Jesus Didn't Die for My Sins

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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,

Kate

A Triduum Trillium, one of the first wildflowers of spring!

A Triduum Trillium, one of the first wildflowers of spring!

Foundations Part 1: The Inconvenient Jesus

I was not intending to return to the Catholic Church.  As a queer woman with somewhat radical and visionary leanings, I like many have struggled to find my place within the religion of empire that has left such a huge scar on the planet and on my own being.  I left the church of my upbringing in 2009 to dive deeply into my own healing journey, which included a blend of intensive therapy, yoga, relational work, art, meditation, and other modalities.  A large portion of my healing revolved around addressing spiritual and religious trauma experienced within patriarchal and homophobic religious and familial culture.  Also like many, I turned to Eastern traditions (the Goddess tradition of Yoga, specifically), in large part for their more relatable imagery of the divine and embodiment practices that for the first time supported me in experiencing the Incarnation not as an abstract theological idea but as something enfleshed in my own physical body.

And then about a year and a half ago, I had a quite literal Come-To-Jesus moment.  

I was meditating in a side chapel of Santa Fe’s cathedral, ruminating on a problem I was having that I just couldn’t seem to figure out.  I’d been chewing on this situation for weeks, and as I sat in the chapel, which just happened to be the chapel of St. Joseph, I looked up and saw the image of Jesus on the cross of San Damiano—the same cross, I recognized, before which St Francis of Assisi had his conversion.  I found myself just starting to talk to Jesus—saying, Ok Jesus.  I'm sure you dealt with things like this.  How do I get through?  What am I missing?  What am I supposed to do?  

And then something happened that I didn’t see with my eyes or hear with my ears, but knew—could sense—in my very being.  A sphere of golden light surrounded me and I heard the words: Why are YOU trying to figure that out?  Don’t you know I’ve got your back?  Whatever you’re worrying about—I’m already on it.  And then these words, which will never sound as potent as I experienced them: All you have to do is open your heart to the power of my love.  

With that I felt as if 1,000 pounds had lifted from my body and I breathed the biggest sigh of relief I think I’ve ever breathed.  I had this true and absolutely certain sense that everything was getting worked out, and all I had to do from this day forward was ask for my daily assignment, do my best with it, and let everything else be handed over.  To assume more was up to me was prideful—and I finally recognized the hubris in the way I’d been operating, as if I in my thinking mind was in charge of anything.  It was the most humbling and freeing experience I had ever had and have ever had since.

I went into what I can only describe as an semi-altered state that lasted some 4-6 weeks.  I started waking up between 4-5am with just a burning heart to do my practices, move my body, and go to daily mass.  Even though the nearby Catholic church was conservative and stuffy, I felt compelled to receive the Eucharist as true spiritual food, and for the first time ever, it felt nourishing.  I felt joyful upon rising and content upon laying down for bed.  What was profound and vital on top of that, was that I had the awareness that I was in a state that wasn’t necessarily going to last—and I felt peaceful about that, like I’d be ready to let it go when the time came.  Somehow, however long this lasted, I knew the scales had tipped for good.  Jesus had become a very real and felt presence to me, and I just had this knowing that, whatever followed, I was being transformed.

Even in my state of glow, I also felt totally annoyed.  Why was Jesus, of all Holy Beings, showing up for me now after I’d just spent years and thousands of dollars on therapy extracting myself from Jesus-indoctrination?!  It felt very inconvenient.  

The inconvenience would only magnify when, about two months later, I attended an inter-spiritual meditation retreat and met a Roman Catholic Woman Priest.  I was in a small group of women, and we each took turns sharing faith stories.  I went first, sharing pieces about growing up Catholic, coming out as Queer in college, leaving the church, finding yoga, knowing I had a call to spiritual leadership but not really knowing what that was suppose to look like.  When the next woman shared, it was of a wandering journey from a Protestant upbringing to this and that, then falling in with some Catholics, taking some graduate courses.  “And then,” she said, “I converted to Catholicism…and now I’m a Catholic Priest.”  

Literally, my jaw dropped and I burst into tears.  

Looking back, I think I had known about the RCWP movement peripherally (you can find out more here), but it was as if I was hearing about it for the very first time.  I was struck with a profound sense of equal amounts purpose and terror.  I avoided this woman for the next 24 hours, but by the last day of the retreat finally summoned the courage to go talk to her.  “I think I need to hear more about this how-it-is-you-are-a-Catholic-Priest thing.”  She gave me the name of a woman priest who was closer to my home town.  I put the name in my pocket, went home from the retreat, and did nothing with it for three months.  

It’s taken me over a year and a half of bargaining with the Divine about my calling to finally give in to this unmistakable current.  I have begun the process of discernment towards ordination as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, with lots of clear pieces to the puzzle, but not a completely clear way of how they are all going to fit together.  

It's within this current that my work emerges.  Read more here about some of the core pieces shaping my vision, vocation, and the founding principles of my work: Sacred Feminism, Intersectionality, Bridge-building, Embodiment, Deep Ecology, and Visionary Community.