Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eros & Christ: Mary’s ecstasy in fiction

[Part of a series on Eros and Christ] Mary’s ecstasy at the moment of Jesus’ conception is explored in creative works by two women of faith, Trudie Barreras and myself. The split between sexuality and spirituality in Christian tradition may be healed by considering our reflections on Mary’s experience. Two previous posts covered Barreras’ painting “Annunciation” and her meditation “Miriam’s Journey.” Here a scene from my novel “Jesus in Love” is presented. In the following excerpt, Jesus talks to his mother about the erotic side of spirituality. When I wrote the novel, the words seemed to come “through” me as I opened my heart to Christ. I wanted the scene to express the holy interplay of sex and spirit. Jesus, the narrator, has worked up the courage to ask his mother about it as the scene begins: _____ “Maybe you could tell me what it was like when God ‘overshadowed’ you and you conceived me. I know it’s personal, but it would help me.” “I never even discussed that with Papa-Joe,” she replied rather primly. The first glimmer of dawn must have highlighted the inner turmoil on my face, because she relented. “Well, Papa-Joe didn’t need to know, but you do. I want you to be ready when the Holy Spirit makes love to you.” A wave of sensual longing passed through me. It was like a hot wind that left my heart racing and my whole body tingling with anticipation. We were crossing into a level of intimacy that was unknown in my culture. “When your Father overshadowed me, it felt good in every way—spiritual, mental, emotional…physical, too,” Mom explained. “You said the Holy Spirit felt ‘sexy.’ Yes. I was a virgin, so I didn’t know how it would feel to make love, but sex is no secret to a farm girl like me, who grew up in a one-room house full of people. I did know that it was possible to form a sacred sexual bond with God because I had learned about such mysteries from the elderly matriarchs.” I looked at the ground, feeling bashful. Normally if I felt unsteady in some way, I reached right out in spirit and braced myself against my Father’s being. But what if God decided to appear to me as the Holy Spirit? I wasn’t ready to have this conversation with Her present. Mom continued. “It didn’t happen suddenly or all at once. Your Father paused at every stage as He made love to me to make sure that I wasn’t just saying yes out of duty or fear. He whispered marvelous promises to me over and over. Most concerned His relationship with me, but some were about you.” She smiled at me with a mother’s pride in her offspring, then resumed her story. “They were the same promises from the scriptures that they recite in the synagogue, but while He was making love to me, they seemed incredibly intimate, as if they were just for me. I was very eager. Jesus, it was so real! I had faith before, but this was nothing like that. This was feeling God caress my heart, my breasts, my private parts....” Mom gazed into the sunrise, letting the bliss on her face tell me the rest of the story. Wind ruffled through the wildflowers growing outside the grotto. Mom looked in my eyes and patted my hand. “You will be bonded with God permanently.” _____ I hope that readers are enlivened and enlightened by this creative celebration of Mary’s ecstasy, a part of the Christian story that is often overlooked. Too much of Christian tradition has been sex-negative, but a fresh look at the Virgin Birth may help bridge the gap between sexuality and spirituality. Coming soon: Our summer series on Eros and Christ will continue with “Sunday Confessions,” a poem by New York poet Maruja.


Trudie said...

It was when I first read this passage over a year ago that I knew "Jesus in Love" was one of the most important books ever written. It resonated so totally with my own perception. As Kitt says in her discussion, it really did seem as if the Holy Spirit was speaking directly through this description, and begging us as humans to get over all the sex negativity and fear that we have allowed to hamper our response to God as our true Lover. I'm so glad it is being reprinted in this wonderful series!

KittKatt said...

Trudie, I am really honored by your praise. Can my novel really be “one of the most important books ever written”!?

Just before I saw your comment, I was feeling doubt and wondering if I was putting too much time and resources into Jesus in Love projects. Your words are a welcome affirmation that came at just the right time.

KittKatt said...

A Facebook friend left a lovely comment on Facebook about this post. I'm re-posting it here so more people can read it:

I am really enjoying this series! Exploring the ecstatic and intimate side of the conception of Jesus, stepping away from the sterile depictions found in the gospels reminds me and enforces for me reality of something that has always been on my mind whenever I read the stories in the Bible. We are, I think, far to reluctant to see the beauty of our sexual and sensual nature.

Trudie said...

I wanted to share with everyone the picture that sprang to my mind after KittKatt's response to my "one of the most important books ever written" comment. I thought about the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis and the "perpetual winter" that the Witch perpetrated on the land of Narnia. That is the feeling I get from the extreme sex negativity that the Church(es) have perpetrated on humankind since the early days of Christianity. This bears on resemblance to anything Jesus taught or lived, and I fully and firmly believe that Cherry's vision of the FULLY human Jesus, if fully shared as I believe it needs to be, could thaw this winter like the Breath of Aslan!