Saturday, December 8, 2018

Mary Eileen Collingwood ARCWP: Homily for the Second Sunday in Advent/Immaculate Conception, 2018

There is much written and proclaimed about the season of Advent.  We often are directed to reflect on spiritually birthing anew Jesus for our time, and on his eternal companionship.  And this, of course, is all good.
However, by directing our minds to Jesus during this time, we totally miss the point that the Advent Season is really about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  It is about her pregnancy and carrying and waiting for her child to be born.  It is about her body cradling and protecting the baby that is growing and maturing in her womb.  It is about waiting for the birth of this child under very rough circumstances.  It’s about her willingness to do this.  And we wait with her, anticipating this new life for ourselves, as well as its impact on our world.
So, today, within this Advent Season, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
And so, I ask, quite sincerely and honestly:  Why is it that the men of the church come up with celebrations for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, without consulting women?
By asking this question, I mean no disrespect to Mary, nor any disrespect to women.  After all, why would I?  How this feast day got included in the liturgical calendar had nothing to do with Mary OR women.  It had—and has-- everything to do with the mindset of church MEN.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception centers on the belief that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was conceived without sin—which at the time of the promulgation of this church teaching in Dec. of 1854 by Pope Pius IX, meant that Mary did not inherit any sinful residue that all of us other unfortunates supposedly did via the teaching that sin entered the world through the actions of a woman, Eve.
As the story goes, because Eve was curious and ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree that God made off limits to her and Adam, sin entered the world—up till then there was no recorded sin in this Garden of Eden-- and this act of Eve’s caused all children born from then on to be born in sin—kind of a hereditary disease of sort.  Thus, the church’s teaching on “original sin.”  This bizarre idea was an answer to why, thousands of years later, people made poor choices and acted badly – they sinned.
How come no one even imagined that sin could have entered the world through the Creator’s fashioning of human beings who were given a free choice—to choose what they wanted to do or think or believe; thus, not always making good choices, not always making choices that reflected the goodness of their Creator?  In fact, some of their choices were and continue to be downright evil.  
Now, let’s think this through: 
#1: The story of Adam and Eve is a myth.  A myth in the sense that it is a story that tells a certain truth, although the story line isn’t necessarily true.  So over thousands of years, there were faith filled men who decided they should write down how and why they came to believe the things they hold as true.  The stories were created by the imagination of those writers to explain how it could have happened…. Again, no idea that all human beings had a choice; rather, believing in the mindset that it was a woman’s fault.  
#2: The church has always thought of sexual intercourse as a necessity to populate the earth, and never revered it as being a holy action.  The men perceived through instinct, observation and personal experience, that when they were in the throes of sexual activity, they did not have complete control of their minds and actions.  Things naturally just proceeded and intercourse occurred.  In ancient times, not having complete control of your mind and actions was not considered good for anyone, and certainly not holy.  In fact, experiencing sexual climax was considered an insane moment!
And, if Christianity was to proclaim that the Son of God was to be born, the person that would carry this child in her womb must be without blemish of any sin—after all, it was thought absolutely impossible that this God-baby could ever rest and grow within a sinful environment, especially, a woman’s womb! 
#3: Now if you are following all of this, you also know that since women bleed every month, and the Hebrew understanding of this was that they are unclean during this time, it was tantamount to teach that this woman, Mary, be remembered as a spotless virgin, because the God-baby could never be born in an unclean vessel.

And, if that’s the case, then did Mary bleed every month, as most women of childbearing age do, or was that taken away from her?
If she didn’t bleed every month, how could she have physically given birth to Jesus without any blood appearing—because, as you know, birthing a child is very bloody.  And if she did bleed every month, and then all of a sudden stopped so that the Son of God would develop in her womb, now, that would have been very miraculous and go against every facet of how the Creator fashioned the woman’s body to nurture her developing baby.  Nutrients come through the blood flowing freely through her body.  That’s just a fact.  That’s the way we were created.  And God said, this is very good.
Wow!  What a messy situation we have on our hands! 
According to the Hebrew understanding-- and of course this, too, was held by the Hebrew MEN-- the word “blood” in Hebrew means a life source, that’s why you will often hear me proclaim, the “Cup of Life” when I hand you the cup at communion time.  Yet when a WOMAN bleeds, it means not only is she not a life source, but that she must be considered “unclean.”
Could it possibly be that the authors of such teachings needed to keep women in their place, and maintain control over the common people by convincing them that they were not conceived from an “original blessing,” but from an “original sin?”
Could it possibly be that they felt the need to keep control using male domination and dictate what holiness really meant?
Could it possibly be that they did not, and still do not, believe that women are fully human and equal with men, and therefore, the need to be directed and guided by men in their sexual lives and religious practices?
Could it possibly be that they believe that a man loses his senses and control in the throes of sexual passion due to the “wiles of women?”  That doesn’t really answer it for those men who suffer from pedophilia, psychosexual disfunctions, or find themselves homosexually oriented now, does it?
And poor Mary of Nazareth, who the churchmen tell us had to give up her God- given capacity to copulate and bear a child as her Creator had fashioned for her! 
What we want to remember and anticipate during this holy season of Advent my friends, is not the claim that Mary was a virgin and God plopped a bloodless embryo in her body; but rather the wonderful, creative event when the young Mary of Nazareth became pregnant, nourishing her unborn child with the nutrients of her body, and birthed a baby, her son, Jesus.  And we, as a faith community, can do that for one another:  we are pregnant with new life and energy, we nourish one another by our companionship and community worship, giving of our very selves, for the continued life of the world.
The Word of God in the wilderness is being spoken today to and through women as it was then in the beginning, with the “assumed” barren Elizabeth, and the young, betrothed Mary.
Like them, let us not be afraid to dream dreams and engage visions that are the foundation for our prophetic voices to proclaim the loving tenderness of our God who continually comes to be with us.  Emmanuel.

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