will call people to listen now. And the work of holiness is not about perfection or niceness; it is about belonging, that sense of being in the Presence and through the quality of that belonging, the mild magnetic of implicating others in the Presence. This is not about forging a relationship with a distant God but about the realization that we are already within God.
― John O’Donohue 

It seems that this YHWH who is uncovering and showing Godself in the Bible desires not just images or ideas, but even persons with whom God can be in very concrete and intimate relationship. God is creating, quite literally, some friends for God! Jesus became the full representation of one who accepted and lived that friendship. In fact, he never seemed to doubt it. That must be at the core of our imitation of Jesus, and exactly how we become “partners in his triumph” — Fr. Richard Rohr

The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger. ― Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber

One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us. — Rachel Held Evans

Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. — Dalai Lama

But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry. — Rachel Held Evans

PRAYER of ABANDONMENT

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. — Thomas Merton

ABANDONMENT

Who hasn’t said, “Don’t you care?” Who hasn’t experienced death or isolation or chaos or anxiety or just simple raw human pain and not felt that God was by all appearances lazily sleeping through it? Surely if God cared about me, God would change my life circumstances to suit my preferences—or maybe God could have kept the tragic, painful thing from happening in the first place.
     When we are fearful or angry we feel as though God has abandoned us, or at least fallen asleep on a comfy cushion…. When storms arise and people die and we suffer and our friends abandon us, we assume God has fallen down on the job. Again. —Rev Nadia Bolz-WeberWe have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world – to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity – our own capacity for life – that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled.
     We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. — Wendell Berry

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart.
    This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
   …. In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.— Fr. Richard Rohr

When the people of God abandoned the covenant of love and fidelity, drawn as we are by the appeal of shallow, empty pleasures, God removed every possible obstruction to the covenant by being faithful for us, by becoming like us and subjecting Himself to the very worst within us, loving us all the way to the cross and all the way out of the grave. — Rachel Held Evans

I am on the Deathbed; Go, rest your head on a pillow, leave me alone;
leave me ruined, exhausted from the journey of this night,
writhing in a wave of passion till the dawn.
Either stay and be forgiving,
or, if you like, be cruel and leave.
Flee from me, away from trouble;
take the path of safety, far from this danger.
We have crept into this corner of grief,
turning the water wheel with a flow of tears.
While a tyrant with a heart of flint slays,
and no one says, “Prepare to pay the blood money.”
Faith in the king comes easily in lovely times,
but be faithful now and endure, pale lover.
No cure exists for this pain but to die,
So why should I say, “Cure this pain”?
In a dream last night I saw
an ancient one in the garden of love,
beckoning with his hand, saying, “Come here.”
On this path, Love is the emerald,
the beautiful green that wards off dragons
Enough, I am losing myself.
If you are a man of learning,
read something classic
a history of the human struggle
and don’t settle for mediocre verse.

— Rumi

POEM about DISTRESS

When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety.
If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, without pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me.
There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it. — Rumi

DISTRESS

Weeping is a very life-giving thing. It wizens the soul of the individual and it sounds alarms in society. The Book of Ecclesiastes may be nowhere more correct than here. There is definitely a time for weeping. If we do not weep on the personal level, we shall never understand other human beings. — Sr. Joan Chittister

… Transformation occurs only when we remember, breath by breath, year after year, to move toward our emotional distress without condemning or justifying our experience. — Pema Chodron

The beauty and strangeness of the world may fill the eyes with its cordial refreshment. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss. — Mary Oliver

Everything in life teaches us something about what it is to be human until, if we are listening and learning all our lives, we ourselves become everything we can possibly be. We begin the search for fullness of life at a very early age. We choose heroes, icons of what we ourselves would like to become
     All the heroes of my early life were people of action. I valued explorers, presidents, civil rights activists, suffragettes, friends and family members who were brave enough, decisive enough, strong enough to make things happen. It was only as I got older and people I loved began to die that I discovered the lesson, the courage of calm… In each of those situations a kind of chaos infected the world. Yet, at the same time, each of them brought with it a new kind of insight. No doubt about it: the lesson I learned from death was the lesson of calm. After all, what use was flailing and raging when life went inevitably on? Or, as the case may be, would not go on at all.
    The problem, of course, lies in learning to determine when calm is courageous and when chaos is holy. When is acceptance holy and chaos madness; when is chaos holy and acceptance weakness? Maybe we never know. But that’s not important. What is important is to keep asking the question and to develop the ability to be both resolutely calm and courageously holy as the situation demands.— Sr. Joan Chittister

