Sunday, May 13, 2007

Holy Mother

Today at Mass Father Sherlock gave a little homily for Mother's Day based on reflections from the letters of the word M-O-T-H-E-R. After the Mass there was a touching ceremony in honor of the Blessed Virgin and a recital of the Litany. As usual during the singing of the "Ave Maria" my eyes began to fill with tears, and once again, upon leaving the Church, I felt a sense of gratitude. These simple and oft-repeated acts of worship had given me, however briefly, an experience of being in communion with the Divine.
There were a few things I thought of during the homily - not that Father Sherlock should have said them, for his discourse was simple and unintellectual, though full of feeling and sincerity. The question of Jesus with his Mother is indeed a Mystery. Father Sherlock mentioned the incident of the Wedding in Cana (John, Chapter 2) and said that by honoring the feast with the "best wine" Jesus so honored his mother. But there are many levels of Mystery in connection with the "miracle" at Cana - changing the water into wine - and from this point of view the homily left many things unsaid.
In the King James translation of the Holy Bible, it is said that "And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine." Jesus then replied, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come," which is certainly an awkward translation and maybe even an odious one. It certainly does not convey the feeling of affection from son to mother. Nor is the Catholic Bible significantly better: "When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.' [And] Jesus said to her, 'Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour is not yet come.' "
The relevant Greek passage reads: "...kai usteresantos oinou legei he meter tou Iesou pros auton-oinon oux exousin. kai legei aute o Iesous- ti emoi kai soi, gynai; oupo ekei he ora mou." (Unfortunately this program does not write Greek letters.) The important words are "ti emoi kai soi," literally something like: "What to me and thee?"
In The Three Years, Emil Bock comments: "Rudolf Steiner has indicated that the changing of water into wine... grows out of a mystery that operated between the soul of Jesus and His mother. The way Jesus answers His mother points to this mystery. It is not only a misunderstanding, but a complete misrepresentation to translate the words as, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee?' The Greek words (ti emoi kai soi) are not a rude rebuff. As a formula from the Mysteries they point emphatically to a positive connection, and can be translated, 'What is it that works and weaves here between me and thee?' The same formula occurs again in the Gospels. Luke relates how Jesus at the beginning of His ministry... was addressed in these words by the demon who troubled the souls of those who were possessed ...(ti hemin kai soi), 'What is it that works here between [us] and Thee?' The demons speak like this because they are already aware of the superior spiritual power that is making itself felt in their sphere."
The "formula from the Mysteries" points to the realm of connection between human beings that is for the most part not fully conscious. It is significant that the wedding occurred in Galilee, which was a part of Palestine in which intermarriage (that is, marriages between people of different tribes) could occur. In Judea intermarriage was forbidden; one could say that the life-forces gained through marriage were severely back-channelled into the tribe. Such a curtailment of life force fuelled the tribal impulse, one has to admit to the point of fostering an unrelenting tribal nationalism. By contrast, the Galilean story is about the liberation of these life-forces, made into an analogy of the Sun that ripens the grapes and the changing of the water into wine.
If it is anything, Christianity is about the freeing of life forces and how human beings, living in the spirit and love of Christ, can work with the powers of growth and procreation that, analogously with the plant world, seek the warmth and light of the sun. For the most part in human history these "procreative forces," having to do not just with marriage but more especially with how souls exert influence upon one another, have been hidden and kept back from the realm of consciousness. But the rationalist dispensation has brought forward an enormous challenge in this sphere - one with which we have yet to fully understand.
Rationalism denies the sphere of supersensible influence and has the tendency to compress the soul into an individualist and self-sufficient mode. Contrary to this tendency, there has been the spectacular development of what Vance Packard called the "hidden persuaders." Every person on earth today is subject to the influence of these "hidden persuaders," the media with its incessant mastication of the day's events. Contrary to the spiritual operation of Christ, these "persuaders" are anti-spiritual and subliminal and often aim at activating the realm of drives, impulses and appetites. The production of influence (which is what the "information age" really is) is an important aspect of the "procreative forces," which, through this strange metamorphosis through rationalism, has become, essentially, modern politics.
This strange development through a rationalism that denies influence to a persuasion that denies intelligence is an anti-Cana and anti-Christian image. Instead, it is the other example of the 'formula from the Mysteries' that concerns us here: that is, to the Satan-possessed indiscipline of the "herd" and the precipice to which the swine of Gadarene are hurtling. It is urgent that we begin to understand, through a christianized higher intelligence, what these 'formulae from the Mysteries' really mean in terms of the history that we are living out - otherwise, we will swing from the precipice into an illimitable abyss.


Andrew said...

Caryl, I’m delighted to see you dabbling in scriptural exegesis, and grappling with the actual Greek text at that. I’ve always been intrigued by this particular passage from John’s Gospel, and by the various, even contradictory interpretations of it. Perhaps it would be helpful to point out a few more details concerning its context and relation to other passages in the Gospel. For one, the wedding narrative begins with a formula that recalls the beginning of the previous three episodes: the “Lamb of God” passage, the naming of Simon Peter, and the calling of Philip and Nathanael. Each of these begins with the phrase, “the next day…” The wedding at Cana passage begins “on the third day…” What’s significant about all this is that, if you add up the days of all the episodes, the wedding takes place on the seventh day, which, together with the opening words of the Gospel – “In the beginning”, leads us directly back to the Creation story and the Garden of Eden. It’s as though we’ve come to a second seventh day of Creation, and, instead of resting on this day, God is summoned from rest by his Mother to perform his first miracle. Additionally, we should keep in mind that the Evangelist here is one who, of all the original Apostles, likely had the closest relationship with Mother Mary. Recall the scene at the foot of the cross, where Jesus (when his hour has finally come, and his Mother and beloved disciple stand faithfully at his side) bids his Mother: “Woman, behold, your son!” And then to the disciple: “Behold, your Mother!” And we are told: “from that hour the disciple took her to his own home”. The disciple is the Evangelist himself, and it’s notable that nowhere in his Gospel does John refer to Jesus’ Mother by her name. She is always “woman” or “mother”. One further detail that may be of interest is Mary’s response to the words of her Son. Instead of replying to him, she turns directly to the servants and says: “Do whatever he tells you”. One notes that, if the words of Jesus are to be understood as a rebuke of some sort, Mary is not shaken in her confidence; her intercession is not for nothing. These words of Mary, moreover, are said to have been repeated, whenever Our Blessed Mother has appeared to any of the faithful: “Do whatever he tells you”.

Caryl said...

Thanks, Andrew, for your comments. With respect to the author of the Gospel, Rudolf Steiner argued that the disciple John was the same who was known as Lazarus, and that the raising of Lazarus recounted later in the Gospel was an initiation experience. Lazarus-John was the first Christian initiate - and this would account for the depths of wisdom and knowledge that poured out of him in the Gospel, Letters, and Revelation.
Tradition says that John became the adoped "son" and took Mary to live with him in Ephesus.
There are mysteries within mysteries in all the gospels, but especially this one.
Whether Steiner's argument is correct or not, the relationship of the Mystery-tradition to Christianity (and Judaism) is well worth exploring. I may continue in this vein next time- stay tuned!