Saturday, May 1, 2021

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy to Celebrate the Divine Feminine - May 2, 2021 - Presiders: Ann Bayly, Clare Julian Carbone, ARCWP, and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP

Welcome and Theme 

Mary Theresa: Our theme today is celebrating the Divine Feminine. 

Traditionally in the Catholic Church, the month of May was a time to celebrate Mary, the Mother of Jesus. For many, she has been and continues to be an archetype of the Divine Feminine. The Divine feminine has an ancient history in the collective psyche of humankind. Only her names have changed over the centuries. In the Christian tradition we can say that since medieval times, praying to Mary has been constant. It is as if the whole planet were one uninterrupted joyous and trusting chant to the Holy Mother, the Divine Feminine of the Holy One.

In our liturgy today, we will listen to prayers and readings that celebrate the Divine Feminine. In doing this, we balance the Divine Masculine that has dominated our faith for centuries. When we celebrate the Divine Feminine, we celebrate the equal status of women and men as leaders within our community.


Opening Prayer (Ann)

Divine Mother, we are grateful for your loving presence as we seek your guidance through our troubled times.  Help us to be alert and attentive to your great wisdom.  Awaken us to your gentle love.  Illuminate our path forward as we embrace your holy mystery.


Opening Song: Ancient Mother 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJSBqNoIqsM






LITURGY OF THE WORD


First Reading: (Kathie) A reading from Wild Mercy by Mirabai Starr


Gather your burdens in a basket in your heart. Set them at the feet of the Mother. Say, “Take this Great Mama, because I cannot carry all this shit for another minute”. And then crawl into her great lap and nestle into her ample bosom and take a nap. When you wake, the basket will still be there, but half their contents will be gone, and the other half will have resumed their ordinary shape and sizes, no longer masquerading as catastrophic, epic, chronic and toxic. The Mother will clear things out and tidy up.  She will take your compulsions and transmute them, but only if you freely offer them to her.


These are the inspired words of Mirabai Starr from her book Wild Mercy and we affirm them by saying, Amen.


Alleluia – Sung by Lynn Kinlan


Gospel: A reading from the Gospel of Luke (Terri)


But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
These are the inspired words of the Gospel writer known as Luke and we affirm them by saying, Amen.


Shared Homily – Clare Julian Carbone, ARCWP


Our theme this morning is on the Sacred Feminine. In the Jewish tradition she is known by her Hebrew name, ‘Shekinah’. The Greek equivalent of Her name, which we are more familiar with, would be ‘Sophia’. What do we mean by the Divine Feminine? Who is the Shekinah?

 

Mystical Judaism, known as Kabbalah, defines her as the Feminine face of God. Her name means, “Dwelling”. It was Shekinah, for instance, who dwelt with, guided and comforted her people through the wilderness during the Exodus. She has been likened, by many scholars, to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Mirabai Starr writes that Shekinah, “is the Life force that permeates and enlivens every form and expression of life. She is heart-centered, “an aggregate of qualities such as mercy, loving kindness, wildness, inclusiveness, radical truth telling, nurturing, relationality, community building, honoring of embodied experience, comfortable with ambiguity…  She is dishonored by uniformity”


According to Jewish tradition, the Shekinah withdrew her Presence and remains in exile except for the days of Shabbat (the Sabbath) when she is intentionally invoked and temporarily returns. Over the years I have been trying to understand why Shekinah withdrew. Why was she sent away? Very recently many of us shook our heads in disbelief once again, at the ban on same sex blessings, with the absurd reasoning that “God cannot bless sin!”  We hear our souls cry out, ‘Enough is enough. I cannot remain here any longer’.  I imagine Shekinah’s withdrawal of her Presence, was similar, except perhaps with many, many more tears. Was she too so disheartened by centuries of patriarchal demeaning of her values? 


      But all is not forever lost. According to Jewish tradition Shekinah returns every Shabbat to reassure us, bless us and invite us into her Presence once again. Mirabai Starr writes, “According to the ancient teachings, she resides in exile during the rest of the week, and on Shabbat she comes home.  It is our task to receive her. It is her task to awaken us to what is real - Love, and to whom we are - Love.” 


