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Books read so far in 2010:
Kahuna Magic, by Brad Steiger - enh

The Virgin Mary, Monotheism and Sacrifice, by Cleo McNelly Kearns - Tedious intro and conclusion, but some very interesting biblical insights and comparison of Mary and Abraham

The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Steig Larsson - Not as good as the first book, too many characters, but the Salander is so fascinating I will follow her anywhere

The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, by Vladimir Lossky - I felt dumber having read this book. The section on energies vs essence in the hypostases of the Trinity especially, but the last sections did have some inspiring bits

The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, Ida Peerdeman - Messages of 20th Century aparitions
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I am totally in love with this blog.
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*I am feeling better about everything today. Sometimes all that's needed is a gigantic whine, really good food and wine, and sound sleep.

*Today is the Dormition/Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

*I am the new owner of a used 1G iphone. What apps are essential? Any recommendations?

*I continue to plow through the Sookie Stackhouse vamp/mystery novels. I have finished Dead to the World and Dead as a Doornail. They are easy and fun. I'm now on book #6.
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Two recent posts - well, one post and one forward - have gotten me thinking. First, there's that podcast from yesterday about genius and how we spend our time. I don't need to be a genius, I really don't, but I do know that I'm not using my time wisely, that I've been avoiding Things, and that I've been flirting with depression in a pretty big way. I also read a post this morning in which a woman talked about making all things secondary to her spiritual practice. Replace that last bit with what's most important to you, and I ask: are you putting first things first? I'm not. And I want to put my spiritual pursuits first. I do. But I don't. I'm scared shitless to do so. What does that look like? Will I become a crazy fruity loon? I fear that my life will fall apart - maybe set on fire, like Bennett has done? And just how DO I devote four hours to something, anything, with a child? I fear I'll become some extreme weirdo, or a nun, or something vastly incompatible with being a normal person and mother. I'm WAY too invested in being normal, so perhaps "indulging" this desire is exactly what I need.

What would four hours of spiritual pursuit a day look like? Probably an hour of yoga, 30 minutes of meditation, another 30 of prayer and tarot, two hours of academic study. Eventually, once I quit working and officially become a Student once more, the study will be its own thing, but I'm not so compartmentalized that I don't see that my academic pursuits are still a big spiritual quest of sorts for me.

Even writing about this makes my stomach knot up in fear and anxiety. Gah. It's this being vulnerable and open to mockery. Juvenile fears clutching to my guts and desires. And fear of overthrowing my life as I know it. Choosing the devils I know over the devils I don't. How dull.

What's my order of priority? I spend a lot of time keeping my house in order. Partly because I like clean, partly because I get stressed out with too much clutter and filth - it's a giant distraction and I think I can't handle external clutter because I'm already so cluttered on the inside, and partly training and judgement from my upbringing.

I'm currently working and that is sucking a lot of my energy. I think I'm going to just bite the bullet and have a heart to heart with my ED. Going into work makes me noticeably depressed. This is not good, even if I am quitting in a few months.

I spend a vast portion of my day online. This is because this is where the majority of my social life and work take place.

I want to make some changes. I'm scared. I'm dragging my heels. But I'm already throwing myself into the fire this year with motherhood and moving and going back to school. Why not harness my time and energies into what I *really want*?

If only there was some magic pill that reformed my habits and fears. But instead it's the steady, daily, messy, awkward work of one step at a time.
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Some one has to invite us to a Halloween party, because Adam has thought up the most perfect idea ever. Bennett as Baby Jesus, him as Joseph and me as Mary.

Is that not the awesomest idea EVER??

Praise be!

Aug. 16th, 2008 07:18 am
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My little prayer to the Holy Mother was answered! Bennett slept from 1am to 7am, with only single cries at 4.30 and 5.30 and we were all able to go straight back to sleep.

Of course, I could use about 8 hours tacked on right now. But I am SO grateful for a night's sleep like that.

Thank you thank you thank you.
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Today is the Dormition of the Theotokos (if you're Eastern Orthodox) or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (if you're Roman Catholic). I celebrated today by a two hour nap this afternoon, after which I woke feeling achey, thirsty and accutely aware of how bad my cloth diapering "hobby" (new profession?) is getting: I dreamed of a store of artistic colorful beautiful diapers, but I forgot my wallet in my car, and then I couldn't find where I parked.

I want more sleep.

Please, oh Holy Mother, may little Bennett sleep soundly tonight. Six hours of deep sleep, with no muttering, crying out or flailing about in his sleep. Pretty please. Amen.

Feast Days

Dec. 8th, 2007 08:47 am
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In other news, today is the Roman Catholic feast day of the Immaculate Conception. This is 9 months before Mary's birthday and it acknowledges her conception, free from the stain of Original Sin and in perfect redemption - a sign of things to come.

