|Pen and Ink Reflections||
I thought we would take a look at the epistle today and perhaps over the next few weeks continue to make our way through Ephesians. This passage is particularly beautiful and I think gives us an insight into the spirituality of the community following on from Paul and of their care for the churches that were being founded, in this case at Ephesus. As Elizabeth pointed out a couple of weeks ago, there are various stylistic and theological matters in Ephesians that cause scholars to doubt whether this is the work of Paul himself, but that really doesn’t matter. What this brings us is an insight into the understanding that the author had of God in Christ, at a still very early stage of the church’s development...
Have you ever felt silenced, not being heard, when you have shared your story and your truth? Have you ever been suppressed in some aspect of yourself, your love and understanding? Have you ever been stigmatised, misinterpreted, or presented as something you are not? If so, or if anyone you know has ever suffered any of these things, then this day – this feast of Mary Magdalene - is for you. This is your day, our day, everyone’s day: for every silenced, suppressed and stigmatised person who lives, or has ever lived. For though herself silenced, suppressed and stigmatised, throughout Christian history Mary Magdalene has always remained the foremost witness to the Resurrection, the ‘apostle to the apostles’, the first bearer of that astonishing hope which, through Christ, transforms all the silencing, the suppression, and the stigma of our world. In so far as we can identify with Mary Magdalene, we too are set free from our demons, and from our fear. We too can find our voices, step out of our tombs, and live the truth of God’s image, call and naming of us. So, rejoice my gorgeous siblings! This day – this Mary Magdalene Day - is such good news for all of us and all of God’s wider, wondrous, Creation…
If we ever need to show how important relationships are in nurturing love and faith, Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger, and their family must be high on the list of examples. For on 19 July we particularly remember Gregory and Macrina, but other members of their family are also notable official saints in the Christian calendar: not least their brother Basil the Great, their mother Emiliana, and grandmother Macrina the Elder. This is a powerful reminder of how the relational webs of our lives are so crucial to us. Not least those women's names are also highly significant, as they point us to the usually deeply buried history of so many women in Christian Tradition, and to the vital contributions they made to the growth of the Church. Sadly, of course, even these we almost always receive through the records of men, who have filtered, through their own perspectives, the full female story. So, on 19 July for example, in the Anglican lectionary, we are able to honour Macrina the Younger. Yet this is only alongside one of her brothers, Gregory, and essentially it is by his references to her, and not through her own work directly, that we know something of her at all. This a great shame. For Gregory wrote both a hagiography, entitled the Life of Macrina, and a profound reflection, entitled a Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection, which he dedicated to Macrina, purportedly describing the deep conversation he had with her on her deathbed. These are wonderful, for they show to us a quite remarkable woman who was clearly a central spiritual influence and model for her family and the wider Church. Spiritually and intellectually, she shaped, in her brothers Gregory and Basil, two of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. In addition, within the limits of her times, she created new space for women. Yet, we might then wonder, despite Gregory's fine tributes, how much more is there which we may never know about her and about other women of her day. What we do have remains an inspiration to us today. For Macrina shows us what it is to be an outstanding sister in the Faith...