During Shabbat, the symbols of candle, bread and wine are used. The sacred candle is lit, by the woman of the household, who invokes Shekhinah’s temporary return. Bread is blessed and consumed in honor of the Earth and Shekhinah’s Presence in all things physical. The cup of wine is blessed – the empty chalice symbolizing our empty hearts’ longing to be filled again by her loving Presence; and. he wine, symbolic of the infinite, overflowing Love of God. We recognize this symbolism in our Eucharistic celebration, and I love the rich Jewish meanings we can be mindful of as we celebrate our own Christ centered ritual. In Mirabai’s words, Shabbat is about “reclaiming the power of love-longing; being released from the tyranny of the head, and brought back to the sovereignty of the heart”.  


As I reflect on Jesus’ life and self giving, I come to understand him as the male embodiment of the Shekinah. Jesus is described by John, as “the Word, that became flesh and dwelt among us”. Like Shekinah, Jesus dwells with us and promises to do so until the end of time.  Jesus’ life and death and resurrection are all witnesses to Shekhinah’s qualities of true Presence, nurturance, inclusiveness, radical truth telling and community building. With his every action and teaching we see the Divine Feminine principles being conveyed – especially to the males he mentored. 


I consider Jesus’ time with his male disciples, as a kind of three-year male sensitivity seminar, intended to ‘release them from the tyranny of the head and bring them back to the sovereignty of the heart’! And I wonder if after the Resurrection, when Jesus breathed on his disciples the Holy Spirit, if that indeed was the breath of the Shekinah, being permanently restored to us. Jesus our Shabbat, our Sabbath rest! He is the Light of our world and the balancing of Sacred Feminine and Masculine energies.  He is the Bread of Life, and the Cup of infinite Love filled to overflowing. My heart swells in love for his gift of restoring the Sacred Feminine to us.  In Christ, we need not be without Her loving, healing Presence, any longer.

 

And what of Mary, his mother?  Throughout history the Shekinah has come to us embodied via many feminine presences, the Green Tara, Bhakti, QuanYin, and I believe Mary as well. Given her many titles, such as Queen of Heaven and Earth, Our Lady of all the Nations, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mother of All Peoples, etc., our understanding of Mary as an embodiment of the Sacred Feminine seems crucial.


Scripture tells us little of Mary, perhaps to allow a vast opening for Spirit to inform us inwardly, in the way that she herself came to understand God’s meanings in her life, ie. “She pondered all these things in her heart”, as St. Luke reiterates in his gospel.  We too can perceive the depth of her Shekinah presence as we allow ourselves to reflect and ponder on her meaning for us.  Her icons, and her many titles give us much to contemplate. 


When I reflect on an icon of the Madonna for instance, I see the great Shekinah presence forming the young male child away from the ways of patriarchal domination, into the ways and qualities of the Feminine; the way of Presence and compassion and inclusiveness. In his own personal reflection on Mary, Carl Jung asserted that the dogma of the Assumption was “the most significant theological event since the Reformation”. He explained that the soul communicates its deepest longings via sacred images and symbols, and that the image of Mary being elevated and received into the Godhead was conveying to us the longing of the human soul to restore and elevate the role of the Feminine. 


Over the years, I personally have grown in my love and devotion of Mary, as the Sacred Feminine, as Universal Mother, as holding the potential to heal our world of its many divisions, its violence, its mindless treatment of the earth and one another, if only we could see past the tyranny of the head and behold her with the sovereignty of our hearts. If invoked she will come, nurture, bless, guide, inspire and heal us. What meaning does the Sacred Feminine hold for you? How may you experience the Divine Feminine Presence?


Statement of Faith


Mary Theresa: Please join in proclaiming our Statement of Faith.


Dave: We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery
beyond all definition and rational understanding,
the heart of all that has ever existed,
that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of the Divine Word,
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion,
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's
prophets, mystics, and saints.

 We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of divine love,
a source of wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of peace in the world.

We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One,
the life that is our innermost life,
the breath moving in our being,
the depth living in each of us.

We believe that the Divine kin-dom is here and now,
stretched out all around us for those
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,
and hands to make it happen.



LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST


Dennis: As we prepare for this sacred meal we remember that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. We bring to this table our blessings, our gratitude and our cares and concerns. 

