Today the moon has ripened into fullness. It's the second day of Passover, and what my spiritual tradition of origin calls Holy Saturday. I write to you from a small retreat center in Lacey where my faith community sets up camp from Wednesday of Holy Week until Easter Sunday for the ancient 72 rite of the Triduum. Considered one continuous liturgy, I am learning that the early Christians gathered at this time in community to re-enact the rite of unity and belonging--baptism--and initiate new members into their circle, a subversive family of equals imagining and imperfectly living into a new non-violent non-hierarchical way of being that honored the One-ness and beauty of all things.
One of my women-priest mentors, Kathleen, was sharing with us last night that the earliest Christian baptismal fonts were called "womb-tombs", adorned with images of uteri (that's right, lady parts), and the equidistant cross (seen above, a cross that shows up in spiritual traditions worldwide, symbolizing the four directions, universal balance of polarities, and the tensions of all human experience and struggle--NOT, contrary to contemporary imagery of this season, the cross of Jesus' execution). This whole season and ritual was deeply embodied, feminine, sensual, and "fecund" as my other mentor, Diane, likes to describe it.
Not the kind of Easter story you know? Not the cross of deliverance from sin? I know. It's a new story I too am learning, or re-learning as I swim back upstream to the spiritual birthplace of my ancestry. I don't have all the pieces yet (so enter kindly with me into these new lands) but it's terribly intriguing and reviving to the part of me that has loved the ritual and mystery of Christian stories and mysticism but has been severely turned off and traumatized by the rigidity and dogma. I've come to realize that Jesus didn't die for my sins (because I didn't need him to because I am good and so are you because God/dess breathed us into being and called us GOOD).
But he did die, my ancestors' stories say. And yet somehow, in the wake of his death, the terrified community of his closest friends realized something about the Christ's ever-presence in the Unity of all things that freed them from paralyzing fear and breathed back into them life and hope and care for each other and their neighbor and the poor and the exile, even under the violently oppressive hand of Empire. Easter-as-rememberance-and-baptism-into-Unity...that I can get behind, and it feels very alive for me as I've kept vigil these past two nights beside the Easter fire and under the ripening moon. (To be clear, I'm also not just making this up as "feel good" revisionism. This is actual original theology of Easter and the Cross. Ask the Eastern Orthodox, or read Saving Paradise, my newest book on the summer break reading list). Here, amidst moonlight and candlelight, I also happen to be on my bleed--and I can see and sense the Goddess as well as my ancestors as we move through something ancient speaking to something present and unfolding into a future that is still being born...
Re-experiencing Jesus as one of my ancestors has been profound, transformative and healing. (You can read more about here, if you didn't read my blog post from last summer). The journey with Jesus at this Easter time is the hero's journey into the underworld and back again, the mother's watching and waiting while life stirs in her hidden darkness. It plunges us into the depth of human struggle, the polarity of joy and grief, the deep grounding of roots that allows shoots to push out of the dirt, the paradoxical union of life and death. Even if you're not a Jesus person (and I TOTALLY get it if you're not!) I invite you to come with me, in your own way, under this ripened moon into the deep--perhaps with one of these brief grounding meditations and few minutes of quiet contemplation with the following questions:
What is your spiritual ancestry? What gifts has it given you? What wounds or struggles? When you get quiet and ask your Inner Wisdom what is the next step on your spiritual path, what do you hear, sense, see feel or know? What tensions are you dwelling in? What is there to go deeper into, face, properly feel, grieve, clear, or allow to die in order that you might see more clearly the goodness that is you and our wide wondrous world?
In Ripening and Renewal,