A Side Note: Christ as Present in the Experience of the Feminine

 

This icon of the Trinity draws on the feminine images used in Scripture for the Holy Spirit, as a reminder that women as well as men can bear the image of God.I feel a need before going into the way in which Bruggemann helps me understand another way in which the Psalms call us to embrace life to make a detour and share one person’s answer to a question that I think haunts thoughtful spiritual people about the idea that what God has assumed, God has healed.

Many a woman rightly points out that, if understood in a literalistic way, this means only the male experience is assumed and only in it can we discover the Sacred light shining.

In her book Enduring Grace, Carol Lee Flinders suggests the way in which female Christian mystics through the ages have helped open us up to how the experience of women and the feminine was also swept up in the coming of Christ so, in Christ’s coming, that too was in some way assumed so that it is fully a place in which the sacred light of God can be found.

She writes,

“It was the mystics of the Middle Ages who discovered the maternality of Christ, and they discovered it as soon as they began to look hard at his humanity.  Central to affective piety is devotion for the humanity of Christ.  The suffering of Christ crucified became an object of fervent meditation, a spiritual practice that would have surprising results when carried out by women.  It was certainly a meaningful devotional exercise for men, but for women it represented a kind of revolution in consciousness, for they brought to the exercise their own experience as women.

lady wisdom 2“To a male aspirant, for example, the bleeding broken body of Christ would have carried with it, at least initially, associations of defeat in battle – of personal destruction.  To women, though, who may not have given birth themselves but who may not have given birth themselves but who would most certainly have seen sisters, mothers, and aunts in childbirth, the same image would carry positive associations as well.  Having witnessed firsthand the simultaneity of joy and suffering with which a child enters the world – having seen the precious reward that can come of blood shed and real agonies endures, they found paradoxical depths of meaning in the crucifixion that had eluded earlier Christian writers.

“They also saw, meditating upon the humanity of Christ, that when God became man, he had regarded the multitudes as his children; he had healed them and cast out their demons, yearning over them ‘as a mother hen over her chicks.’  He had become woman, that is, as well as man.  The very passivity with which he had yielded himself up into the enemies’ hands served for medieval women as a kind of mirror of the social powerlessness that typically has been the lot of women.  At the same time, it has been suggested that Christ’s tacit affirmation of the sanctity of feminine experience – his choosing to be both male and female – may have inspired women mystics to embrace the neglected assertive side of their own natures and come into their own as teachers, healers, and leaders”.

Flinders’ insights here are also picked up elsewhere by queer Christians who likewise have had their experience as either same-gender loving or transgender persons as being wrong for not fully falling into traditional male and female roles in their culture.  Both Flinders and these queer theologians suggest the same lesson: that in Christ, God not only appears as a man but chooses in that man’s life to transcend the culture’s boundaries of male and female in ways that affirm in the lives of women, men, transgender and gender-queer or fluid people, and individuals of all sexualities, God is present.  In Jesus’ gender-bending life God has assumed all of human gender and sexuality expression into God’s self, making clear each aspect of humanity is holy and sacred.

After all, does not Psalm 139 which Jesus would have prayed, suggest there is not a corner of human life in which the Spirit is not present embracing us as a mother does her children?

So all of who you are is a place in which the sacred fires glow, and all in who you encounter is.

In fact, as CS Lewis suggests in his The Grand Miracle, all things God has made in all of creation have become a holy place since Christ assumes them all in his coming to earth:

mother-and-child“The story of the Incarnation is the story of a descent and resurrection. When I say “resurrection” here, I am not referring simply to the first few hours, or the first few weeks of the Resurrection. I am talking of this whole, huge pattern of descent, down, down, and then up again. What we ordinarily call the Resurrection being just, so to speak, the point at which it turns.

“Think what that descent is. The coming down, not only into humanity, but into those nine months which precede human birth, in which they tell us we all recapitulate strange prehuman , subhuman forms of life, and going lower still into being a corpse, a thing which, if this ascending movement had not begun, would presently have passed out of the organic altogether, and have gone back into the inorganic, as all corpses do.

 

“One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders.

 

“Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green, and warm, and sunlit water into the pitch-black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but, associated with it, all Nature, the new universe.

 

cosmic-christ“Now, as soon as you have thought of this, this pattern of the huge dive down to the bottom, into the depths of the universe and coming up again into the light, everyone will see at once how that is imitated and echoed by the principles of the natural world; the descent of the seed into the soil, and its rising again in the plants.”

What parts of your life, of who you are, and of your experience have you been acting as if are not places Christ can be found?  What about parts of the lives of others around you?  Parts of this good creation in which we find ourselves situated?

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

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One thought on “A Side Note: Christ as Present in the Experience of the Feminine

  1. Leigh Williams says:

    These truths made me weep for joy. I had never considered the ways that Jesus encompassed the nature of us all. I’ve always been a bit troubled that he was born a man, as if experiencing and sharing in women’s reality were unnecessary for his ministry. Now I see that he was born a human – and oh, what a difference that makes.

    Through your no-doubt inspired metaphor/parable of the Diver, I feel I now apprehend the incarnation and passion in a new and deeper way. Those images will stay with me and shape me until the day I see the blessed face.

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