Wise Women

Feminine Incarnation

Wise Women
Friday, June 14, 2019

Today’s reflection is by Mirabai Starr, drawn from her article in the Center’s spring newsletter and her new book Wild Mercy:

As you have undoubtedly noticed, the feminine is rising at last, overflowing the banks of every landscape, from politics to religion, from the world of entertainment to the fields of peace and justice. She is unconditionally loving, and she is deliciously irreverent. She is shifting the global paradigm from one of dominance and individualized salvation to one of collective awakening and service to all beings.

Her wisdom has been hidden in the heart of each of the great spiritual traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and all Indigenous wisdom ways. Access to these jewels has required excavation, but the treasures that have emerged are transfiguring the soul of the world, offering medicine for the broken heart of humanity and the materials needed to mend the torn fabric of the earth.

Ever since I was a young girl, I have been irresistibly drawn to every religion I encountered. Born into a non-religious Jewish family, I had embraced multiple spiritual traditions by the time I was twenty and integrated them into my daily life: a deep devotion to an Indian saint, a daily Buddhist meditation practice, initiation into multiple Sufi lineages, a reclamation of the ancient beauty of my ancestral home in Judaism, and an unexpected friendship with Christ through the mystics, whose words I have since translated. Each of these paths has comingled in my being, creating a rich and robust spiritual soil.

It is the Christian women mystics who have become my most cherished spiritual sisters and role models. The sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, Teresa of Ávila [1515–1582] has shown me what it looks like to cultivate ecstatic intimacy with God in the center of my own being and also find my Beloved “living among the pots and pans.” The medieval Rhineland visionary Hildegard of Bingen [1098–1179] praises God’s greening energy in every particle of creation, helping me to glimpse the face of the One in all that is. The English anchoress Julian of Norwich [1342–1316] had a near death experience in which Christ revealed himself as an unconditionally loving Mother who continuously breaks herself open and pours herself out to her children, endlessly forgiving and enthusiastically adoring us.

Through each of these wise women, I have come to recognize the holiness of incarnation. There is nothing in this gorgeous, messy world, not a thing in my own imperfect perfection, no place in the scope of the human predicament or the majesty of the natural world that is not, by its very nature, blessed: the chosen dwelling place of the One we love. [1]

Our experiences of embodiment may not always correspond with idealized images of holiness, but these preconceptions derive from masculine standards of perfection. Such paradigms have caused great harm, and they are no longer valid. I invite you to abandon your efforts to fix yourself and instead reclaim your innate beauty and worth as a luminous cell in the body of Mother Earth. [2]

References:
[1] Mirabai Starr, “Indwelling and Outflowing,” the Mendicant, vol. 9, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2019), 3.

[2] Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Sounds True: 2019), 154.

Image credit: Our Lady of Guadalupe (detail of the original image as it appeared on the tilma or cloak of Juan Diego when he experienced a vision of Our Lady on top of Tepeyac Hill, outside of Mexico City). The tilma is enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The apparition known as Our Lady of Guadalupe . . . appeared on the exact spot where the Nahuatl people [of Mexico] had been worshiping the fertility goddess for millennia, and she spoke first to an indigenous farmer in his own language. Her skin was dark like their own. . . . She wore the traditional pre-Columbian maternity sash and also a mantle of stars, like the Virgin Mary. She made it clear that she was the Mother of All People and that her task and her delight was to love us, to give us shelter, to comfort our hearts, and to protect us. —Mirabai Starr
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