Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hardliners at the Synod


Conservative bishops at the Synod of Bishops nixed the reforms that progressives sought for gays and for divorced and remarried who do not obtain annulments. But the defenders of doctrine also failed to get the votes needed to approve their hardline paragraphs for the official statement.

There were three key words as far as I was concerned ... 'respect', 'welcome' and 'value.  I was looking for those words and they weren't there and so I didn't think that was a good paragraph.

Pope Francis again came up with priceless images to bring everyone together and warned against turning bread into unbearable burdens.

In sum, the synod broke some new ground.
To me it also revealed the strength of hardliners in the Church and a possible reason for Francis' continued hard line on women. I hope he lives long enough to effect a change in this department—the most far-reaching change of all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When SHE reigned


On Sunday Mary Smith, our priest at Mary Magdalene,First Apostle, and I gave a joint presentation on Mary, the mother of Jesus. I gave evidence of the parallels between Mary and the pre-Christian Goddess in apocryphal Christian works and in Catholic doctrines.  Mary spoke about the meaning of Mary for us today—not as a Goddess. Both of us mentioned the Black Madonna, dark images of Mary appearing all over Europe. 

When the Roman Empire replaced earlier religions with the Christian religion, it convened councils of bishops from around the empire to decide which form this new religion would take. There were many Christianities with a wide variety of beliefs. And there were many old religions in the empire, devoted to various images of Divinity. 
      One was Isis, the mother of Horus, an Egyptian mother/son pair, whose motifs were transferred to Mary and Jesus. So closely are the two pairs linked that figurines in which Horus sits on the throne of Isis’ lap were simply renamed “Mary and Jesus.”

The other week I observed my student teacher, Ryan Snyder, presenting a lesson on Egypt in his World History class.  He reminded me of the period when Black leaders from the southern part of Egypt ruled—a reminder that the image of Isis was Black as well as Arabic or Semitic. HERE you can see the variety of Madonna images, known as the Black Madonna.  Notice the dark African ones.

The broad scope of religious history demonstrates an irrepressible need for a divine Mother. Our earliest human ancestors imagined the Holy One female. Extremely ancient myths and materials tell us that the Goddess was supreme and Her worship widespread, if not universal, in human societies around the globe before male deities took over.

Archaeologists have unearthed tens of thousands of Goddess figurines, from Ireland to India, some dating back to 25,000 BCE. The oldest known art objects, they depict human forms with female thighs, buttocks, genitals, breasts, and pregnant bellies—Woman as the Source of Life. In Myths to Live By Joseph Campbell comments that they were
dubbed—amusingly—paleolithic Venuses.
Scholars molded by male-centered thinking did not know what to think of these figurines. They could not imagine WOMAN being held up as an icon, leading to their mistaken opinion that they were erotica. But Charlene Spretnak points to
the difference between the powerful Paleolithic figures and current pornographic portrayals of women as coy, vulnerable toys.
Look at some HERE. The figures were fashioned without feet because their lowest point was intended to be pressed into the earth for veneration in little household shrines. In The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, Campbell comments sardonically that it is
not unusual for extremely well-trained archaeologists to pretend that they cannot imagine what services the numerous female figurines might have rendered.
He volunteers the answer that they provided the same services our male deity provides: receive our prayers, initiate "meditations on the mystery of being," aid women in childbirth, guard children, protect farmers, their crops and cattle, watch over the sailor and the merchant.

Stories of the female Creator come from Sumer, Babylon, Egypt, Africa, Australia, and China as well as the Americas. Woman as Creator of the universe was a natural image for primal cultures who saw that woman bears new life. These cultures were in awe of female power because she could produce a monthly flow of blood without harming her body, she could grow babies in her body and give birth to them, and she could produce food out of her own body. Joseph Campbell wrote that, as the link between sex and babies was not known, males must have seemed,
within one jot of being completely superfluous . . .
    The female body was experienced as a focus of divine force, and a system of rites was dedicated to its mystery.
Human figures of larch and aspen wood are carved to this day among the Siberian reindeer hunters—the Ostyaks, Yakuts, Goldi, etc.—to represent the ancestral point of origin of the whole people, and they are always female.
Vestiges of that ancient reverence for the female appear in our scriptures, as we  will see next time.