Monday, April 28, 2008

An Incredible Liturgical Experience

I am completely delighted and honored to share with you the ritual blessing that my friend/priest/mentor Elizabeth created for my baby shower. This is not an event that's usually spiritualized; often it consists of silly games (too frequently involving poop) and a central focus on gifts. While we had our fun, for me it was very important to acknowledge the deeply spiritual nature of what has been happening with me over the last several months, and to bring my friends - particularly the women - into the joy and gratefulness that comes from being honored with the ability to house life within our bodies.

So I asked Elizabeth to form something around these ideas, from the primal elements of womanhood on to the celebration of all women and the men who support them. She took these ideas and added even more wonderful elements: blessings on our family, poems and scriptures, a renewal of our marriage intentions, and promises to our daughter. Everyone participated and was touched deeply. I feel so privileged to have had this created for me, and now I am sending it out into the world (please contact me for permission if you would like to use it or any part of it). I hope it will inspire others to try similar rituals; it's incredible what a little liturgy can do for the soul. We will always carry the memory of this event in our hearts.

Stasi, John, and Baby McAteer
April 26, 2008
A Blessing
(prepared by Revd. Elizabeth Davenport)


Introduction

We have come together this day to celebrate three wondrous things: a mother, a father, a child to be born. No, four: the Creator who shares with us her love of making life.

For most of us, the image of God as Father runs deep in our souls, in our prayers. It’s a wonderful image, and we honor John – and all fathers – for the way in which they embody God to us.

But throughout the world, and threaded through its many faith traditions, is another image – that of Divine Mother. In India, where I spent part of last month, prayers frequently begin with the salutation, “Father God, Divine Mother….”

If the Divine is our Mother, it is no stretch to say that motherhood is something through which we encounter and touch divinity. Stasi – it is our joy today to come together as women, with men supporting us and marveling at the divinity in our female bodies, to celebrate you as a mother, and to bless you and the child within you.

Centuries ago, some of the great mystics of the Christian faith experienced Christ in their midst as mother – the one at whose breast we drink life’s milk, the one who would give all that those whom she birthed might live, and thrive. Our mother in kind, our mother in grace, as Julian of Norwich once said – the feminine as the door to union with the divine.

It’s so good to be woman! To be maiden, and then mother… to partake in the creative activity of God and of the universe in our very own bodies.

Stasi, we celebrate you this day as a mother! And first, a poem which celebrates your own birth – as you approach your own birthday – and your almost readiness to birth your own daughter….

* * *
Rowan and Red Thread
by Rose Flint, 2006

If I think back into my emergence
from my Mother’s womb I feel the miracle
in the center of my body as if I held within me
a chalice filled with fire. My daughter flamed out
on the red life thread, as I had done,
as my Mother did, and beyond her all the mothers
in the clan – some clear and close and others gone
into the mists – reaching back into the land,
passing on this fine red cord that binds us,
turns us inside out.

And what we make between us down these years
of generations, passing on the gifts – strength,
red hair or black, love of cats, second sight,
a need for making art or policy or healing

is a chain….

Red cord of life: mother, daughter, mother
red thread wound between the rings of stone,
the wells and hillsides of the birthing land;
our bloodline winding back and going on
beyond the distance, beyond the patterned dance
we name our lives within this time, this space,
this tiny moment of the world’s destiny:
mother, daughter, mother – red thread
strong as mountain, deep as earth’s bright heart.

During the reading a red thread is held up, then passed to Stasi. Following the reading, a small piece of red, unspun wool is presented to Stasi.

* * *

Reading, from Deuteronomy, and from John and Stasi’s wedding ceremony
(read by John)

Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts…. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out…. The Lord will command blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God will give you. The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you will keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and walk in His ways.

* * *

Children, by Kahlil Gibran
(read by Sarah, shower hostess)

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”

And he said: Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your
dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

* * *


Promises

Stasi and John, you have said to me that one of the things you want for your children over the years to come is a stable home in which your commitment to each other and to them goes unquestioned, and in which they will always feel safe and secure. I’m going to ask you now to reaffirm the intent with which you promised yourselves to one another on your wedding day.

John, is it your intent still to live together with Stasi in the holy bond of married life? Will you promise anew to honor and uphold her, and to join with her in making a home that shall endure in love and peace? Will you reaffirm your purpose of a deeper union with her, whereby you both shall know joy and fulfillment of love? Will you pledge again to her your complete faithfulness through all the changing experiences of life? And will you give yourself to her completely, body, mind, and soul, each day of your life, that you shall be hers alone, as long as you both shall live? I will.

