Saturday, April 15, 2006

Zhivago 2 - Mary Magdalene, a true apostle

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Mary Magdalen by He Qi, China

Miss Eagle is always stunned at how people view Mary Magdalene - and the extremes of those views to the extent that one has to wonder if they are talking about the same person. What has always peeved Miss Eagle though is her own view that the capital 'C' church has been so easily dismissive of Mary. Mary was there with the twelve but is never considered an apostle.

Yet Mary, in womanly fashion, provided nurture and resources for the work of Jesus. She made so much so possible. But above all where Miss Eagle is peeved to the limit is that Mary Magdalene was the first bearer of the good news of the resurrection, yet for 2000 years the capital 'C' church - with only very recent exceptions - has forbidden women the preaching of the good news officially within the its services. For Miss Eagle, Mary Magdalene is a true Apostle. She resourced the ministry of Jesus. She was constant during his crucifixion and did not go to pieces or to flight like the majority of the male Apostles. She was there to discover the empty tomb. In fact, that's the thing. She was there. She was constant. She was there for the action and there to pick up the pieces. A truly female story. One that many men never get!


MARY MAGDALENE
II

Before the Festival comes the spring cleaning;
Away from the crowd,
With myrrh from a little pail
I wash your most pure feet.

I feel for the sandals and cannot find them.
I see nothing through my tears
And the strands of my hair
Cover my eyes like a veil.

I have planted your feet on the hem of my skirt, Jesus.
I have watered them with my tears, I have wound them round
With a string of beads from my neck,
I have cloaked them in my hair.

I see the future in detail
As though you had stopped it.
At this moment I am able to prophesy
With the foresight of a Sibyl.

To-morrow the veil of the temple will be torn,
We will huddle together in a little group, apart
And the earth will sway under our feet,
Perhaps out of pity for me.

The columns of the guards will re-form
And the horsemen will ride away.
Like a windspout in a storm, the cross above my head
Will strain towards the sky,

And I will fall at its feet,
Silent and dazed biting my lips.
Your arms will spread out to the ends of the cross
To embrace too many.

For whom in all the world
Is your embrace so wide,
For whom so much torment,
So much power?

In all the world
Are there so many souls?
So many lives?
So many villages, rivers and woods?

Those three days will pass
But they will push me down into such emptiness
That in the frightening interval
I shall grow up to the Resurrection.

From Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak translated from the Russian by Max Hayward and Manya Harari. The Harvill Press, London, 1996

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday - a crucial meditation


...Misner walked away from the pulpit, to the rear wall of the church. There he stretched, reaching up until he was able to unhook the cross that hung there. He carried it then, past the empty choir stall, past the organ where Kate sat, the chair where Pulliam was, on to the podium and held it before him for all to see – if only they would. See what was certainly the first sign any human anywhere had made: the vertical line; the horizontal one. Even as children, they drew it with their fingers in snow, sand or mud; they laid it down as sticks in dirt; arranged it from bones on frozen tundra and broad savannas; as pebbles on riverbanks; scratched it on cave walls and outcroppings from Nome to South Africa. Algonquin and Laplanders, Zulu and Druids – all had a finger memory of this original mark. The circle was not first, nor was the parallel or the triangle. It was this mark, this, that lay underneath every other. This mark, rendered in the placement of facial features. This mark of a standing human figure poised to embrace. Remove it, as Pulliam had done, and Christianity was like any and every religion in the world: a population of supplicants begging respite from begrudging authority; harried believers ducking fate or dodging everyday evil; the weak negotiating a doomed trek through the wilderness; the sighted ripped of light and thrown into the perpetual dark of choicelessness. Without this sign, the believer’s life was confined to praising God and taking the hits. The praise was credit, the hits were interest due on a debt that could never be paid. Or, as Pulliam put it, no one knew when he had “graduated”. But with it, in the religion in which this sign was paramount and foundational, well life was a whole other matter.

from
Paradise by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, Alfred A Knopf, NY, 1998, pp 145-147

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Zhivago 1 - Remembrance, bread, wine, friends.

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At Jesus's last meal with His friends

he asked us to do what He did

and remember Him with bread, wine, and friends.