If the Immaculate Conception and Original Sin weird you out, as they do me, you can always celebrate the Feast of the Conception of St. Anne (Mary's mother) tomorrow. This is the Eastern Orthodox feast day celebrating the conception of Mary, the Theotokos. No belief in Original Sin or stain or Immaculate Conception required.

I am certainly going to have to do a little something for my girl. These sorts of holidays always make me wish I had a honest to god tradition of my own. I get tired making it all up as I go along. Syncretism is hard work.
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I am reading (still) Sarah Boss, my adviser's book Empress and Handmaid, on nature and gender in the cult of the Virgin Mary. The chapter on the Immaculate Conception is a revelation to me. I have so much to learn! Most of my understanding of traditional views of original sin come from the Augustinian view point: that thanks to concupiscence (lust, essentially) no conception is pure and all flesh is tainted with sin. Anselm (1033-1109), an important Catholic theologian who I am mostly unfamiliar with, "taught that original sin was the absence of the original justice with which the world was created". I can't parse exactly what the nuances of this are yet, but it jives a whole hell of lot more with I perceive sin to be. And, according to my adviser, it was this view of creation that inspired the doctrine of Immaculate Conception; it was out of a desire to preserve the goodness and integrity of creation and flesh as exemplified in Mary that the Immaculate Conception was first discussed.

This is a big shift for my brain. I have long railed against the Immac. Conc. and the idea of original sin. I loathed the idea that Mary needed to be preserved from the foulness of the flesh. She has always been to me an example of true unity of spirit and flesh/creation. Like the Buddhists reaching Nirvana and becoming one in spirit with the great Void, Mary is an example of uniting the distracted human spirit embodied in created flesh with the Divinity of God, while still living on this earth. I have considered this a sign that life is not as depraved as so many strains of Christianity would have us believe, that sin (pick your definition) isn't so insurmountable, and that creation and flesh are not incompatible with union with God. And that is possible for us humans and possibly in this lifetime. At the very least, we can touch and taste the sweetness evidenced by all the saints that go before us. (I do not limit only Christian saints in this example. I'm quite pluralistic.)

This is why I study theology. For every week that I feel shrouded in the dark frustrations of maddening theologies (or, annoyed and dismayed by stupid old white men spouting off conclusions that make me feel like I'm wasting my time and killing my faith), there are days where goodness, truth and beauty shine out and I feel like I'm not crazy, or alone.
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This spring I audited a theology class at the GTU called Gender in Greek Patristic Thought. Something like that. It ended last weekend. Basically, we looked at what major Eastern theologians in the early centuries of Christianity had to say about gender. We ignored Augustine, thank god, because he's part of the Western church tradition. This course consistently challenged me and got me all worked up theologically. Just when I feel like throwing in the towel on Christianity, I read some theology and discuss with thoughtful people and I come to realize that there's much to cling to in the Christian faith. I am especially indebted to the teacher of this course, a feminist Greek Orthodox woman, and the brilliant and thoughtful Byzantine Rite monk fellow student.

Here are some of my thoughts after the last class. )

A homily

Mar. 24th, 2006 09:43 am
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I can't say what specifically inspired me to write this. I have never written a homily before. While I appreciate a good sermon from time to time, I am of the opinion that church is no place for one. Homily, sermon, mostly the same thing. A homily tends to be shorter and is the word usually used by Catholics or Orthodox for the brief connection the priest will make between the daily scripture and real life. As opposed to the general Protestant sermon, which I will not comment upon at this time.

And so. The Annunciation is tomorrow. )
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I have one final paper to write before I am done. Of course, I did exactly what I didn't want to do: save it for the week of graduation and parents and the least possible amount of motivation. The paper is on Revelation 12:1-17, especially 1-2.

A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.

The verses go on to describe the dragon that wants to destroy the woman and her son. She flees to the desert for a time, times and a half a time. There is war, of course, since this is Revelation, the most violent book in the NT. What's interesting about the second verse is that one the debate over Mary's virginity really got under way in the 4th century, it was decided that she didn't experience any pain in childbirth. Interesting.

I am curious about how verse one came to be the imagery used in the artistic depiction of Mary, since biblical scholars and wise readers recognize that the symbols is more about Israel and the Church than about Mary.