Stasi, is it your intent still to live together with John in the holy bond of married life? Will you promise anew to honor and uphold him, and to join with him in making a home that shall endure in love and peace? Will you reaffirm your purpose of a deeper union with him, whereby you both shall know joy and fulfillment of love? Will you pledge again to him your complete faithfulness through all the changing experiences of life? And will you give yourself to him completely, body, mind, and soul, each day of your life, that you shall be his alone, as long as you both shall live? I will.

And now I’m going to ask you to make some promises to your daughter.

Will you commit yourselves now to building a home where she will find her deep belonging, a never-ending well of love? We will.

Will you endeavor to shape your family life in such a way that it nurtures and supports her, that she might rise up and call you blessed? Will you teach her by word and example to value what is good, what is holy, what is life-giving, what is just, and will you strive to learn from her the things she will teach you from within her own spirit? We will.

Will you help her to grow in the knowledge and love of God, and to become all that God intends her to be? We will.

And I ask you all who hear these promises today:

Will you who witness these promises do all in your power to uphold Stasi and John in these commitments they make this day? We will.

Will you love and honor the child to be born, accompanying her on her life’s path and praying that she may grow in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and with all living things? We will.

* * *


Blessed are you, O God. You have blessed the union of Stasi and John. Amen.

Blessed are you, O God. May your blessing be upon Stasi and the child she carries. Amen.

Blessed are you, O God. May these last weeks of pregnancy be for Stasi and John a time of drawing nearer to you and to one another. Amen.

Blessed are you, O God. May Stasi’s and John’s experience of birth be filled with awe and wonder at the joy of sharing in your creative power. Amen.

Blessed are you, O God. May this child grow in health and strength, and may her days be long upon this earth. Amen.

* * *

Blessings
At this point Elizabeth puts on her stole as a symbol of her priesthood. She places her hands on Stasi’s head.

Greetings, Stasi, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed may you be among women. Blessed be your own womanhood and the fruit of your womb.

By the winds that bring change, by the fire of love, by the waters of fortune and the strength of the earth do I bless you.

Elizabeth places her hands on Stasi’s belly.

Child conceived at the harvest, we give thanks for you. Birthed as summer’s sun lengthens, may you be a light to all whom you touch. May the world rejoice in the gifts that you bring, and may all who know you call you blessed.

Elizabeth kisses Stasi’s belly. She then invites each person present to place a hand on Stasi, and to offer a blessing, as they choose….(spontaneous prayers follow for Stasi & John)


Blessing of the water in which the child will be bathed upon her birth

We take water, symbol of life and growth and abundance. We give thanks to God for the gift of water. Over it, God’s Spirit moved at the beginning of creation. In it, we grow in our mothers’ wombs, and through it, we are brought to birth. By it, we are baptized and marked as Christ’s own for ever.

Invite each to add blessing, as they choose….(spontaneous prayers and love are offered for baby as water is touched by each person present. Water is collected to be taken home and saved for baby’s first bath in the blessings of friends)


A Gaelic blessing (traditional) over the water
(read by Edette, in whose home we gathered, as Elizabeth swirled the water)

A small wave for your form,
A small wave for your voice,
A small wave for your speech,
A small wave for your means,
A small wave for your generosity,
A small wave for your appetite,
A small wave for your wealth,
A small wave for your life,
A small wave for your health,
Nine waves of grace upon you,
Waves of the Giver of Health.

* * *

Response of Stasi and John (spontaneous)

* * *

Benediction
Stasi and John are each anointed with oil at the following words.

Stasi, I anoint you in the name of Christ. May you, like him, be present among us as mother, gentle healer, and prophet.

John, I anoint you in the name of Christ. May you, like him, be present among us as brother, wise teacher, and friend.

May you each be the face of God to your child, loving her as God loves you.

Child, may you know and feel the love of God in your life.
May you grow and flourish as the person God has dreamed you to be.
May you demand of us who love you that we make the world a safe and healthy place for you, and for all children.
May you in your turn be the face of God to us. Amen.

* * *

Song: “The Deer’s Cry” (The Pilgrim)

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, radiance of Moon, splendor of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of the Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's eye to look before me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me.

From all who shall wish me ill, afar and anear
alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power that may oppose
my body and soul:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I rise, Christ to shield me,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me.

I arise today…


Music by Shaun Davey
Sung by Rita Connolly
(Tara 3032,
http://www.taramusic.com/press/pr3032.htm)

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Beloved Stasi and John, it was an honor to prepare this for you. May the sense of blessing linger in your hearts and spirits as you re-read this small gift of liturgy today and in the days to come. And may your daughter rise up and call you blessed. Love, Elizabeth