Miss Eagle fell in love with Boris Pasternak at the age of 17. She read his most famous work, Dr Zhivago - a wonderful novel whose prose reads like sheer poetry. This very Russian story covers the Russia of World War I and the Revolution. It is a novel of great spirituality reflecting the Orthodox beliefs that permeate, in spite of the efforts of Lenin and Stalin et alia, the world of eastern Europe. Tucked away in the back of the novel, under the title Zhivago's Poems, is a collection or cycle of 25 poems. Miss Eagle asks you to make yourself quiet and comfortable and take this poem from that cycle as a meditation for this day of remembrance, Holy Thursday.

GETHSEMANE
From Zhivago’s Poems

The turn of the road was lit
By the unconcerned shimmer of distant stars.
The road circled the Mount of Olives;
Beneath it flowed the Kedron.

The field tailed off
Into the Milky Way.
Grey-haired olive trees tried to walk the air
Into the distance.

Across the way was a vegetable garden.
Leaving his disciples outside the enclosure,
He said to them:
‘My soul is sorrowful unto death,
Stay here and watch with me.’

Unresisting he renounced
Like borrowed things
Omnipotence and the power to work miracles;
Now he was mortal like ourselves.

The night was a kingdom of annihilation,
Of non-being,
The whole world seemed uninhabited,
And only this garden
was a place for the living.

He gazed into the black abyss,
Empty, without beginning or end.
Sweating blood, he prayed to his Father
That this cup of death should pass him by.

Having tamed his agony with prayer
He went out through the garden gate.
There, overcome by drowsiness,
The disciples lay slumped in the grass.

He woke them: ‘God has granted you to live in my time,
And you loll about like this…
The hour of the Son of Man has
struck,
He will deliver himself into the
hands of sinners.’

Hardly had he spoken when from who knows where
A rabble of slaves and thieves appeared
With torches and knives
And in front of them Judas with his traitor’s kiss.

Peter resisted the murderers,
Struck off an ear with his sword.
‘Steel cannot decide a quarrel’, he heard:
‘Put back your sword in its scabbard.

‘Could not my Father send a host
Of winged legions to defend me?
Then no hair of my head would be touched,
The enemy would scatter and leave no trace.

‘But the book of life has reached the page
Which is the most precious of all holy things.
What has been written must be fulfilled.
Let it be so.
Amen.

‘You see, the passage of the centuries is like a parable
And catches fire on its way.
In the name of its terrible majesty
I shall go freely, through torment, down to the grave.

‘And on the third day I shall rise again.
Life rafts down a river, like a convoy of barges,
The centuries will float to me out of the darkness.
And I shall judge them.’

From Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak translated from the Russian by Max Hayward and Manya Harari. The Harvill Press, London, 1996

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Maria George - 1

Maria George is nothing if not a Melbourne institution. From her premises in 179 Flinders Lane, she supplies sequins, beads, crystals, pearls and rhinestones. She will even teach you how to bead. Indulgence in all that is pretty. And her window for Easter is pretty too.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Seasons of the soul: Holy Week 2006


Miss Eagle marks the seasons, keeps the traditions, believes in the rituals. To-day marks the beginning of Holy Week for Christians in the western tradition. The eastern and western traditions of the Christian Church mark Easter differently on their calendars. Next year the two traditions will co-incide and share the same date for Easter, but in 2006 the west will mark Easter of April 16 and the east will celebrate on April 23.

Holy Week is the most sacred time in the Christian calendar. No, the most sacred time is not Christmas. Christmas might be the biggest time on the commercial and corporate calendar - but not on the Christian calendar. It is of great importance - but not as important as the things that are remembered this week.

To-day is known, generally, as Palm Sunday. While the whole of Lent is a period of reflection, reflection this week becomes more sombre as some very dramatic events are remembered: events with the capacity to change the lives and outlooks of human beings. Thursday is Holy or Maundy Thursday, Friday is Good Friday, Sunday is Easter Day.

In recent years, Palm Sunday has become a focus for public reflection on issues of peace and justice. In Melbourne, this public reflection will be held at the Melbourne Town Hall with a special guest, Jim Wallis, and Tim Costello.

To-day, palm fronds in one form or another will be handed out at Christian Churches. One old tradition is the weaving of palm leaf into crosses. For instructions on this ancient Christian craft, see here.

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