In honor of the Divine Feminine and in anticipation of a presentation at the upcoming Senior Retreat, I offer this guest blog by Candyce Rennegarbe, a UCUCC member and spiritual director, who lives in Tacoma. I invited Candyce to share her story of the Divine Feminine and this is what she wrote. – Pastor Todd
In May, I spent two weeks traveling in Israel and Jordan – The Holy Land – hoping to hear the voice of our Mother God/Feminine Spirit among all the sacred places of so many faiths. On our first traveling day, we drove from Tel Aviv first to Jaffa and then to Nazareth where we stopped at the Church of the Annunciation and gazed at pictures of Mary donated from countries all over the world. I specifically looked for the image of a Dove as the dove was recognized as a symbol of the mother goddess in Crete and Sumer in earliest times. The Hebrews also used the dove to represent Spirit, as the Hebrew word, Ruach, is a feminine word meaning indwelling spirit of God.
Before I left on my trip, I read Ruth Ann Lonardelli’s book, Another Way Home, in particular her retelling of the baptism of Jesus. She tells us that the face of the divine shows up in the form of a dove as Jesus was being baptized. The title of this chapter in her book is called Hearing Her Voice. What moved me was the way she tells the story using these words. It seems fitting that the feminine face of the divine would show up in this story of spiritual transformation in the form of the dove and the great, compassionate mother voice: “This is my son, whom I love.” Jesus receives added blessing and assurance of his deep connection to Mother God, the regenerative source of compassion, healing, and wisdom. (89) Why had I always pictured this as Father God and never Mother God when hearing or reading this story?
All of life is holy and we desire and need to see holy faces and hear holy voices that look and sound like us.
A child loves to see a doll or super hero that has his/her color hair or skin and how important to see a woman preaching in the church as well. This has not been a common experience for women who were raised in our patriarchal culture of the last 2,000 years. Our world is still not honoring women when we need a #Me Too movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, when women’s access to abortion is limited, and while women receive unequal pay. How crazy is it that a commonality among the male mass shooters in attacks across our country is hating women? One of the reasons I joined this church is because the words to The Lord’s Prayer are now – Our Father and Mother allowing me to feel included instead of left out.
While in Jordan, I visited an art collective of mostly women working in mosaics. I was shocked when I looked at a large mosaic on the wall of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. In looking closely at the mosaic picture, there were two women featured prominently; the one sitting next to Jesus was not John but Mary Magdalene according to Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. I asked if I could talk to the artist who created this mosaic and soon a woman in a wheel chair came over to me. When I asked her to tell me the story of the women in the picture, she proudly told me that this was designed after the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece and she makes sure that there is no trouble in seeing the figures as women as of course there were women disciples. We both were delighted to share our passion for Mary Magdalene and her role as a leader and teacher with Jesus.
I began my mini-obsession with Mary Magdalene about 30 years ago when reading Margaret Starbird who dared to suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, had a child, and escaped to the southern coast of France. Now wouldn’t that have been a different story! When I think about what it is that has made Mary Magdalene so important to me, it comes down to two thoughts. One is that my gut and now my scholarship has always told me that male dominated anything is not the norm and should not be the norm. That way of living in power over another and not power with another is not life giving and centered in love as Jesus preached. There had to be female disciples and more female wisdom leaders throughout history.
And I am drawn to Mary Magdalene as a beacon who is still calling out to me and others to believe in a new life that can be different when female and male are united.
Mary Magdalene matters because she has been erased from history because of misogyny and fear and we need her at this time in history. Mary Magdalene matters because she was the Apostle to the Apostles and a leader of her own right of the Christian movement who was silenced and falsely discredited as being a prostitute. She is speaking to us now to embody that all are welcome and all voices need to be heard. She is speaking to us now to care for the Earth. She is speaking to us now in love and compassion reminding us to listen to and trust the indwelling Spirit in each of us.
I love this poem from an anonymous writer who speaks of life giving energy in the way the beginning of Genesis does. Hear Her Voice. Elaine Pagels shares it from her book Why Religion Matters. It was written before 300CE and found among the Gnostic source materials at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945. (199)
I live in everyone, and I delve into them all . . .
I move in every creature . . .
I am the invisible one in all beings . . .
I am a voice speaking softly. . .
I am the real voice . . .the voice from the invisible thought . . .
It is a mystery . . .I cry out in everyone . . .
I hid myself in everyone, and revealed myself within them,
And every mind seeking me longs for me . . .
I am she who gradually brought forth everything . . .
I am the image of the invisible spirit . . .
The mother, the light. . .the virgin . . .the womb, and the voice. .
I put breath within all beings.