Category Archives: Virgin Mother

Advent Manna 3: Being Virgin

Advent Manna – Short Takes on the Themes of Advent

Being Virgin

“A virgin is someone who is free of all false images and is detached toward God’s dearest wish and ready to fulfill it unceasingly, as was Jesus.” Meister Eckhart

Virgin comes from Latin and means, literally, slender branch, twig or shoot. The original sense of the word is a person who is one in him or herself. Such an individual is free from possession and possessiveness and capable of the total giving of self, body, as well as soul. The virgin aspect is that which is unpenetrated and unowned by humanity. It does not need to be validated or approved by anyone to know its own innate worth.

Virgin carries much of the same intent as the word holy, which means set apart, the temple. The Parthenon (literally the virgin’s place) was the temple to Athena on the acropolis in Athens. In the New Testament virgin is used to depict the host of the redeemed in Revelation and to refer to the church as the bride of Christ. But by far the most frequent use of the word virgin is in the Bible’s figurative description of cities, nations, and communities. We often find virgin daughter as an expression for Jerusalem.

The virgin is one who can hear and believe the anguished truth of a violated and profaned creation. The virgin does not indulge in denial or false hope. She has no illusions about the extent of the horror and suffering we inflict on one another and the earth.

For the virgin knows that it is not our empathy that heals, not our outrage that heals, not our grief that heals. It is our faith – our trust in the power of Goodness to prevail over darkness. The virgin does not respond to suffering and sin out of her own anxiety, fear and wounds, but rather out of her repose, her absolute serene trust in the one she carries in her womb and continuously delivers into the world. Such, as she, are the healers among us.

______________________

My small daughter, playing with the holy family in the wooden stable sings her lullaby:  Round yon urgent mother and child, holy infant so tender and wild.

This mother, more urgent than virgin, smiles: Yes, indeed,  Holy Infant tender and wild, you are so wild, so undomesticated, so radically other than anything known and familiar. No matter how hard we coax, you will not eat out of our hands, but remain out in the timber hidden in the brush. We set out bait, offerings on the snow. Cowboy theologians toss ropes into the forest and lasso decoys. And rough-rider ecclesiastics try to corral you in sedate doctrines.

The virgin daughter of Jerusalem sings at the gate. In the dark we lay a trail of bread crumbs to our door. We wait, stilled, hushed. Come, Lord Jesus.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered  violence and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12

But who can stand when you appear? The earth shudders, mountains topple, creatures shiver with fear. Shots ring out in the forest. Innocence awakens and moves toward us, and the rough hand grasps for its lost treasure.

 

The virgin daughter of Jerusalem stands on the path  and suddenly she is falling, falling into the blue sea and into the wide sky, falling through pain and fear and despair, falling faster and faster, picking up speed, plummeting like a stone, falling through a tunnel formed at the intersection of the cross hairs in the telescopic sight aimed at redemption where opposites meet and all things come together.

She is whizzing down the tunnel like a child’s slide, sleek and silent, silver in the sun, falling free. And the Realm of God does not suffer violence, and she is not taken by force and the two, who have been made for each other, delight to have found ground holy enough to hold each other’s purity, ground strong enough to bear each other’s pain. And in her joy she funnels greatness from the wideness of her hope down the narrow passage of her being into us.

So now I pray for passionate virgins who have died for love and dwell beyond the clutch and fever of desire. I pray for eccentric virgins who live on the outskirts of propriety, raise geese, and talk to trees. I pray for violated virgins and their re-consecration. I pray for virgins who find the courage to reject the lie that eats away their souls and whispers that what happened never happened and leads them down a winding path of mirages and fun house mirrors that mock Truth.

I pray for virgins who know they are only as holy as they are willing to see how horribly they have been profaned, and how horribly they profane. I pray for priestly virgins who preside at their own sacraments, who ordain themselves to Love, who anoint and purify, who refuse to bypass pain, but in their surrender to it and annihilation fall into the center of their humility to sit enthroned in the trust of total repose and divine indifference from which all healing flows.

I pray for virgins, calm and pure, who stable holiness, and for virgins, safe and gentle and true enough to conceive the Immaculate Tenderness without doing it violence. I pray for undomesticated virgins, unpenetrated by conventional values, virgins unconfined by reason and impervious to the demands of privileged authority.

