SHE: the Virgin Mary and the Goddess Kālī
What has Kālī to do with Mary of Nazareth? How can the beneficent, the fearsome goddess of India lead to an appreciation of Mary the Virgin, the Woman, the Mother of God? How can she give new birth to the Church? In this retreat, we contemplate the śakti, the Spirit, the divine feminine, and ask some questions.
The Devī Māhātmya is believed to have crystallized in its present form during the 9th–10th century, and is believed to be originally authored by sage Markandeya.
A rough breakdown of the chapters is as follows:
- Chapter 1: Like many other texts, the stories are embedded in a conversation where a sage, Medha, is narrating the story to king Surat and a merchant called Samadhi. The sage tells them how worship of the Devi is paramount, and tells them the story of the killing of two demons who had stolen the Vedas. Vishnu goes to fight them, and is almost defeated, at which point he seeks the help of Chandi. Chandi glances at the demons amorously (she is also very beautiful) and the demons are enchanted. Then Vishnu decapitates them with his discus.
- Chapter 2: The creation of Durga and the defeat of Mahishasura‘s army. Mahishasura is the buffalo-demon who defeats the gods by a boon from Brahma and establishes himself as the ruler of all three worlds. It is to battle him that Devi is incarnated, from the assembled powers of all the gods. Mahishasura sends his soldiers to tackle this upstart goddess, but between Durga and her lion, all his best generals are killed, the ground flowing with their blood.
- Chapter 3: The killing of Mahishasura himself. Finally Mahishasura comes out. A fierce battle rages in which Mahishasura throws mountains at her, but these are powdered by Durga. Using his magical powers, he becomes an elephant, a lion, a human. He injures Durga’s mount, the lion. But in the end Durga pins him down with her foot and kills him with a spear.
- Chapter 4 The gods led by Indra chant hymns praising the Goddess
- Chapter 5: Messenger to the Goddess. Here the gods are in trouble again. Shumbha and Nishumbha, two other demons, have again defeated the gods and overtaken heaven. As Durga is approaching their court, they come to know of her ravishing beauty and Shumbha sends a messenger to bring her to him, but she will not go. The famous Devi prayer appears here:
“O goddess of all forms! now you appear as ‘energy’ ”.[(peace), (devotion), etc.]
- Chapter 6: Dhumrolochana, a general of Shumbha, is dispatched to get this beautiful woman, by force if needed. He tries persuasion and fails. When he attacks, he is killed.
- Chapter 7: The killing of Chanda and Munda – two demons from Shumbha-Nishumba’s court. These demons are killed by the Devi in her Kālī form, and KÁlÍ is hailed as Chamundi.
- Chapter 8: The killing of Raktavīja. Raktavīja is a demon who has the power that every drop of blood from him that falls on the ground becomes a new Raktavīja (rakta=blood, vija=seed; each drop of blood is a seed from which a new whole will sprout). Durga is helped now by her Chamundī or KÁlÍ incarnation, who drinks up all the spilling blood by making her tongue into the ground. Finally Durga kills him.
- Chapter 9: The killing of Nishumbha. When Durga pierces Nishumbha with an arrow, he becomes a giant demon. Durga kills this with her sword, and then finally kills Nishumbha.
- Chapter 10: The killing of Shumbha. Seeing the death of Nishumbha, Shumbha is in a terrible rage and attacks the goddess, but also he is curious as to who she is. She reveals all her forms to Shumbha and says that she cannot be defeated, because even Shumbha’s soul is inherent in her. In the end Shumbha too is killed and the gods celebrate.
- Chapter 11: Hymns in praise of Narayanī. Narayanī (wife of Vishnu), is another name for Devi. She is always there to help the gods overcome the forces of evil. She describes many future acts, that she is destined to perform in the future, including the incarnation of Vishnu as Krishna.
- Chapter 12: The recitation in praise of Durga, outlines certain days in the lunisolar calendar that are more auspicious for the worship of the goddess, particularly navaratri.
- Chapter 13: Boons of the Goddess: As the sage Medha is telling this narrative, the king Surath (who has been deposed) and the merchant Samadhi (who has lost his possessions) are listening. Now the Devi bestows boons on them because of their piety in performing her worship. Surath gets his kingdom back, but Samasa instead of wanting his wealth, wants only more knowledge.