In Search of Belief

I believe that Jesus Christ,
the unique son of God,
is the face of God
on earth
in whom we see best
the divine justice,
divine mercy,
and divine compassion
to which we are all called.

Through Christ
we become new people,
called beyond
the consequences
of our brokenness
and lifted to the fullness of life.

By the power
of the Holy Spirit
he was born
of the woman Mary,
pure in soul
and single-hearted—
a sign to the ages
of the exalted place
of womankind
in the divine plan
of human salvation.

He grew as we grow
through all the stages of life.
He lived as we live
prey to the pressures of evil
and intent on the good.

He broke no bonds
with the world
to which he was bound.
He sinned not.
He never strayed
from the mind of God.

He showed us the Way,
lived it for us,
suffered from it,
and died because of it
so that we might live
with new heart, new mind,
and new strength
despite all the death
to which
we are daily subjected.

edited from “A Creed,” In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister

PRAYER FOR WHAT WE COULD HAVE BEEN

O thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being. We humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbor as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive, we love our friends and hate our enemies, we go the first mile but dare not travel the second, we forgive but dare not to forget. And so as we look within ourselves we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives us the history of an eternal revolt against thee. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know thy will. Give us the courage to do thy will. Give us the devotion to love thy will. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King

TRIUMPH

I’d like to quickly make a case that we have experienced way too much death and grief and loss to skip holy week. … because people were going from the triumphant “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday to the glorious “He is Risen” of Easter Sunday without ever going through the horrifying “Crucify him!” of Good Friday.  — Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ― Albert Camus 

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow. ― Thomas Paine 

Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory. ― John Steinbeck

I believe the second coming of Christ is the triumph of love. We should always strive for the grand resurrection, but really it is given as a gift. — Fr Richard Rohr

The Christian is called, with the grace of God invoked in prayer, to a sometimes heroic commitment. In this he or she is sustained by the virtue of fortitude, whereby — as Gregory the Great teaches — one can actually “love the difficulties of this world for the sake of eternal rewards.” — Pope John Paul II

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

 Mary Oliver

REUNION

More than anything else — more than our obedience, more than our hard work, more than keeping the law — more than anything God wants to be with us. God wants the family to be together, relationships restored and whole. — Rev Louise Westfall

The life of a good man who has died belongs to the people who cared about him, and ought to, and maybe itself is as much comfort as ought to be asked or offered. And surely the talk of reunion in Heaven is thin comfort to people who need each other here as much as we do. I ain’t saying I don’t believe there’s a Heaven. I surely do hope there is. That would pay off a lot of mortgages. But I do say it ain’t easy to believe. And even while I hope for it, I’ve got to admit I’d rather go to Port William.
– Wendell Berry (fictional character’s voice)

The sun has come. The mist has gone. We see in the distance… our long way home. I was always yours to have. You were always mine. We have loved each other in and out of time. When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor I had always loved you more. You freed your braids… gave your hair to the breeze. It hummed like a hive of honey bees. I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there… Mmmm… God how I love your hair. You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance. Lost, injured, hurt by chance. I screamed to the heavens… loudly screamed… Trying to change our nightmares into dreams… The sun has come. The mist has gone. We see in the distance our long way home. I was always yours to have. You were always mine. We have loved each other in and out in and out, in and out of time.  — attributed to Maya Angelou

With God, death is never the end of the story. — Rachel Held Evans

Do any of us really understand it? I think anyone who claims certainty on what happens after we die is to some degree pretending, because we can’t know, but we can have hope. We can hope in resurrection, we can hope in some form of reunion with those we love. We can hope that memories live on. — Jeff Chu

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