Christ Risen, Women Rising

In a metaphysical imagery workshop last Sunday, I allowed myself to be led into a sculptor’s workshop. Offered the tools to recreate myself, I shaped two hands from clay, a block beneath representing the cross and nails through the palms. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I chipped the first nail head away, then lifted the hand and melted it into my right. The second nail I pushed through the flesh before melting it into my left.

When I was done, I was invited to receive guidance from my Wise. I expected the Father, but instead my Lady came to me, easing my grief with this testimony:

You are everything that I ever desired.

When the tears of relief eased, she took my hands and offered:

It is time for you to rest. Let me do my Work.

Is this Mystery?

The feminine agency in salvation is obscure. Clearly the womb is a gateway, for it is through Woman that all virtue comes into the world. Surrendering that virtue to the sacred purpose appears to be among Woman’s challenges. Sarai resisted the faith of Abram, and Leah struggled mightily against the conception of Joseph. In desperation Jochebed surrendered Moses to the river. In Hannah we finally saw a woman offer a son gratefully to God, redeeming Israel with Samuel. But the Holy Mother herself resisted the ministry of Jesus. It is only at the wedding in Canaa that she surrendered to his warning that she would become merely “woman” if she commanded him to address the lack of wine. Later, Mary assembled the family and attempted to call Jesus home, to which he responded, “This is my family now.’

“Mary” (or Mariam) arises from “mry” in Egyptian, meaning “beloved,” and there are a great number of them in the New Testament: the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, Mary with Martha, and “the other Mary” heading to the tomb.

Women provide support for the ministry – financial as well as practical. While the men planned the administration of Jesus’ kingdom, despite their humble role it was from the women that social disobedience arose. They recognized the authority of Jesus’ love. The fallen woman used tears and hair to wash his feet at table.

But the most potent demonstration comes near the end. While the frightened men bickered in Jerusalem, it was left to a woman to play the role of the Old Testament priest, pouring oil over his head as he sat at table. Terrified, the Apostles objected to the waste of a valuable resource, for which Jesus chided them “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

After Jesus was arrested, the Apostles scattered and Peter denied him. During Interrogation, both Pilate and Caiaphas demanded “Are you king of the Jews?” to which Jesus, foreseeing the disaster that would befall both Jerusalem and Rome, suggested gently: “You. Say I am.” Both feared that such testimony would incite the wrath of Herod, and so remained silent.

It is only right, then, that it was women bearing oil to the tomb who discovered the truth of the Resurrection. Even so they were shaken; both the angel and Jesus pled “Do not be afraid.”

I have private insight into the role of Mary Magdalene in the Passion. When I first encountered her spirit, we fell back through time to the Crucifixion, and as he struggled with the burden of our dependence on sin, an elder woman leaned over to whisper into the Magdalene’s ear: “He has need of you, child.” It was thus through the Magdalene’s devotion that time was opened to him, and to that devotion he returned. That yearning is evident when they reunited: she clasped him tightly – he responded obscurely:

Do not cling to me, for I have not yet returned to my Father in heaven.

Sera Beak documents the consequences of the Magdalene’s yearning in “Red, Hot and Holy.” Jesus was still rooted in the earth, and it was the Magdalene’s desire to continue his line that concerned him. No child should grow in a cauldron of suffering such as he experienced.

But what is a woman’s alternative? What other role does scripture offer her?

The answer is found in Revelation. In her first appearance, the Sacred Lady indeed manifested as a mother. But she remained after Christ was called back to heaven, bringing forth children to struggle against the dragon. To some, that tends naturally to the role of Mystery, the woman riding on the Red Beast. But in Revelation 20, a different outcome is foretold. The Bride steps forth, clothed in the works of the saints. It is not flesh that women should seek to gestate, but virtue.

While still suppressed, it is in Islamic history that women become active as facilitators of the sacred purpose. Khadija and Fatima are the avatars, and in Mohammad’s twelve wives we hear a strained echo of Israel’s twelve sons. In the great Muslim love poem, Yusuf and Zuleika, Potiphar’s spurned wife eventually reflects of her forbidden love:

Virtue was my beloved and thou
Had virtue’s impress on thy brow.

While walking Ventura’s March for Our Lives, I was touched more than once by Emma Gonzalez. I hold her most tenderly in my heart, her and all her friends. I offered that she could withdraw from her role – the feminine focus that holds her generation as it is led to wisdom. But she refused.

And in that endurance, strength and hope, I can indeed rest.

The Peace of the Grave

In The Soul Comes First, I include Death among the forms of selfishness that the angels release onto Earth for healing. I characterize it as “which destroys utterly”, but I have realized that is unfair. It is how it appears to the rest of us, but the elements of a soul cannot be destroyed, only repurposed. No, it only appears to us that Death destroys the ones that we lose.

Death cuts a soul off from the dance of life. It enters in as a shroud around our spirit, and chokes off the links that tie us to others. We can no longer share ourselves. How is that selfish? Well, Death does not give up its victims willingly. It collects spirits, like insects in amber.

So how is Death redeemed by Love? Jesus’s resurrection proved that Love pierces the veil of death. That control allows lovers respite from the burdens of the world. They can withdraw and process the pain that they receive when healing broken hearts.

Through love, we can control the veil of death, and find peace for ourselves when we need. In love, we find ourselves always yearning to return to the dance of life with others, and so do not remain isolated.

Unless, of course, we don’t build links of love to others, and then death is a terrible and permanent isolation – which is why selfish people fear it so much.

I am astonished by parallels with the process of birth. A spirit separates from the chorus of heaven and enters into the mother’s womb to be bound to a body. The end of that process is a violent forcing out that can break the spirits of either or both participants. The spiritual cycle is almost manifested in the act of birth itself, and I believe that among a woman’s spiritual challenges is the essential intimacy of life with death.

What did this mean for the Magdalene? She was confronted with a glorious man who was committed to a confrontation with death! But his glory is a manifestation of the beauty of the spirits that choose to surround him, and what woman would not want the joy of bringing such spirits into the world? I see her almost swept away by this passion for the life of him, so he cautions her in the cemetery:

Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.

He had not yet purged himself of the pain that had been forced upon him, and in clinging to him she was binding herself to that pain.

Among the Biblical commentators are those that see Mary Magdalene as the bride of Christ, but I hear in his words a caution to a woman swept up by events beyond her comprehension.

But there is another among Humanity’s pantheons who might understand, because her experience parallels that of Jesus. The Greeks tell of a goddess, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, who was given up as a bride to Hades to prevent his melancholy from consuming the world. The rest of the world found life in the sacrifice of the jewel of womanhood, foremost among Death’s treasures, whose grace fascinated his attentions. In Spring, she was released from Hades for a day, and life returned with her. If there are any among Death’s captives who deserve liberation, foremost among them is she!

Oh, Christ, bring her forth, and let her inspire us to protect nature, rather than destroying it so that we might profit! Bring us peace, not through death, but a lasting peace built upon the wisdom gained in our long struggle to master the Knowledge of Good and Evil!