St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Saturday, December 3, 2022
Advent – a woman’s season: Waiting – Receptive – Pregnant
Advent – a woman’s season by Gertrud Nelson (To Dance With God, page 59)
Advent begins the Church year. And the first mystery we are asked to engage is waiting. The Church cycle flows into the natural rhythms of the season as we enter the dormant, waiting time of winter. Nature seems asleep. The season is dark, and all that is becoming is hidden from our sight.
The Ancient combination of natural phenomenon with religious symbolism is still operational in our feast of the winter solstice/Christmas. Nature and mystery join and invite us to recognize our hopeful longing for the return of the sun and the birth of the Word made flesh. When nature and mystery remain combined there is great power.
It is Advent, and along with nature, we are a people waiting. Far out of the south the winter light comes thin and milky. The days grow shorter and colder and the nights long. Try as we may, we cannot dismiss the fundamental feelings that lie deep at our roots, a mixture of feelings dark and sweet. Will the sun, the source of our life, ever return? Has the great light abandoned us?
We are anxious from the separation and feel an obscure guilt. We know there are vague disharmonies that keep us at odds. But our longing for union is passionate. This year we want our Christmas to be different. We want to be touched at this season. – moved at a level that lies deep in us and is hungry and dark and groaning with a primal need.
Like the receptive fields, we lie fallow, and wanting. The dark, feminine, elusive quality of our receptivity is not helpless passivity. We are willing to receive the Spirit. We wait to be impregnated.
“Drop down dew, O heavens, from above. Let the clouds rain forth the Just One. Let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.”
The Church as feminine
It seems that some Christians are terrified of “the feminization of the Church.” I wasn’t aware of it, exactly, but I have become quite conscious of it recently. Apparently a Church that is gentler, kinder, less rigid, less dogmatic, more interested in justice for women and children, outsiders, the poor – and that isn’t much interested in threatening anybody with hell-is unbiblical. And it all starts with ordaining women. This is apparently disastrous.It’s funny that this is so threatening but there we are.
But in fact the most masculine of prophets had the same views. And so did Jesus. And so did much of the Church for most of its life. Oh, of course imperial values soon affected the Church and her witness. Of course, sinners make up the Church and selfishness, cruelty, and easy identification with the prevailing cultures created an institution that is all too often “masculine” in its attitudes and practices. We don’t need to fret about that. Surely we know how to appreciate that part, too.
But we lose a great deal when we ignore that feminine darkness, the waiting, the silence, the suffering of women in pregnancy and childbirth, the glad “mothering” of other people’s children, as mirrors and images of God – of Jesus.
And this awareness is not new. Not only women saints, but men too, have recognized and celebrated this other aspect of the Church – the deeply feminine side.
Meister Eckhart writing in the 13th century was not seen as unusual, or outside the Christian norm when he wrote:
“We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born. What does it matter that Christ was born long ago in Bethlehem unless he is born in me today? What does that birth avail, if it does not also happen tome? That it should take place in me – in us – is what matters!”
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