Sunday, December 13, 2009

FINDING JOY ON THE VLTAVA RIVER PRAGUE

This morning my good friends, Becky and Alicia, together with Becky's mom, who is visiting from the US, came over to my apartment to celebrate an informal lesbian, feminist Eucharist, before the four of us would head over to the Four Seasons for their spectacular Sunday champagne brunch. Alicia works in another international school here and Becky works for the film industry as a casting agent, looking for suitable young actors for the many foreign films that are shot in Prague - and this is how we met. Though Becky would 'bristle' to hear me refer to her in this manner, she definitely has the 'feminist' touch. She's been in my apartment before on a number of occasions and is familiar with my small altar placed against the living room wall. However, I also have a built-in mahogany shelf that runs across the front of the room in front of the four plate glass windows that overlook the Vltava River, the famous Moldau of Smetana. This morning Becky suggested we celebrate the Eucharist on this beautiful shelf overlooking the river, since the Eucharist is all about 'communing with the divine feminine throughout the cosmos.' Very Teilhardian, Becky. And so the four of us sat on chairs and stools by the window, gazing out at the gently flowing, dark green waters of the Vltava, while we celebrated our Eucharistic communion with one another and with the divine feminine. We make up our own prayers, following the rough outline of the Catholic liturgy, but all references to Father and Lord are replaced with Divine Mother and Goddess.

Out of respect for Becky's and Alicia's 'feminist' leanings, I composed the following "Our Father.'

Most Holy Mother of the Cosmos, give us today the liberating grace to recognize your presence within all living things. Give us today the joyful awareness of our union with You, in whom we live and move and have our being. We are all one in your loving, maternal embrace. May your will flow through our lives unimpeded by ego. May you give us the sustenance we need to sustain our lives, so we may better witness to your Presence as the Unity that lies behind all forms. May we forgive one another as you have eternally forgiven each one of us. May we recognize our need for forgiveness for all the harm we have caused our fellow creatures and the Cosmos itself. O Mother of the Universe, Divine Womb of Fecundity and Creativity, Source of all Goodness and all Joy, grant us peace and the grace to recognize your loving presence within every trial, within every test. Give us the grace to accept   the heartaches of life, knowing they are the most tender signs of your loving, maternal embrace, purifying us of ego and removing the obstacles that impede our unity.  Give us, as well, the taste of your passionate outrage, empower us to stand up for truth and justice, resisting all the forces that  seek to destroy your most holy unity.  Most Holy Mother, lead us through the time of trial, and in the image of your Son Jesus, bring us to the morning joy of Resurrection when we will all be one family in your loving, maternal Divine Heart.

This was such a tender, moving experience of community this morning, with four very different human beings from different walks of life. Alicia was raised a Methodist, Becky a Catholic, but she was 'almost abused' as a young girl by her pastor, who groped her one morning in the sacristy. He patted her right buttock, then laughed and trying to cover his shame and make a joke of it, said, "Ooops, better not miss the other one," and squeezed her left buttock as well. Becky says, "I was fourteen years old, just getting to terms with my new body, still confused as hell, and it was the last thing I needed. I didn't go home and weep.  I just felt really pissed off. This was the same creepy man who fulminated from the pulpit about sexually indecent films and the moral decay of society. This was the same slimy character who went into my brother's eighth grade class and fumed and sputtered about the evils of self abuse, when he was probably abusing himself like hell every time he passed a pubescent girl." Strong words. Becky said she ceased to be a Catholic from that day onwards, but continued to join her parents at Sunday liturgies until she left home for college.  "Then I was really free and I went wild." But something about her childhood past and her memories of the tender Madonna and her realization that "Jesus wasn't really like that," brought her back to a form of communion with her Catholic, Christian past.

And what about Becky's mom? A devout, faithful, church-going Catholic, a Eucharistic minister, member of the altar society, lector at Mass at her parish of Our Lady of Sorrows, who also understands that Jesus is very different from most 'leaders' we have in the church today. "But that's why we can't abandon it and walk away. We are the church, not 'those guys.'" A peaceful woman, gracious and whimsical (I only met her this morning for the first time), with a delightful sense of humor about church problems, and a refreshingly healthy attitude about all of the scandals, Mrs. Teale has no problem sitting down with her daughter and her partner and this eccentric gay man and sharing the table of the Lord on the edge of the Vltava River. She received the 'elements' with as much reverence and devotion as I'm sure she expresses in her home parish back in California. And suddenly I realized, it doesn't really matter, all of the scandals and the bigotry from leaders at the top, when women of this caliber in the church feel we shouldn't pay these leaders too much attention, they're not really that important anyway, and giving them attention only legitimizes them, when they are in fact illegitimate. Of course, in the short term, when we think of Uganda and anti-gay political movements and sexual abuse, it matters a great deal in the immediate present. But ultimately, in the long view, that is not the church, and through the grace of the life giving Spirit we as church will survive. While she didn't say this in so many words, this was the attitude I picked up from Mrs. Teale. We are the Church, so let's get on with it. This is My Body, this is My Blood.

Four of us very different people sitting by the Vltava breaking bread together in memory of our crucified Master.  How fitting. The Vltava originates in northwestern Bohemia as two small springs — one cold water and one warm water spring — which then merge together. And here we were, with our very different Christian backgrounds, merging together as one in the heart of the Divine Feminine in freedom, peace and joy.

2 comments:

William D. Lindsey said...

Jayden, it's time that I thank you for this and the preceding beautiful meditations, which I've been reading and re-reading, and thinking about.

I'm struck by some of the--I'll call them mystical symbols--that run through the passages, which keep on feeding my soul each day in Advent, after I've read them:

1. The rivers that rise in northern Bohemia, one hot, one cold, to merge and form the Vlatava, as diverse as the backgrounds of your small house church when you gather to celebrate Eucharist;

2. Etty Hillesum's powerful image of "guarding the little piece of God" inside each of us, when everything in life seems to collude to despoil that inner garden, and rob it of divinity.

There's something powerfully feminine, maternal, about both images--I suppose, because both come from nature (rivers, gardens). And that seems fitting during Advent, as we think of a perplexed young mother guarding the divine inside herself, to give birth to it--like a stream that will flow out to all the world, to give life to the world, from her inner garden.

Jayden Cameron said...

Thank you for this very beautiful commentary, Bill. I love the way you have made these feminine connections, ending with the perplexed young mother guarding the divine within her inner garden. A striking image and so apropos for Advent.