"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hymn: Truly Our Sister

Mother God, Wisdom creating, womb of the cosmos, have mercy on us;
Jesus Christ, Wisdom incarnate, lion of Judah, have mercy on us;
Spirit Sophia, Wisdom transforming, fountain of glory, have mercy on us;
Holy Trinity, God in unity, dancing in beauty, have mercy on us.

(If you know who created this please tell me so I can give credit--I copied too fast and can't find it now).

Maiden most powerful, maiden most merciful, maiden most faithful, pray for us;
Unwed teenager, called by an angel, shamed in your village, pray for us;
Joseph’s beloved, friend of Elizabeth, singer of prophecy, pray for us;
Holy Mary, mother of God, cause of our joy, pray for us.

(Image:John Collier)

Mother most powerful, mother most merciful, mother most faithful, pray for us;
Riding to Bethlehem, shouting in labor, nursing the Savior, pray for us;
Off’ring your firstborn, seeking your lost son, pierced with a sword, pray for us;
Holy Mary, mother of God, refuge of sinners, pray for us.

Queen most powerful, queen most merciful, queen most faithful, pray for us;
Mystical rose, throne of wisdom, mirror of justice, pray for us;
Ark of the covenant, star of the sea, vessel of healing light, pray for us;
Holy Mary, mother of God, help of Christians, pray for us.

Crone most powerful, crone most merciful, crone most faithful, pray for us;
Holy widow, crowned with sacred fire, speaking in many tongues, pray for us;
Preaching the good news, breaking the bread of life, reborn to heaven’s feast, pray for us;
Holy Mary, mother of God, first priest of Jesus, pray for us.

(Image by Yolanda Lopez)

Text: Dr. Laura Marie Grimes, copyright 2010
Tune: Hyfrydol 8 7 8 7 D (Alleluia, Sing to Jesus)

I am a literal Vatican II Catholic, having been born and baptized in 1965 as the Council ended. I am also one of the uber-earliest Gen-Xers and, since my parents embraced atheism shortly thereafter, share a pattern common to many of us: being raised as religious nones and discovering faith and spiritual practice at the time when many church-raised teens and college students question or rebel against faith. My mother in particular lived out her open minded values by being wonderfully supportive of my choice (and later did the same as a Grandma by giving Nick and Katie Veggie Tales videos). I rode my bike to mass and confession but since Confirmation class was at night she drove me every Tuesday night in tenth and eleventh grade (I had an amazing Latina the first year and teddy bear Carmelite priest the second, and they treated me as something of a teaching assistant to the seventh and eighth graders).

We had a wonderful party at which both parents were gently ribbed by my still-practicing aunts and uncles, and I still remember her moving words about honoring my path and beliefs as she gave me a beautiful gold cross beforehand. And they sent me north from LA to a Jesuit university because, as she matter-of-factly remarked, "You seem to be really serious about this Catholic thing, which means you'll probably want to marry a Catholic, and you'll probably meet him in college." This of course reflected their generation's timing. I was actually on the early side for mine since I met (Protestant!) ComputerGuy in grad school at Notre Dame).

This blog and the ministry it reflects are, of course, the fruits of an amazing formation in spirituality, social justice, and academic theology from the Jebbies at Santa Clara--my friends sometimes referred to me as "Laura Grimes, SJ." I also attended daily mass, worked in our California mission chapel as a sacristan and "church mouse"=chair mover, and served in a variety of liturgical ministries including using voice and guitar to lead one of the four rotating folk groups for Saturday and Sunday nights. During a musicians' retreat we played a call and response creative song and one friend named my co-leader as she sang out: "Laura Grimes knows lots of men--hey la-di, la-di, la; one of the cute one's name is Ben--hey la-di, la-di, la." Everyone collapsed in laughter as another one capped it with: "Laura knows lots of men, it's true--hey la-di, la-di, la; but they're all priests so she is blue!; he la-di, la-di, la."

Those liturgies were wonderful and holy, but very informal--absolutely living up to the old quip "Lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week!" I was gifted a breviary sophomore year by an aunt and uncle but didn't experience a public and formal Liturgy of the Hours in the Mission till junior summer with the arrival of a couple of nuns who joined the Religious Studies faculty to start a graduate program. Likewise, it was grad school friends--first a very close friend in the graduate women's apartments who got engaged, married, and pregnant just a little before I did, and later the amazing community in married student housing--who introduced me to rich devotions like the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

I was intrigued by a few invocations in the Litany of Loreto but didn't really claim ownership of that until years late when I was studying Latin in Rome for a month and combining Italian practice with spiritual formation by daily mass, vespers, and/or rosary at a marvelous variety of art-drenched churches. The Chiesa Nuova, San Filippo Neri's church, had a very convenient liturgy which coincided with my bus transfer, and the litany was prayed right afterwards. My linguistic skills were challenged and improved by the amusing little mini-war between the old ladies, who led it in Latin and from memory, and the young German Oratorian who was an excellent preacher and took his turns in Italian. Years later I put together the litany, the mysteries of the rosary, the Scripture passages about Mary, and the four stages of women's lives into this hymn honoring the real gritty Mary I blogged about in yesterday's "theology of the butt" post and Gabriel did a while back. Enjoy!

Readers of Catholic feminist theology will recognize the title as belonging to Sr./Dr. Elizabeth Johnson's book on Mary, which I actually find well-meaning but not her strongest work--especially in abandoning her early advocacy of Mary as a reflection of Mother God. Her brilliant and totally orthodox (Thomist, in fact) systematic theological work, She Who Is, is a classic and is reflected in the first trinitarian verse.

The early and medieval church were not just unthreatened by but deeply enamored of Holy Wisdom, the most common divine feminine image in Scripture. It was absolutely understood that the feminine figure of Sophia/Hochmah/Wisdom in Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sirach was the pre-existent Second Person/Logos, which meant that one of Arius' strongest arguments was Proverbs 8:22 about God creating Her before everything else. Athanasius was too exegetically and theologically sound to deny the identification so he worked back from John's Prologue and proposed the better translation of bringing forth or begetting! I am always grieved that the usual hostility between traditional and feminist Catholics has to date worked against that common-ground, spiritually fruitful rediscovery. It's sometimes lonely but increasingly joyful to have been blessed by wise and holy sisters and brothers on both sides and to be called to cross and build bridges. And that's symbolized by being, I'm guessing, the only Catholic blogger in captivity whose labels include both "theology of the body" and "feminist theology"!

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