I pray for revolutionary virgins, who despise the shame, and take up the suffering for the joy that awaits. I pray for virgins whose land, enclosed by strength, is untouched and guarded by a flaming sword. I pray for virgins, who with unveiled eyes gaze unflinchingly at evil and at God and live to tell the tale. I pray for virgin martyrs, who are witnesses with the conviction to believe their own eyes. I pray for chaste, intrepid, impeccable virgins, incapable of doubt.

 

I pray for virgins who apply themselves to prayer until their souls become clear, focused lenses through which we spy, enlarged for us, the intricate dazzling structures of divinity. And God, hidden in the forest, is magnified by them; and glory sprints across the clearing kicking up a cloud of blessing.

I pray for virgins who are not afraid of greatness, neither the greatness of themselves, nor the greatness of God. And I pray for a virgin with a heart which dilates. A bold virgin, who when she has grown as big as she can be, when she has come to the outer reaches of the limits of her being and all that she thinks and knows and hums to herself, will give up encompassing Plentitude. I pray for a virgin who becomes Emptiness, who will let go of her edges, the taut boundaries that separate this from that, and flinging herself like crumbs in a fragrant trail from what was once her heart to the forest will say:

Let it be to me according to your word.

And the shy, tender God takes the bait. And she and holiness are won. And their child tumbles, wet and wild, into the wounded world to heal us with his stripes.

___________________________________________
Advent Manna are short pieces taken from my writing over the years on the themes of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. This post is an edited excerpt from my book, Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Sheed & Ward, 2000. Chapter 10 “Urgent Mother and Child – Holy Indifference and the Repose of the Virgin,” p 39. It may be a challenging piece for some readers. I wrote it over 25 years ago following a workshop I led in New York state. The workshop topic was the spiritual aspects of recovery from sexual abuse and violence. After the presentation I was taken to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and guided to a small chapel. There I knelt before a larger than life bronze statue of the Virgin Mother, which embodied, both all pervading compassion, and perfect repose. Before her I felt all the pain of the women, whose stories I had heard at the workshop, drawn out of me and healed.
By the way, this piece could easily be adapted for several voices and used as a readers’ drama for worship. I can als0 hear music behind it…and slides of various artists’ depiction of the annunciation. Get creative!

 

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Waiting: The Promise

Part Two of Four Parts

How long can you carry the secret,
the gift of saving love,
before giving birth to it?

How long can you ponder things in your heart
and sit on the stone path in the sun?
After a while it becomes obvious
that there is something up your sleeve,
or under your tunic.

Someone’s delight is in you
and is growing bigger every day.

Some of us are called to bear children. All of us, male and female, are called to give birth to Christ. We carry God’s seed, a divine promise in us and for us. Each is called to conceive some aspect of the great promise of salvation. We are given the choice to surrender to it, to carry and nourish it, and give it birth on its terms in its time.

With such a call, we are at the service of powers greater than we are. We find ourselves as servants and handmaids, those who stand alert and ready at the door for the one they serve, who may come at any time. We belong to the promise and are given over to the promise. The child of the promise is the unique offering you, and only you, can give out of your love in the Bethlehem of your life.


What is it? Who is it? How is this done? We are each alone here. There were no witnesses when Gabriel came. One or two may understand, who are strong when we are weak, who have hope when we have despair, who have faith when we have none. For the most part we must face the rejection, fears, doubts, and devils alone. And then, suddenly in the dark comes the sharp all-encompassing pain of labor – so much more painful than we had ever imagined it could be.

It may not look like all that much, your child and your offering of yourself as a mother of redemption. It may seem a small thing compared to Mary’s child. The child you bear may be nothing more (or less) than the courage to get through a bad day, or a shred of hope you cling to like a broken raft in the midst of a churning sea.

Two signs may help you tell if this is your Christ child: first, a vision of the joy or beauty or love set free in the gift you offer; and second, your sacrificial suffering in the labor and delivery of that gift. Such suffering is not a consequence of abuse or injustice. This is the suffering of love, which is assailed by evil as it seeks to remain firm in its faith in the efficacy and power of God’ s suffering love on the cross.

Waiting

waiting

how did she keep the promise alive,
the hope,
the word which was spoken to her,
through all the days and nights
while she walked the rocky paths?

