Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


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Bipolar Boudica, Bishop Brigid & Sister Fidelma

Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, d. 60 CE

Since way back in the AOL days, my email address has been “celticjlp”. I am more than a bit of a Celtophile.  I have made three pilgrimages to the Emerald Isle. On all things Celtic, I have facilitated forums, I have led retreats and I have tutored a disciple or two. I am steeped, as steeped as I can be, in the history and spirituality of my chosen people. And in all five of the churches I have served I have concocted and celebrated Celtic worship, orthodox and otherwise. I am Celtic to the core and have the tattoo to prove it — a little green shamrock on my left shoulder. (A Christmas gift from my children!)

Let me recount just a few of the things that connect me so deeply to my Celtic ancestors. They worshipped the sun and the moon and the stars. They wove the sacred into their most ordinary of chores. They hallowed each and every very hour of each and every day with prayer. Their sanctuaries are the forests and the meadows and the cliffs. Holy spirits indwell their streams and inhabit their oak groves. Holy winds blow on their most remote islands and holy waves crash on their island’s shores. Every little blade of Celtic green grass practically shimmers with the divine. Well almost.

Not to over romanticize my chosen people, the Celts were a nomadic people who probably practiced human sacrifice. Not too often — but one human sacrifice is one too many. The Celts were a warrior people who liked to collect the skulls of those they conquered as trophies. They were a tribal people where both women and men exercised royal power. Yes, women in power. What’s not to like?

And this brings me to Boudica, the Celtic Warrior Queen.

Boudica, for those who do not know, was queen of the Iceni, a Celtic tribe of Britain in the 1st century of the Common Era. During the time of the Roman occupation, Boudica’s husband was able to keep his crown. Upon his death, however, the Romans rolled over the Iceni. They captured its people and confiscated their property. Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped. No one would have blamed Boudica, if she gave into defeat and despair. But hell no, Boudica rescued her daughters, climbed into her chariot, and led the Iceni army in the charge against Rome. She put down the 9th Legion, destroyed the Roman capital and went on to conquer London, another stronghold of the occupiers. There was bloodshed beyond measure and Boudica was eventually beaten back. It is said she took her own life to avoid capture. No one knows where Boudica is buried. But all of Celtic Britain knows her story, every little boy and every little girl.

And so this brings me to  Brigid.

Bishop Brigid of Kildare, c 451 - 525

In the second half of the 5th century, there was Brigid, Bishop Brigid of Kildare. Brigid is both the name of a Celtic goddess and the name of a saint. For the ancient Celts, Brigid is the three-faced goddess of poetry, metal work, and fire. And for Celtic Christians, Saint Brigid is the founder of the monastery at Kildare, the Church of the Oak. Kildare was a “double monastery” home to both religious men and women. And these Celtic Christian brothers and sisters were permitted to marry and raise children in service to the Lord. And Brigid, the abbess of Kildare, Celtic history tells us was consecrated as a Bishop. Carved into the stone altar rail at the Rock of Cashel, Bishop Brigid, crozier in hand, leads a procession of the twelve apostles. The Roman Catholic  Church turned her crozier into a butter churn and demoted Brigid from Bishop to milkmaid. Hopefully and forever, the hierarchy thought they had  put in her rightful and inferior place.

Until there was Fildelma.

The fictitious but o so fabulous, Sister Fidelma

The real Brigid did not remain buried forever. She has been resurrected and reincarnated in the fictitious and fabulous Sister Fidelma. Fidelma is the creation of Celtic scholar turned mystery writer, pen-named Peter Tremayne. Set in 7th century Ireland, the Sister Fidelma stories are a delicious combination of history and mystery. Fidelma is of royal blood, a princess of the Eoghanacht, educated to the level of dalaigh, an adovocate of the Brehon courts, just below judge. She is also a member of the monastery at Kildare, and married to Brother Eadulf. Yes, married to Brother Eadulf, a Saxon monk, who is Dr. Watson to her Sherlock Holmes. And by the time Fidelma and Eadulf  are solving their 20th murder or so they even have a baby. Crack open one or two of these books and you will be hooked.  Tremayne gives them hokey Agatha Christie titles like “Absolution by Murder”, “Shroud for the Archbishop”, “Our Lady of Darkness” and “Whispers of the Dead”. Who says women can’t have it all?

Boudica. Brigid. Fidelma. When feeling the need to slay a dragon or two – or just feeling a touch grandly grandiose — who better for my bipolar brain to channel than the spirits of these holy three, this Celtic and o so feminist trinity. Boudica — queen, warrior, widow, mother and savior of her people. Brigid — goddess, abbess, priestess, bishop and saint. Fidelma — princess, sister, lawyer, detective and murder mystery solver. Their icons and statues grace my halls and walls. Their books and biographies fill my bookcases. I have embraced their stories and made them my own.

It may seem silly, but to tell you the God’s honest truth, I believe these three women are kin to me. And O my, my this little trinity has given me the energy  to get my warrior on — from time to time.. And so I believe myself to be their sister – their soul sister. Joani, the soul sister of Boudica, Brigid and Fidelma. Crazy, huh?

Yes, Crazy, bipolar Celtic crazy. The best kind of crazy there is. The best kind of crazy of all.

