Tag Archives: Mary

Heroes

 

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Last evening the “Women in Waiting” workshop series began with a friendly but rough start. People were stressed from difficult lives of juggling children, jobs, court cases and memories. A couple arrived late and some were no shows – or so we thought.

The contemplation part got off to a belated start with a rushed quiet time. We listened to some soft Taize music and breathed or not breathed, as was our need. I gave them the heads up that the instrumental piece was 5 minutes long. It was a good way to re-orient us from our busy lives and the long commute to get there. Amidst sisterly annoyance, hugs and ‘no you’re not late’, joie de vivre begins.

Much of the contemplation time was taken up by telling the stories of women. We imagined ourselves into the life story of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was a devout Jew. Her life was difficult too. We recognized her courage in telling the angel that she would willingly bear God’s Son. She found comfort in her visit with Elizabeth who was pregnant miraculously in her old age (as prophesied). We talked of her feelings atop that donkey at almost 9 months pregnant and finding no place to give birth right away. We see her mystified when Jesus at 12 years old teaches in the synagogue. Her grief was discussed when she was present at the cross and the strangeness and joy she must have experienced at the resurrection. We recalled that Jesus had asked John to look after her.

The conversation progressed to a recognizing of more modern heroes: Malala, Queen Elizabeth II, Gabby Giffords. The name of Anne Frank was raised and a World War II personal family story was told. I thought of Corrie Ten Boom, Teresa of Calcutta, and Teresa of Avila, Julianna of Norwich, Kim Campbell, Adrienne Clark, Alison Redford… All were women with feet of clay – some celebrated, some not so much. Our desire as women of seemingly ordinary lives is to live well, to flourish, and to be heroes if only of our own stories.

The evening continued with more people arriving and being let in on stories and instructions. The ideas of saints and collagists and the era of Dadaism filled the excited air. Our times too are filled with uncertainty and turmoil. Some have life decisions in the hands of judges, of doctors and of counselors – and some of God (if not all).

We collaged women and shadows, text and flowers, colour, paper, images all a seamless mash-up of art mixed with life. Once there, no one wanted to leave. As I drove home tired and happy they chatted in the halls and dark driveway of the church. A Dieu dear ones – until next week.

Messy Christmas

“Are you ready to have the perfect Christmas? No? Don’t worry, you are in good company. The first Christmas was hardly perfect, so maybe the mess and muddle of an imperfect Christmas is the best situation in which to welcome.”  Roger Dawson SJ

As an oldest child in sibling order, I do not like messes.  I feel calm when things are clean, tidy and in place.  Paradoxically, as a collagist, a confusion of paper, paint and found objects are the tools of my trade.   Yet the experience of Christmas – that holy culmination of all that is good – is expected to be pretty close to perfection.

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Christmas Desk 2013 DS

I watched the movie “On Strike for Christmas” (2010) and it did my heart good.  Why not strike if we have to pull off the perfect Christmas by ourselves?   However, even with the family learning the lesson of helping and giving at Christmas, the ‘perfect’ Christmas came up short for me.

I have spent time this season oscillating between positively answering if I am ready for Christmas and the negative self-talk that goes with trying to bring order out of chaos.  I am ready.  My gifts were bought and wrapped early, the cards sent by (the soon to be extinct?) Canada Post or by e-cards.    The house is as clean as it gets.  Food is bought. Image

 

Christmas ‘Tree’ 2013 DS

Yet my complaints are there.  My ‘tree’ is not a tree but a bouquet of branches easy to assemble.  The beautiful white snow for Christmas Eve is now replaced with slush.  People are not coming on the right days.  Some people are missing.  Someone sneezed on me yesterday.  I could go on.

Over the month of December I told the story of Mary in the workshops.  I read and discussed from the book of Luke.  My presentation was enriched by having watched the movie “Mary” (Maria di Nazaret 2010) on Netflix.  Mary, on close inspection, and contrary to the beauty of Christmas plays, must have had a very messy Christmas.

Things were definitely not as they ‘should’ have been.  First of all, even though she was from a good family with a godly upbringing, she became pregnant without being married.  Many women throughout history can attest to the grave difficulties that can bring.  Case in point is the story of “Philomena” now playing in a theatre near you. 

Mary had to face her fiancée, her family and her community alone.  Mary could have been sent away or even stoned to death in that ancient culture.  I am not sure that her reputation ever recovered.

Mary needed to travel on a donkey to a foreign country when she was almost due to deliver her child.  (I can remember how painful a bumpy car ride was for me when I was pregnant.)  The place where they thought they could stay turned them away in their hour of need.

 All of this was discussed by the women in the December “Contemplation and Christmas Collage” workshop series.  They remembered their own difficulties and fears in pregnancy and childbirth.  They spoke that final workshop.  One precious woman seated next to me ‘sang’ the requested carols with only sounds.  That touched me and in a way validated my being there.

(Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.) 

Before I left the collage workshop that last day we also recalled how the messiness of the First Christmas was energized by the Holy Spirit into a collage of great love come down.  “God with us – Emmanuel” was his name.  Mary’s story was filled with messages from angels.  God’s provision kept her calm in her difficulties.  The presence of Jesus brought the true meaning of Christmas.  Only God’s order could make sense of that chaos.

It is always so.  The messy Christmas that we all more or less experience is only truly made peaceful by not just the story of ‘God with us’ but by God’s very presence.  May we notice the difference in our celebrations and in our disappointments that not being alone brings in Christmas 2013.  A collage of love right now sounds good.

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Christmas Still Life 2013 DS