What good could come out of Nazareth?
How can this be?
I have no husband.
I have no money.
I have no strength.
I have no hope.
I have no skill . . .

But he said, Nothing is impossible with God.

A secret between her and the angel,
a child growing in a hostile environment
and stillness at dusk
when the light slides under the horizon
leaving a golden smear of hushed anticipation.

She was like a tiny flame
in a sea of darkness

.

Watch for Part Three of this series on waiting, The Threats, coming soon.
Adapted from the author’s book, Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Loretta (Ross-Gotta) F. Ross, Sheed & Ward, 2000.
Website  The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer
Read more about prayer www.fromholyground.org,
Contact the author lross@fromholyground.orgwww.fbook.me/sanctuary
Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross

Waiting: Broccoli and Perseverance

Part One of Four Parts

A friend recently asked me for the key to success in surviving a child’s thirteenth year. She told me she ate some truly nasty broccoli at dinner one night in a desperate attempt to do something good for herself. She swallowed the stuff in the hope that it would help her live long enough to see her son become the parent of a thirteen-year-old.

Longevity and sheer perseverance have a lot to do with justice and salvation. If you can live long enough, you may see the triumph of good with your own eyes. Being able to hang on, to wait through periods when all seems turned against you, to survive and prevail is a central activity of a Christian.

Some pastors struggle to get congregations to sing the more somber and penitential advent hymns before the favorite Christmas carols. I am not surprised. Our culture’s mindless celebration of Christmas distorts the basic truth of the season, namely, our need for redemption and what might be required of us to receive it. We gloss over our appalling sin and ruin, skip past the eager groan of creation’s need for healing. We drug ourselves against the suffering of dark nights. We grow numb and fall asleep before the TV instead of keeping alert and obedient watch for God’s saving action in our lives. We succumb to the temptation to consume more and more as we race to gratify desires.

In contrast, Christ tells us that here is where we are to linger, to stay awake, to wait and be ready,

here in the bleak and barren heart of our need.

Timing is everything. Should one push, move ahead and make something happen or lay low, wait, and watch for the hand of the Lord to act? Tolerating ambiguity, not knowing and uncertainty can be excruciating. In our anxiety and fear we may take things into our own hands.

As a general rule of discernment, when in doubt, wait. The stance of faith waits, trusts, praises, and gives thanks. Faith joined with love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Why is that hard for us? Perhaps we fear that we won’t be vindicated, that our longing will not be fulfilled, that our cause will not redeemed, that things will not be made right and goodness will not prevail.

My friend with the thirteen-year-old told me her family motto: “Learn to bear what must be borne.” This stern admonition carries for me a puritanical severity, a life of gritted teeth, pursed lips, and making the best of one trial after another. But when I shared the proverb with another friend, “What a great theme for advent,” she exclaimed, seeing a possibility I had missed. My understanding shifted from regarding what must be borne as some heavy load and having to slog along through life like a drudge to the exhilarating task of the labor and delivery of a baby.

“Love in real life is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams,” observed Dostoevsky. The advent season invites us to the harsh and dreadful task of giving birth to a love that will ask more of us than we thought we could bear. Learning to bear the one who must be born, the Christ, into our lives, families, communities, and world requires us to wait, persevere, and overcome fear with faith.

As the promises of God are delivered through our lives, we can rejoice with St. Simeon, whom Orthodox Christians call “The God Receiver.” Old Simeon was waiting to see the Christ before he died. Led by the Spirit, Simeon showed up at the temple when Mary and Joseph brought their son to present him to the Lord, according to the law of Moses. Taking the infant into his arms with a heart full of love and eyes full of tears, the old man uttered these words:

Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word,
for my eyes have seen Your salvation,
a Light to lighten the Gentiles,
the Glory of Your people Israel.
Luke 2:25-32

Watch for Part Two of this series on waiting, The Promise, coming soon.

Adapted from the author’s book, Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Loretta (Ross-Gotta) F. Ross, Sheed & Ward, 2000.
The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer
Read more about prayer www.fromholyground.org,www.fromholyground.wordpress.org
Contact the author lross@fromholyground.orgwww.fbook.me/sanctuary
Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross

The Virgin Daughter of Jerusalem

A virgin is someone who is free of all false images and is detached
toward God’s dearest wish and ready to fulfill it unceasingly, as was Jesus.  Meister Eckhart

 

 My small daughter, playing with the holy family in the wooden stable sings her lullaby: Round yon urgent mother and child, holy infant so tender and wild.

