In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Reflection on the Gospel for Advent 1
Feminist Reflections on Advent 1, 2007 Matthew 24:37-44 by The Rev. Margaret Rose
Questions arise, as I write these first reflections to begin a feminist theology blog using the Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent 2007. What is it that makes reflections feminist? Is it because I am one that makes the reflections so? Or does it require a deeper exegesis that starts with Schussler-Fiorenza’s hermeneutic of suspicion? Must I begin with experience? Beware of sentimentality? Be clear about the power analysis of the text? Ensure that there is contextual thinking both historically and as I imagine what might be relevant for today? Are there rules? Or can we give ourselves permission to wander in this work of blogging—part conversation, part reflection, part exegesis? I hope so. As I begin this series of what I hope will be fruitful essays by those who participate, I do so with the hope that we will share ideas about texts, and sermons as well as about our lives and how they move us to action in the communities of which we are a part. Thanks in advance from the Office of Women’s Ministries. And particularly to Terri Pilarski who has agreed to manage this work from Chicago.
So what about it? Advent 1A It’s November and the anniversary of my mother’s death, and so in this reflection I am remembering vividly those last weeks of her life and their connection to the admonition to keep awake and ready for the unexpected visitations of Jesus or of a thief in the night.
My mother had been in a coma for about a week and we four siblings kept a hospital vigil. “Wake Up!” we wanted to cry as she went deeper and deeper into the world of the unconscious. “Keep Awake!” we said to ourselves as we stood beside her bed. And then yearned for blessed sleep when we returned home to our own beds at rotating hours of the night. During the two weeks before we finally decided the respirator must be removed and she be allowed to die, I found myself living in two worlds. The one filled with trips to the hospital, praying beside the bed, rubbing my mother’s gradually swelling body, combing her hair, praying that Jesus was somehow with her in that other dimension of her existence, and finally coming to the realization that she was not going to wake up. The other was that busy world of every day, the routines which keep us sane more than we realize: planning liturgies, the eventual funeral, the Thanksgiving turkey, picking up children, receiving care and prayers sent on my family’s behalf. As I look back on it, both worlds seem so precious, each a gift, each a part of what it meant to follow Jesus’ words to keep awake, standing at the edge of death with my mother, and standing in the midst of daily life with family and children making ready for the different worlds that lay ahead.
It would have been easier perhaps to live in only one world, to deny the death, to turn away and let the medical people tend to my mother—especially in the ICU. Our culture offers that. I remember that first night when the nurses suggested I step out while they did some procedure. Automatically, I heard my self responding, “ I trust you but she is my mother and I am not leaving.” Kind in the midst of the pain, they made space for me in the room. Later that week, it would have been easier not to have seen my mother gasping for air when the respirator was removed. Yet as she took her last breaths, I found myself not only reliving the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished”, but also those of the Advent text, assured that my mother was ready. And I heard my own voice whispering in prayer and thanksgiving, knowing new truths about the blessedness of life and death.
Perhaps it would have been easier to race home then and allow the funeral home to take over. They want to do that, and often we want them too. But I needed to be close by as they wrapped my mother, to touch her as we made that final walk down the hospital halls, my mother’s body in a body bag shroud. Something about being ready for that death, going deeply into it, being awake to every aspect, made me also ready for life, acutely aware of its fragile nature yet all the more precious: everyday things made extraordinary by their sudden absence in one part of life.
The call to keep awake to the dying and even be ready for it, kept me awake for the living too. Somehow it took away the sting, the fear, not the grief of course. But the experience of death that year allowed the preparations for the birth of Jesus and of the renewal of hope in the midst of brokenness to be all the more real. Keep awake is the admonition—to death and to life. Be ready for staying and for leaving. One is taken the other left in the field. Be ready for the thief in the night—who might even be God intruding on our lives in moments when we least desire it.
Because I am a self named feminist re my reflections necessarily so. Is there a difference between such reflections and what one might call a feminists exegesis? I will leave the conversation on this to those of us who continue this work...
Posted by Terri at 3:58 PM