In the Christian protestant church the dominant patriarchal culture has made it very difficult for us to have any sense of the importance of the feminine principle in our growth in Christ. Whilst the Catholic Church tradition is equally patriarchal it does however venerate Mary the Mother of God and so a continuing thread of the divine feminine does remain. That aside, the two principle female characters in the Christian narrative, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene have both been portrayed through the patriarchal agenda of suppression which affects all of us, women and men alike, and keeps us all in the place of ‘seeing things through a glass darkly’.
Mary the mother of Jesus is often painted as a meek and mild character with little substance and Mary Magdalene erroneously portrayed as a prostitute. Both women are crucial in the unfolding story of Jesus from his birth to his death and beyond but their diminishment is equally crucial to the patriarchal agenda. The airbrushing out of the importance of their roles enables a suppression of the real meaning of the entire narrative and its transformational possibilities for all.
Of course it’s impossible for us to know the historical truth of these women, overtime many have attributed all sorts of opinions, theories, and theological reflections. Some even posit that they are somehow one and the same person since they never appear together in any of the synoptic gospels and only once in John’s gospel (John 19:25). We can never really comprehend the truth because they both represent a deep mystery. Our cerebral analyses will never understand what the soul can come to ‘know’ when we learn how to engage with the mystery .
A clue is given to us by Meister Eckhart the great German medieval mystic who says ‘What good is it to me that Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago, and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be mothers of God. God is always needing to be born’.
The route into this is an inward movement where we begin to contemplate the mystery in the soul. This takes us beyond our cerebral need to analyse and investigate the culture and history and into a more contemplative space where we listen with the inner ear for a deeper experience, beyond the reach of the patriarchal agenda.
In that deeper knowing we come to realise that if the feminine principle is not present then only half of the story is being told.
So what is this mystery, well many of the great mystics would tell us that in the depths of the soul, way beyond the reach of the external world, is a place so pure and untouched by the world that it is a shared ground, a place where God makes his dwelling place; but we are not awake to this so it is outside of our conscious awareness. Becoming aware is synonymous with giving birth from the virginal place in the soul to the Christ. This is the awakening in the Christian mystic journey. The awakening calls us to an interior change, it causes the inner work of transformation to begin, a shift in our spiritual chemistry that will eventually bring us to a fullness in our relationship with Christ, the lover of the soul. The culmination of this relationship is the mystic union of the soul with the beloved, a narrative which unfolds beautifully in Song of Songs.
This interior journey then, which takes us from the birth in the soul to the mystic union, is one that is underpinned by a sense of nurturing this most precious gift, of a deep longing and yearning for the beloved, of pain and of bliss, of ebb and of flow and through all of it a continuing process of transformation until the soul is ripe for that moment of consummation.
Once we experience this mystic impulse calling the soul then the Marys reveal themselves willingly for they are none other than the soul itself, that which is most beloved by God, both in its virginal state which gives birth to the Christ and in it’s spiritually mature state where it longs for the consummation. In this mystic knowing, the otherwise futile attempts to understand these women are fully resolved as the qualities of the divine feminine within are rediscovered and understood as being of equal importance in the reconciling work of God.
The interior journey is one that is taken in the quiet space of the individual receptive soul. When our patriarchal culture both in the church and the in world begins to understand the importance of the feminine in realising a shift in our corporate spiritual chemistry then we can begin to expect the movement towards consummation on a much wider scale – where the vision of a new heaven and a new earth does not seem quite so remote.