“…When I say painless, please understand, I don’t mean you will not feel anything. What you will feel is a lot of pressure; you will feel the might of creation move through you…”
– Giuditta Tornetta in Painless Childbirth
I am outsider to Catholicism and other branches of Christianity, but I see Mary as an aspect of the sacred feminine that weaves its way through a variety of religious traditions and practices. As a Unitarian Universalist myself, I believe there are many ways to touch the “chord of the sacred” within each of us and that we can find threads of commonality and expression in most religions. Since it is Christmas today, I wanted to share some intriguing excerpts from several different Mary-themed blog posts that touched me this week and that also relate to my dissertation topic of birth as a spiritual experience…
The first is from a birth blogging friend Kelli, who writes with love and tenderness about what the Christmas story can teach us about giving birth:
Another thing that Mary surely understood was that she was specially chosen to bring this new life into the world through the capabilities of her own body alongside that unconstrained power that placed him there in the first place. For birth is about releasing expectations and trusting that you are supported. It is knowing that just by the way your body was designed and grew this life, you are capable of bringing this life forward. In our modern world, what birth is all about hasn’t changed. It isn’t about dreading pain. It isn’t about wondering if “they” will let you do this or that. It isn’t about enduring it until it is over. It isn’t about being afraid and resigning to hope simply for a healthy baby. The child you carry is destined to impact the world. We may not know how, but we can know it is for certain. As the mother of this child, you matter. Mary is revered as holy by many of varying faiths. If giving birth is not sacred work, then what is? Birth, mamas, is about knowing. How this special and amazing child you carry comes into the world matters a great deal. How this child’s mother is revered before, during, and after the process of birth matters a great deal…
Then, from a pagan blogger from whom I borrowed my post title today, this post about being pregnant with divine potential:
What could be more magical than conceiving, gestating, and giving birth to the embodiment of Christ consciousness?
What could be more magical than birthing the return of light into a darkened world?
What could be more magical than dissolving shame and restoring the brilliant shine to a woman’s life?
For all its shrillness and glitter, the Christmas season offers us images of Mary, big-bellied, pregnant with the Power of Being, however you might name it.
Allowing ourselves to deepen into those images might well dissolve the shame that so often obscures the light imbuing our bodies. Allowing ourselves to resonate with Mary might well unleash the life-celebrating energy already radiating from our bellies, our body’s core…
And, of course, the breastfeeding activist in me thrilled to read this article about Pope Francis supporting public breastfeeding and this juicy, relevant snippet caught my eye about the image of the nursing mother—Mary—as historically symbolic of God’s love:
The cultural shift was so great that even Catholics soon came to regard the breast as an “inappropriate” image for churches. Instead, the sacrifice of the cross – the suffering Jesus – became the dominant motif of Christianity while the Nativity was sanitized into a Hallmark card.
“Ask anybody in the street what’s the primary Christian symbol and they would say the crucifixion,” said Margaret Miles, author of “A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750,” a book that traces the disappearance of the image of the breast-feeding Mary after the Renaissance.
“It was the takeover of the crucifixion as the major symbol of God’s love for humanity” that supplanted the breast-feeding icon, she said. And that was a decisive shift from the earliest days of Christianity when “the virgin’s nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God’s love for humanity…”
On a related note, I also recently enjoyed seeing a picture on my Facebook feed of one of my birth goddess sculptures standing on shelf next to a Lego Pope and a lovely nativity set.
Merry (or Mary!) Christmas to you and may we all celebrate the birth of divine potential as we greet the dawning of a new year.