Category Archives: aside

Stirrings

I will spend some time today thoughtfully grappling with next Sunday’s readings like I am committed to doing whenever possible. However let me interrupt my usual transmission to share a fantastically reflexive piece of writing by a fellow-Catholic.

The Catholic church,  has a poor record when it comes to ecumenism and interfaith dialogue (and almost anything that involves recognising dignity, autonomy and rights in “others”). This is particularly true if we define “The church” as the people who think they are the bosses of the rest of us and hand down rules. As this article shows there is also a much more beautiful grass-roots tradition on catholicism. A tradition of humility, reflexivity, focus on the public good and class struggle. A tradition of boldness in the Holy Spirit and compassion toward a partially known other. These beautiful souls within the church, tend to exist uneasily and somewhat critically within what even to them seems like a somewhat oppressive edifice.

The sort of Catholicism expressed by the writer of this article makes me able to still identify within that church. This sort of idealism and reflexivity is what I seek in looking to work in Catholic education.

Here’s the article.

A poem (not by me)

I like this poem bar the last stanza (really?? You are going to ask to be smitten for not being better?). I always doubt that sentiments like that are sincere, however if they are the person thinking it needs urgent mental health help. But if there was less self-hate and masochism in the last stanza then it was a bid to be rehumanised by witnessing the suffering of “other”. To see God in the condemned and the suffering. To feel more. To be returned to a state of compassion. So because of that last bit I did not use this poem in my liturgy. However I am saving it here so when I look back on my spiritual ups and downs of the year i remember the call to compassion too!

Good Friday
Christina Rossetti

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Common Sense

This is another of those concepts I will use again and again so I will make an aside I can link to.

When I say “common sense” I don’t generally mean “good sense” even though this is the Oxford meaning of the term.

I mean instead, the sense that is taken-for-granted and held in common. A lot of writers in education use it this way, but I think it all goes back to Antonio Gramsci.

To make it very easy to understand here is an example. If “everyone” knows something then it becomes common sense. It used to be common sense that the earth was flat.

so common sense is not always true or helpful as a way of looking at things. But to believe anything else, to read in any other way goes against the grain. Which brings me back to this weeks reading…

Say it isn’t so!!!!

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Last week I dutifully did the lectionary readings noting with joy and excitement that the visitation was coming up. You know, the visitation? Possibly the only story in the bible that passes the Bechdel test?

I once did a queer reading and I was going to dig it up for this…

Now I look again at the lectionary and see that alst week the visitation was alternate readings. Last week when i didn;t particularily enjoy the readings I was set!

I am going to go home tonight and sleep on whether it is time to ignore the lectionary and just have fun with a queer reading!

Stef wrestles with the text (anyone can)

To justify the way I rough and tumble with the readings and refuse to submit to them I thought I would write a very short extra post that I can simply link to when I do it instead of constantly re-explaining. Maybe some time I will make a longer post on this topic.

Look at this strange reading!

Like Jacob I refuse to give up until I get some sort of blessing out of the readings. Not all of them give it up easily.

Reclaiming Darkness

 

Forgive me readers for posting this extra post just before I add my struggles with this week’s readings. It was in my head and I thought I would get it out.

I remember being that pious child that just took on board everything that was said at church no matter how much it outraged my experience of reality. If what the man in the dress said conflicted with what I could see and feel and know then I was wrong and I had to shift my thinking, it was as simple as that. Unsurprisingly this led to me losing my faith and my sisters and I (much to my parent’s disgust) developed a habit of giggling, making sarcastic comments under our breaths and rolling our eyes at the patriarchal words that rolled from the pulpit and altar at us.

One of the things that amused us was the use of the word “men” to symbolise humanity (but this word only sometimes means that). “Since by man came death” sang the choir, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive”

“Christ isn’t a man then” we might sneer.

Another was a hymn we had to sing:

Holy, holy, holy- though the darkness hide thee

Though the eye of sinful men thy glory may not see

Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee

Perfect in power in love and unity

See how a couple of those themes fit with this week’s readings? But we latched onto the inability of the “sinful man” to see. Maybe we could see then we speculated since we may well be sinful (and defiantly so) but we weren’t men. The sexist term seemed almost like a loophole at times. Just as we were not included in full participation, ministry and full salvation by being only an auxillary to the great default “man” so we also felt we should then escape having responsibility and escape judgement.

Later at theological college I read something about women “reading between the lines”. I immediately recognised how I had done that at times, both in my current adult wish to move back into the church and in my childishly laughing resistance of what didn’t even attempt to speak to the “me” that goes unrecognised in church. Still you know churches fail to recognise women and especially queer women. We are all subsumed under an “everyone”, but this inclusivity assumes a heterosexual, middleclass, white, male subjectivity and for us to be included we more or less need to be willing to wear this type of drag- I am told this is even more so true for priests and ministers. “Differences” are either exoticised, or more commonly white-washed (and male-washed) because they make us feel uncomfortable, something is demanded from us by the unashamedly “different”.

