Holy Week

Following our Open Spirit presence at the Wood Sisters Winter Festival, another small step in this resurrection process was taken during Holy Week. Inspired by Mary Magdalene and Maundy Thursday, I and soul friend, Helen Sands, invited a group to join us for a collaborative ceremony at my home during Holy Week.

Helen had found encouragement in Clarissa Pinkola Este's book 'Untie the Strong Woman' and we both drew inspiration from Cynthia Bourgeault's writing on restoring the sacrament of anointing. So within our afternoon we wove together bible passages from John's Gospel, of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, with some beautiful original poetry written by Helen.

Our vessel for the afternoon was drawn from the collaborative communion pattern that we have used in many Living Spirit groups over the years. So we began to gather together physically in Dartington and gathered ourselves inwardly and drew together spiritually as a group by lighting a central candle and settling into some silent meditation.

Moving on to engage with some sacred teaching, I offered some thoughts on the meaning of this spiritual season, drawing upon pagan reflections on the Spring Equinox, Jewish teachings about Pesach/Passover and the Christian inspiration of Holy Week. It was a blessing to have members of all these spiritual traditions within the group, who added their own insights and experience, such that this was very much a sharing of collaborative wisdom.

Helen then added her reflections on the Gospel passages with her poetry and passed around some beautiful images including a carved detail of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus and paintings of Mary at the foot of the Cross by Giotto and others.

Much as I'd love to include all of Helen's writing, I'll share just the shortest piece here:

At the Foot of the Cross

My sisters sit like ancient stones around his slumped body, ancient, eternal, as if in memory they have mourned every death since the beginning of time. Rooted they sit, wailing, weaving the cloth of keening into his shroud.

Mary his mother embraces his head, his shoulders. The weight of him is in her lap. She will never let him go from her gaze, her embrace.

I sit at his feet. I hold them, one in each hand. Stone cold. Shocking. Both feet broken, pierced through by nails, bloody and torn. Never to tread the earth again.
Rocking gently to and fro, all I can do is hold them. From my heart the oil will come to anoint him. I have nothing else. From my heart, this tide of pain and of my tears. Anointing.

After a space for everyone to contribute their own responses, thoughts, feelings and experience, we moved on to share our own washing and anointing ceremony. The group formed in pairs and each pair found their own sacred space either in the house or outside in the garden. Then we quietly took it in turns to wash and dry each others feet and then anoint them with fragrant oil, including the option of spikenard oil (or nard) as mentioned in the Bible.

This was a very deep experience of communion, of a sacred giving and receiving that really felt touched by both a very personal and a transpersonal love. It felt especially meaningful to meet in such a sensual and embodied way and for this to be happening within the greater holding of nature, beneath the sun and the trees, on the good earth in the garden.

Our afternoon concluded as we joined back together in a circle to share our reflections on the ceremony and to bless each other through singing together and pray that blessings would flow through us into our families, communities and the world. In the spirit of death and rebirth, slavery and freedom, loss and love and the re-balancing the masculine and feminine that had woven through the afternoon, we sang Down to the River to Pray, which was first published in 'Slave Songs of the United States' in 1867 with the following lines:

As I went down in de valley to pray,
Studying about dat good old way,
When you shall wear de starry crown,
Good Lord, show me de way.
O sister let's go down,
let's go down, let's go down,
O sister, let's go down,
Down in de valley to pray.

Our version, following this inspiration, went on to include brothers, mothers, fathers and more...and the day ended in a final agape feast of tea and home made cake. With heartfelt thanks to all who joined us.


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