We bring to the table….. 


Dennis:  We pray for these and all unspoken prayers and blessings. Amen.


Ann:  O Holy One, you have been called by many names by many people in the centuries of our planet’s life. Yet, no name truly defines you or describes you.  We celebrate you as the marvelous, loving energy of life who caused us and our world to be. We celebrate you as the Source of light and life and love, and we celebrate your presence and all-ways care.


Mary Theresa: Please join in praying the Eucharistic prayer together: 

WomanSpirit Rising written by Jay Murnane.


O Holy One, You give us life, and we live and breathe with your Spirit. You create us female and male; You call us good, and we live as equal partners. You share the earth with us, and we, as co-creators with you, complement your ongoing activity of creation.


Among all our blessed ancestors, we celebrate the women who gently and firmly confronted the structures of oppression in their times with unique vision and compassion: Sarah, Deborah, Judith, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Anna, Miriam of Nazareth, Julian, Hildegard, and so many more.


United with them, with WomenSpirit rising, with our Mother-Planet and her people everywhere, with one another and You, O Holy One, our spirits dance and sing this song of praise: 


Holy, Holy, Holy

https://youtu.be/sgkWXOSGmOQ 



Joan: We give grateful thanks for all your faithful servants, opening for all of us a path to life. We are thankful for all the women who risked everything they had so that all of us could live in a better, brighter world.


We give grateful thanks for our brother, Jesus who showed us so simply, so tenderly, how the world is in our hands.  He showed us how to be free of the blindness and paralysis of fear. 


He had nothing in this world but your love, companions on the journey, and his very self. Together, that was more than enough, and that remains our clarity in the midst of confusion: the miracle of healing, new hope, nurturance, nourishment, liberation and life.


Ann: Please extend your hands in blessing.  

 
We are ever aware of your Spirit in us and among us at this Eucharistic table and we are grateful for this bread and wine which reminds us of our call to be the body of Christ in the world. 


On the night before he faced his own death and for the sake of living fully, Jesus sat at supper with his companions and friends.  He reminded them of all that he taught them, and to fix that memory clearly within them, he bent down and washed their feet.


All lift their plate and pray the following:


When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the Passover bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:

Take and eat; this is my very self.


All lift their cup and pray the following:


Mary Theresa: He then raised high the cup of the covenant, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying: 


Take and drink.

Whenever you remember me like this, I am among you.


What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives, 

As we share communion, we become communion

Both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.


Please receive communion with the words: The Divine Feminine is within me.


Communion Meditation: Requiem by Eliza Gilkyson dedicated to COVID-19 victims

https://youtu.be/wRJfOfUYXT0 


Prayer After Communion


Clare Julian: O Holy One, we have felt deeply the barrenness of our lives and of our community. Yet, we have always been pregnant with your creative Word and your life-giving Spirit. 


We make new our commitment to the harmony of the original vision of creation living

justly, loving tenderly, and walking this earth with integrity.  We will bind and blind and burden no longer and use our gifts only for life.


We will open up wide all that has been closed about us, and our small circles. Like Jesus, and Mary, we are filled with your Spirit and with You, we renew the face of the earth.


for it is through living as Jesus and Mary lived,

That we awaken to your Spirit within,

Moving us to glorify you,

O Holy One,

At this time and all ways.

Amen. 


Ann: Let us pray as Jesus taught us:


Holy One, you are within, around and among us.  

We celebrate your many names. 

Your wisdom come; your will be done, 

unfolding from the depths within us. 

Each day you give us all that we need. 

You remind us of our limits and we let go. 

You support us in our power, and we act with courage. 

For you are the dwelling place within us, 

the empowerment around us, 

and the celebration among us,  

now and forever, Amen.  

                                Adapted by Miriam Therese Winter 



BLESSING

Ann: Please extend your hands as we bless each other. 


Holy One, you continue to send us marvelous messengers.  Please bless us with Divine Feminine Wisdom as we ponder in our hearts the things we heard today. As we reflect on the healing that our communities cry out for, let us remember that real change happens in the sovereignty of hearts. 


Mary Theresa: Please join in singing our Closing Song


Woman Spirit by Karen Drucker

https://youtu.be/K4UTqvXeyl8




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