I cannot seem to find any information on the connection. Not enought to write a paper anyway.
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I don't feel I can let today pass without mentioning that it is the Annunciation. I realize that for most Christians, it is also Good Friday, but I take special note of the Annunciation. Today is nine months from Christmas. Today is the day that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that the spirit of the Most High would overpower her (Mary Daly has said this sounds like rape; she's not too far from the mark, eh?) and she would be with child. What I like about the story and the many many paintings that depict this event focus on the surface assumption of blind obedience, is that she as an autonomous person had a choice, and she said yes. She was out by herself and responded (so we're told) to such a bizarre request with radical vulnerability. She didn't run home to check with her father or husband-to-be. She didn't cynically say "prove it." She responded with a level of faith and openess that awes me every time I read this story.

It's hard to see the world, my life, me, as existing in a state of grace, or existing with potential for such profound grace. This week has been a struggle. Most weeks these last few months have felt like a struggle. Today has been a roller coaster: anxiety and disappointment, relief and confidence, uncertainty, reassurance, sadness, worry*, and the day is not over. I can use all the grace I can get.

*My sister went into pre-labor on Sunday, but then went home to get on with her week. It was just a false start. However, it's now Friday and she has not been home when I call, nor returned my messages. Ack! I hate being 1600 miles away from Alaska! Little Cecelia is due in this world any day now...
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Perhaps I so dislike the "eye witness" retellings and historical approaches to Mary because I do not want a real girl – a flawed, dirty, teenage girl – to be the Mother of my God; from some place of self-loathing I do not want my Mary (yes, my Mary) to be "just like me." I do not want to imagine her stinky, sweaty, crabby, annoying. Yet, theologically I know that this is a vital piece of the liberating qualities a devotion to Mary can yield. Being just like us she is nevertheless exalted and filled with a magnitude of grace. This too is possible for us. And so in focusing on Mary, full of grace, I see the goal and the possibility of being, not the starting point, for I see that every time I look in the mirror. This need to focus less on the reality and more on the symbol also reveals a weakness in my Christology. I do not want all of God housed entirely in a man. I want, deeply, for my body to house the Divine as well. As a woman my body (literally and metaphorically) has been exploited, used, abused, restrained, controlled, owned, possessed, undermined, undervalued, held as Other to a male norm. I want something, some One, to exalt and free to the fullness of being the female half of humanity. Christ, theoretically, embodies all of humanity, yet that is not the effect that God's incarnation has had throughout the centuries. This is a selfish theology; I realize that.

During the course of my thesis I have to come to see that not only are other feminist theologians, and all theologians, seeking Mary and the Divine in shapes and terms that hold meaning for them, I too am seeking a God that has meaning for me. I sit squarely within the company of these authors, falling prey to the same pitfalls, but adding one more voice to the Christian feminist voices that now take ownership in crafting the symbols that shape our lives.

(It's a little rough, but on its way....)
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Once again, a note from Sarah Jane Boss. This time an excerpt from a hymn to Mary from the Ethiopian Church:

O Mary, immensity of heaven,
foundation of the earth,
depth of the seas, light of the sun,
beauty of the moon...
Splendour of the stars in the heavens...
Your womb bore God,
before whose majesty man stands in awe.

(cross posted)
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Thus far, my favorite part of my thesis:

Mary is complicated and complex figure. Attempting to write briefly about her, as brief as this thesis is, is a challenge. Her history is a long one, spanning centuries and continents. She appears in art, song, and literature. Movements and societies have grown up around her. Millions have taken her name. Many have had visions of her, particularly in the form of apparitions. I tackle none of these in this thesis. (With a footnote, twice as long as this chunk, giving bibliographic suggestions for further reading on these topics.)

I have been given the go-ahead to schedule my defense. My stomach clenches in nervous anticipation.
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By elevating Mary are we attempting to add something/someone to Christianity that never actually existed? If we draw the parallel between Mary and the Goddess figures of pre-Christian beliefs might Mary be as flawed as those goddesses were, as demanding of loyalty as the male Christian God has been? Can one God expressed in one term speak to all people? Elevating Mary, a lowly human, means that all of humanity, even the lowliest of society, even women, can be elevated. We too can carry the Divine within us; Eastern Orthodox theology best understands that all humans bear the image of the Divine within. Yet, there is still an emphasized maleness in our understanding of God. Jesus was both God and man. A man is our fullest representation of God. Like the Shakers, I ask where is the female fullness of the Divine?


ps- Spent Saturday at Pantheacon, a big four day pagan conference. Hit and miss it was; neat and nerdy, weird and wonderful, as one would expect. I had a thought: perhaps next year I'll put together a lecture on the pagan underpinnings of the Virgin, her similarities and uniquenesses. I suspect there would be interest, and God/dess knows that I am as much, if not more than, qualified to teach judging by some of the presenters I witnessed. I did learn a thing or two. The most important is this: Flee the Gnostic Mass! Aleistaire Crowley can kiss my feminist educated Christian witchy clothed ass.

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