 This mother, more urgent than virgin, smiles: Yes, Holy Infant tender and wild, you are so wild, so undomesticated, so radically other than anything known and familiar. No matter how hard we coax, you will not eat out of our hands, but remain out in the timber hidden in the brush. We set out bait, offerings on the snow. Cowboy theologians toss ropes into the forest and lasso decoys.  And roughrider ecclesiastics try to corral you in sedate doctrines.          

_______________

The virgin daughter of Jerusalem sings at the gate. In the dark we lay a trail of bread crumbs to our door. We wait, stilled, hushed. Come,  Lord Jesus.

But who can stand when you appear? The earth shudders, mountains topple, creatures shiver with fear. Shots ring out in the forest. Innocence awakens and moves toward us and the rough hand grasps for its lost treasure.

The virgin daughter of Jerusalem stands on the path and suddenly she is falling, falling into the blue sea into the wide sky, falling through pain and fear and despair, falling faster and faster, picking up speed, plummeting like a stone, falling through a tunnel formed at the intersection of the cross hairs in the telescopic sight aimed at redemption where opposites meet and all things come together.

She is whizzing down the tunnel like a child’s slide, sleek and silent, silver in the sun, falling free. And the kingdom does not suffer violence, and she is not taken by force and the two, who have been made for each other, delight to have found ground holy enough to hold each other’s purity, ground strong enough to bear each other’s pain. And in her joy she funnels greatness from the wideness of her hope down the narrow passage of her being into us.

So now I pray for passionate virgins who have died for love and dwell beyond the clutch and fever of desire. I pray for eccentric virgins who live on the outskirts of propriety and raise geese and talk to trees. I pray for violated virgins and their reconsecration. I pray for virgins who find the courage to reject the lie that eats away their souls and leads them down a winding path of mirages and fun house mirrors that mock Truth.

I pray for virgins who know they are only as holy as they are willing to see how horribly they have been profaned, and how horribly they profane.. . .I pray for revolutionary virgins who despise the shame and take up the suffering for the joy that awaits. I pray for virgins whose land, enclosed by strength, is untouched and guarded by a flaming sword. I pray for virgins, who with unveiled eyes gaze unflinchingly at evil and at God and live to tell the tale. I pray for virgin martyrs who are witnesses with the conviction to believe their own eyes. I pray for chaste, intrepid, impeccable virgins incapable of doubt.

I pray for virgins who apply themselves to prayer until their souls become clear focused lenses, through which we spy enlarged for us the intricate dazzling structures of divinity. And God, hidden in the forest, is magnified by them; and glory sprints across the clearing kicking up a cloud of blessing.

And I pray for a virgin with a heart which dilates. A bold virgin, who when she has grown as big as she can be, when she has come to the outer reaches of her being and all that she thinks and knows and hums to herself, will give up encompassing Plentitude. I pray for a virgin who becomes Emptiness, who will let go of her edges, the taut boundaries that separate this from that, and flinging herself like crumbs in a fragrant trail from what was once her heart to the forest will say: Let it be to me according to your word.

And the shy, tender God takes the bait. And she and holiness are won. And their child tumbles wet and wild into the wounded world to heal us with his stripes.

  

 _______________

Virgin comes from Latin and means literally slender branch, twig or shoot. The original sense of the word is a person who is one in him or herself. Such a person is free from possession and possessiveness and capable of the total giving of self, body as well as soul. The virgin aspect is that which is unpenetrated, unowned by humanity. It does not need to be validated or approved by anyone to know its own innate worth. Virgin carries much of the same intent as the word for holy, which means set apart, the temple. The parthenon (literally the virgin’s place) was the temple to Athena on the acropolis in Athens. In the New Testament virgin is used to depict the host of the redeemed in Revelation and to refer to the community as the bride of Christ. But by far the most frequent use of the word virgin is in the Bible’s figurative description of cities, nations, and communities. We often find virgin daughter as an expression for Jerusalem.

Excerpted from  Letters from the Holy Ground, Chapter 10, “Urgent Mother and Child – Holy Indifference and the Repose of the Virgin,” 39-43.

More about prayer at
www.fromholyground.org

Contact Loretta at
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

 Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross