Pondering Birthgiving

Each of these men have taken Mary as one of
their names e.g. Fr. Leonard Mary
Did you ever wonder why some monks and priests take on the name of Mary when they join their
religious orders? I know I have! What in heaven's name?!

It was certainly odd to me when I began darkening the doors of Catholic and Orthodox Churches and monasteries in late 2008. Though I'd come great strides into understanding that an admiration for the Mother of God was appropriate, this practice of religious men taking on Mary's name seemed to unnerve me.

As my journey into the faith progressed, I began to understand just how heroic Mary's faith was. Then, as I studied the theology of our human bodies I began understanding that being human is sacramental... that our bodies, male and female are visible signs of unseen realities. I began understanding that our bodies tell a story and that their every aspect has a theology.

God wants to marry us!
Then one day, the light went on and I realized that in the language of scripture, God wants to marry us... both all of humanity and in some very real sense each one of us. Yes, this too was unnerving on many levels. Yet scripture is very persistent on this issue even to the very last pages of the New Testament. Jesus is the Bridegroom, the Church is His bride, and St. Paul calls this a Mega Mystery. Indeed.

So how does this even make sense to those of us without a womb?

I would suggest that there are no humans that lack a womb... spiritually speaking that is.

Every human soul has a womb component. It is sometimes referred to as the God shaped hole in our hearts where we are told to receive Jesus. I know that for me at first I preferred the idea of being a wide receiver on a football team whose job is to get open to receive the pass. Lately I've become more comfortable in my own masculinity so I don't get unnerved like I used to when thinking about my soul having a feminine / receptive component. Interestingly, in many gendered languages (Italian, Spanish, Arabic, etc.) the word for soul is itself feminine, emphasizing this receptive aspect of being human. 

So no matter whether our trillions of physical cells carry xy or xx chromosomes making us physically male or female, we all have a soul and the soul has a feminine component built to receive, like a womb. (See Note 1 below.)

What does this imply? 


(For what I'm not implying see Note 2 below.)

Like Mary, we too can open to God's love for
the sake of blessing others. (See Note 3 below.)
It is this 'SO MUCH' that is the subject of this Visio Divina prayer and meditation. I'm sure I cannot sum it up here but I'm convinced that it should be pondered. At the very least it can clue us in on why both men and women down through the centuries after Christ have taken on Mary's name as their own. 

Like Mary, those who love God desire to open up to His love and do His will. They wish to have her deep faith that God would do amazing things in, with and through her. Like her they desire to give birth to the divine in the world, infusing it with love and light. Like Mary they stand amazed at the ability of God to do the impossible in, with and through the unqualified, the poor and the marginalized. Like Mary they magnify God for choosing them to be a blessing to all they encounter.

Like Mary.

Pondering these things goes deep into our anatomy which is a sign (sacrament) of unseen spiritual realities. The enemy does not want us to take that deep dive.

You see, the evil one was told of his doom at the dawn of time... that the seed of a woman would crush his head. This caused him great fear which bred even greater hatred. Since that moment he and his minions have focused the greater share of their malice on women, twisting our view of them, objectifying their bodies, attacking their ability to bring life into the world and nurture it, degrading, abusing and demeaning them in a host of ways. Sadly, the enemy has often used men as accomplices in his hate.

But by the grace of God, pondering the true meaning of our bodies, our Lord and His Blessed Mother can begin to untwist what the enemy has twisted and restore woman to her rightful place as the crown of all the created order. Seeing that scripture clearly depicts the people of God as his bride, anything we can do to allow Him to heal our view of women is a good thing.

May this Visio Divina Card be a tiny help to that end.

[Note 1: Indeed, every soul also has a masculine component as well. All souls have an innate ability to sow seeds, to be self donating. Perhaps that will be the subject of a future Visio Divina meditation.]

[Note 2: I am not implying that men can have a female soul any more than I am implying that women can have a male soul. I believe that to be whole, every man should properly integrate the feminine genius of receptivity and that every woman should properly integrate the masculine genius of seed sowing or self donation. The broken and twisted machismo of men has by and large prevented the proper integration of the feminine genius while women have excelled at incorporating the seed sowing / self donation of the masculine genius. Look how successful women have been at teaching (a form of seed sowing) in the last 150 years, it is indeed a beautiful thing to behold!]

[Note 3: The beautiful Icon is by Marek Czarnecki who graciously gave us permission to distribute this card freely, please support his work!]

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