Somehow this experience of recognition that I constantly had to read between the lines- both as a serious pilgrim and as an interrupting-of-patriarchal-flow larrikin –  made me wish for a liturgy where I could just rest in the church’s welcoming arms and goodness and I began to rewrite huge chunks of liturgy- every prayer, every response as well as many hymns to make them less alienating. I allowed them to be radically feminist, exclusively female and probably injected my as yet unacknowledged lesbian identity into my passionate striving for a feminine face of God.

And the song I mentioned above was easy to take over, I cannot remember all the verses but that one verse echoes in my head as an anthem to ultimate female triumph over being subjugated and God’s interest in our liberation.

Holy, holy, holy- though the darkness hide thee

Though the light of patriarchy cannot pierce your veil

Your love makes us holy, called to work beside thee

Wisdom never resting ‘til justice will prevail

 

Here the traditional binary of light and dark are reversed. Darkness hides God, God chooses to be undiscoverable to have some boundaries and not to allow the intimacy that is really domination. Patriarchy, reason, science, the enlightenment cannot rationalise away God or invent rules to understand or control God. Love and call; wisdom and justice are my experiences of God and they are what I celebrated in a hymn rather than perfection, power (kingship), onlyness (peerlessness I guess is the real word) and being above the unworthiness of “man” just as man is above the unworthiness of the rest of creation.

But over the years meditating on this idea of Holy Darkness, and the feminine I have found other connections to grace. Firstly through viewing God this way I can relate to our Muslim sisters better. I can never approve of men hiding them and insisting that they go about veiled, but when white-culture comes in and tells them the wearing of veils is “offensive” I can be moved with compassion and empathy that they should wish to have some privacy and some boundaries in their own way. I have said “them” but “they” are always also “we” if we walk in God. Perhaps instead of giving people impossible dilemmas we need to together find more liberative ways of seeing the choice to cover the self, to withdraw, to refuse enslavement by a brand of “liberation” which does not suit who I am as a person.

And then the idea of darkness can also be redemptive in an ecological sense. Darkness used to interrupt the now endless workday of business, mining, selling, desperately striving. Darkness used to enforce rest and quiet. Darkness (and quiet) is needed by many species of nocturnal creatures to survive, be safe and forage or hunt. The lights of our hypercapitalist world burn so brightly and so endlessly that it becomes hard to see the milky way in the cities and even now the stars themselves. You have to go further and further out of town to experience darkness and quiet. I don’t wish to romanticise darkness, I know that under cover of dark many terrible things used to happen. But increasingly we live in a world of invasive and all-pervading light. Everything we do is seen and commented on, everywhere we turn data is collected about us. Everything must be seen and known and analysed and rest now comes under the heading of “wasting time”.

Holy Darkness redeem us from this, take us into your refreshing bosom where the hens may stop laying for a few hours and the possums escape detection and the owls do not have their eyes damaged by flash photography.

I want to end by sharing how I first came to consider “darkness” to begin with, although since I began I have gleaned much in traditional scriptures, hymns and writings that fits with the idea.

It began when my small son was learning about God and we taught him deliberately that binary opposition was a dangerous fallacy. “God is not a He and God is not a She” we said

“What is God then? An it?”

“No”

“What then?”

“You can say God is a He, but only if you said God is a She. You can say God is white, but only if you say God is black, you can say God is far away but only if you say God is close to us” We playfully went through all sorts of binaries with my son and he picked up on it and added his own that often surprised and educated me “God is red and God is green. God is a cat and God is not a cat. God is a snail because snails are both boys and girls at the same time. God is up and God is down. God is my mother and God is my child, God is hello and God is goodbye”

In church one Sunday, the reader got up and began in an impressively church voice (complete with the Anglican accent)

“God of light…”

“And God of darkness too” crowed my three-year-old little theologian bouncing out of his seat in excitement. He knew this game.

“No it’s only light” the priest told us

“It’s darkness too” my son insisted and I stopped and thought.

And the idea was there in our tradition you know. God is not just the light that gives understanding and meaning. God is the darkness that obscures meaning and gives rest too. Womb darkness, bed darkness, secret whisperings of love darkness, cat purring darkness, don’t touch me darkness, warm and restful darkness, unknown and unknowable darkness, tomb darkness, seed darkness, we know he is risen but we’re still a bit confused darkness, turning off your phone darkness, finally see the stars darkness.

Bittersweet chocolate darkness which is my cue to stop writing  and find some. chocolate