Christ Means “Anointed”: Weekly Summary

Christ Means “Anointed”

Summary: Sunday, April 7—Friday, April 12, 2019

This entire world is soaked through and through with Christ, with divinity, like an electron planted in every atom. (Sunday)

The word we translate from the Greek as “Christ” comes from the Hebrew word mesach, meaning “the anointed” one or Messiah. Christ reveals that all is anointed, not just him. (Monday)

Anything is a sacrament if it serves as a Shortcut to the Infinite, hidden in something that is very finite. (Tuesday)

If we are fully to avail ourselves of Mary Magdalene’s wisdom presence today, it will be, I believe, primarily through recovering a wisdom relationship with the ritual of anointing—that is, coming to understand it . . . as an act of conscious love marking the passageway into both physical and spiritual wholeness. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Wednesday)

Real love . . . changes outcomes and creates whole new people. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Thursday)

[The Paschal Mystery] serves as the archetype for all of our personal experiences of dying and rising to new life along the pathway of kenotic transformation, reminding us that it is not only possible but imperative to fall through fear into love because that is the only way we will ever truly know what it means to be alive. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Friday)

 

Practice: Anointing

Cynthia Bourgeault explains anointing in the historical and still evolving Christian context:

Because anointing is still the most underdeveloped of the Christian rituals, it is also the most open-ended. It comes without that huge weight of theological and sacramental baggage attached to the more familiar rituals of baptism and eucharist, and without the heavy backload of male and priestly stereotypes that are immediately triggered in the other two (unlike the eucharist, anointing for healing has never been officially closed to lay officiants, and some of its most powerful practitioners have traditionally been women). In other words, it has fewer negative associations and tends to allow for fresh experiences. The fact that it is intrinsically connected to the feminine is yet another factor working in its favor. . . . It is an obvious window of opportunity. . . .

From one of my Mary Magdalene research trips to France I had brought home a liturgy called “The Unction at Bethany,” created by the Commuauté de l’Agneau, which I had seen performed in Paris on the Monday of Holy Week. In an ornate and beautiful ceremony, it liturgically reenacted Mary Magdalene’s anointing of Jesus, with [individuals] playing the respective parts. . . . [We] allowed the momentum to build steadily toward the moment when our designated Mary Magdalene knelt before our designated Jesus and anointed his feet. Departing from the text, we then had Jesus kneel before Mary Magdalene and anoint her feet. Then, working in pairs, the entire group did likewise.

To call the impact wrenching would be an understatement. People were blown wide open, then put back together in a space that most had never encountered before, at least in a Christian context. . . .

The mutual anointing reverberated powerfully with . . . love, healing, dying before you die, the reconciliation of the feminine, rebirth into wholeness, the tenderness that a kenotically transformed eros has to bring to Christianity’s hardened institutional heart. . . . I watched “heartbroken Christians” taste the miracle that Christianity is, after all, a religion of love.

In the liturgy for the great vigil of Easter, one of the readings comes from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel: “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). It seems to me that this promise captures the essence of Mary Magdalene’s healing vocation to contemporary Christianity, and anointing offers the means by which she can most powerfully accomplish it. As we explore the various interwoven aspects of this sacrament—for healing of illness, marking the passage through death and ego-death, celebrating the mystical union of the bridal chamber in which “the two become one”—we will once again discover the ritual expressions that best embody our renewed understanding of this sacrament of wholeness. And our Christianity will be the stronger for it.

Reference:
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Shambhala: 2010), 188-190. The Anointing Ceremony liturgy, as used in Cynthia’s Wisdom School, is available at https://wisdomwayofknowing.org/resource-directory/holy-week-liturgy-anointing/. 

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Shambhala: 2010)

Bruce Chilton, Mary Magdalene: A Biography (Doubleday/Image: 2005)

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)

Image credit: Mary Magdalene’s Box of Very Precious Ointment (detail), James Tissot, 1886-1994, Brooklyn Museum, New York City, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we are fully to avail ourselves of Mary Magdalene’s wisdom presence today, it will be, I believe, primarily through recovering a wisdom relationship with the ritual of anointing—that is, coming to understand it . . . as an act of conscious love marking the passageway into both physical and spiritual wholeness. —Cynthia Bourgeault
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