So friends, whose spirits are you channeling today?

(And by the way, a happy Saint Patrick’s Day!)

JoaniSign

 


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Jesus loved women.

alabaster-jun-jamosmos

Jesus loved women.

Women loved Jesus.

This is not a half-baked truth from a Dan Brown novel. This is the Gospel Truth according to Luke.

And nowhere is this more true than in the story of the woman with the alabaster jar — the most sensuous story in all of the New Testament.

Jesus arrives for a dinner party. It’s a friendly invitation from a Pharisee –  but also fraught with tension and excitement. Rumor of Simon’s special guest travels fast.

There is a woman from the city – whose sin we do not know. She slips quietly forward. As if invisible, she kneels behind Jesus and inches  forward to touch him — risky indeed for a woman of any kind. She starts to cry — to weep – again we do not know why. And with her tears, bending down she washes Jesus’ road dirty feet. She kisses them tenderly  anointing them with oil – the oil from the alabaster jar. And then she dries them – not with a towel or the hem or her skirt. No, she lets down her hair – “in a deeply intimate gesture” – and with her tresses dries his feet.

We do not know her name. We do not know her sin – only that her reputation precedes her. Put down by society – she is looking up at the world from the lowliest of places. And what this simple woman with the alabaster jar does for Jesus, no first century woman dare would do. As a woman, as a sinner, she was doubly unclean.

Unseen, Simon notices her only when she disturbs his dinner party. “Jesus, how could you let this woman touch you?”

Out of love, Simon. Out of love.

You invite me to your home and you give me no water to wash my feet. This woman, she bathed them with her tears. She  dried them with her hair.

At your door,  you greeted me with no kiss.  But since I sat at your table, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet.

When I arrived, you neglected  to anoint me.  While this woman, this uninvited woman, emptied her alabaster jar upon my feet.

Her sins may be many, but all are forgiven. For she has shown great love.

Intimate, gentle, courageous, sensuous, risky love – holy love.

Jesus loved women.

Women loved Jesus.

Along with the twelve, women were prominent among Jesus’s disciples. He was their rabbi, their healer, their exorcist, their Lord.

And these women provided for him, not just food for his table but for his travels and his ministry – out of their own resources – out of their own pockets. Mary of Magdala was attached to no man and Joanna was a woman of means.

And these are the women who stayed and stood at the foot of his cross. These are the women who anointed his broken body and wrapped it in cloth. And among them – remember — is the first evangelist, the woman who wept at his tomb in the Gospel of John.

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” But then he calls her by name “Mary”. She stops in her tracks. “Rabbi, Teacher!” and reaches out to embrace him. Heaven bound she cannot touch him. And so she runs, runs to tell the others, “I have seen the Lord.”

Mary of Magdala, the first evangelist.

Mary of Magdala, the first to preach the good news.

Jesus loved women.

Women loved Jesus.

So what the hell happened  the last two thousand years?  How do we go from Jesus to a patriarchal and hierarchical church – where women were seldom seen and barely ever heard?

Well the church neglected the gospels.  The Church with a capital “C” set aside the teachings of Jesus for the trappings of society. . Imperial Rome triumphed and prevailed in a culture  where women were subjugated, silenced, diminished, denigrated, and marginalized.

Growing up in the Catholic Church, the only women permitted behind the altar were the Sodality ladies who ran the vacuum. And the official teaching of our sister church, the Church of Rome, still teaches that women cannot fully represent Christ at the altar.

Dead wrong. So wrong. How do I know? Because the bible tells me so.

Yes, women. Jesus loves us.

It’s 2016. We have come a long way, sisters.

In this Episcopal corner of the Anglican Communion — in the Episcopal Church –  there is no ministry closed to women. Vestry, deacons, priests, bishops – and presiding bishop – God bless, The Rt Rev Katherine Jefferts Schori who just completed her seven-year term as PB  – the first woman to hold the office.

But all is not perfect, of course. We have not long been on the side of the angels. Human and made of clay, all is not yet as God fully intends.

In our 21st century world – women are still treated as objects and trivialized. Women are marketed as commodities. There are corners of the globe where women have no voice, where girls get little education, where laws protect the men who beat them, where doors are closed to them simply because of their sex. There are still are many, many places where women have few, if any rights.

And right here in our own back yard, we are backsliding in our conversation, in our attitudes, in our public discourse. Somehow, its okay to laugh and excuse the coarsest kind of language about women. Its just a joke. They don’t mean it. It’s the 21st century and women are still being measured by their measurements.

All the more reason, to preach this gospel, to celebrate this gospel, in this misogynist milleu. For the sake of our mothers, for the sake of our sisters, for the sake of our daughters.

Jesus loves women, respects women, blesses them and welcomes them as his disciples without exception, without conditions, without reservations.

And so this week in our prayers, let us give thanks for all the women in our lives. — for their gifts, for their strength, and for their love. And in our prayers, let us pray also a more difficult prayer. Let us pray that God turn the hearts of those who hold women back, misuse and abuse them. That they may repent and come to know and experience the gospel truth.

Jesus loves women.

And as Jesus loves, with God’s help, so shall we.

JoaniSign