The Devī Māhātmya‘s seventh chapter describes Kālī springing forth from the furrowed brow of the goddess Durga in order to slay the demons Chanda and Munda. Here, Kālī’s horrific form has black, loosely hanging, emaciated flesh that barely conceals her angular bones. Gleaming white fangs protrude from her gaping, blood-stained mouth, framing her lolling red tongue. Sunken, reddened eyes peer out from her black face. She is clad in a tiger’s skin and carries a khatvanga, a skull-topped staff traditionally associated with tribal shamans and magicians. The khatvanga is a clear reminder of Kālī’s origin among fierce, aboriginal peoples. In the ensuing battle, much attention is placed on her gaping mouth and gnashing teeth, which devour the demon hordes. At one point Munda hurls thousands of discusses at her, but they enter her mouth “as so many solar orbs vanishing into the denseness of a cloud” (Devimahatmya 7.18). With its cosmic allusion, this passage reveals Kālī as the abstraction of primal energy and suggests the underlying connection between the black goddess and Kāla (‘time’), an epithet of Shiva. Kālī is the inherent power of ever-turning time, the relentless devourer that brings all created things to an end. Even the gods are said to have their origin and dissolution in her.
The eighth chapter of the Devimahatmya paints an even more gruesome portrait. Having slain Chanda and Munda, Kālī is now called ‘Chamunda’, and she faces an infinitely more powerful adversary in the demon named Raktabija. Whenever a drop of his blood falls to earth, an identical demon springs up. When utter terror seizes the gods, Durga merely laughs and instructs Kālī to drink in the drops of blood. While Durga assaults Raktabija so that his blood runs copiously, Kālī avidly laps it up. The demons, who spring into being from the flow, perish between her gnashing teeth until Raktabija topples drained and lifeless to the ground.
I Kālī’s sword
Mary the Virgin
Matthew 1: 1: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3: Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, andPerez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,
4: Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5: Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,
6: Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7: Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, 8: Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9: Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10: Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11: Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
12: And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13: Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor,
14: Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,
15: Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob,
16: Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
17: So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
- This grand opening to the Gospel of Mathew is a theological statement not a pedigree. It is a statement above all about who Mary and Jesus are, not a statement of historical fact.
- In the first instance, the list of names – mostly male – are all purely Jewish. The blood line is pure and stretches back through the major events and personages of the history of the Chosen People.
- After listing forty-two generation – 3 x 14, a symbolic number referring to the time of persecution – we read, “Jacob the father of Joseph” and would have expected the text to continue: ‘Joseph the father of Jesus’. But there is a great shift. The text reads, surprisingly, “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
- This is the great theological statement. The pedigree is not enough; the purity of the blood line is ineffective; there is no value in the list of males. Joseph is listed simply as husband. The focus shifts entirely to Mary. It is she who gives birth to the Christ. She puts an end to the pride of Israel; She breaks with the tradition and starts things off anew, she whose womb is empty – according to the thinking of the day – in which a wholly new creation begins, as new as when the words were said “Let there be light”.
- Other women are mentioned in the list: Tamar the widow; Rahab the prostitute; Ruth the non-Jew; the wife of Uriah, the adulteress. Mary, the fifth woman to be mentioned, is like none of these. She is married, yet virginal.
- Kālī brandishes the sword. She will do away with the demons who oppress the people. She carries the sword in her raised left hand, the demon’s head in the other left hand. She has slaughtered him and freed the devotees who appealed to her.
Mary and Kālī
- Mary likewise brandishes the sword. She wields the sword of faith and cuts more surely than Kālī. She does away with the pride of generation, procreation, pedigree, male line, blood, race, culture, the whole patriarchal view. She will do this because she introduces an altogether different dimension. She cuts, she liberates, not out of anger or resentment, for there is no retaliation. She simply acknowledges that these things are inadequate; they cannot save. They may have once been valuable and necessary but now they are a liability.
- She knows there is another way. She rejects the lineage because she has a deeper knowledge. She has a special relationship with the Spirit, of whom she is the icon. She wields the sword of the knowledge of things unseen, the knowledge, which comes by faith, the knowledge of things undreamed since the foundation of the world. The shift is truly the wielding of a sword. She does away with one system and establishes another.
- All are drawn to take on the attitude of the virgin and her sword. The questions then come. What in your life do you see is ineffective, counterproductive, oppressive to yourself and to others? What do you wish to cut away? What must be cut away in society and in the attitude of people? What must the sword of faith cut away in the life of the Church; what attitudes and institutions, what approaches and prejudices, what presumptions?
- What do you believe in really, not willfully but in a way that is inspired; peaceful yet at the same time terrible to those who are attached to such things. What brilliant darkness of faith dwells in you, what passion which can give birth to a new world, to the true Christ?
- What does Mary, the true Kālī, cut away in you? What things does she question and put to an end in your life?
II Kālī dancing, Mary – the Spirit
Luke 1: 26: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27: to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28: And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
29: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
30: And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32: He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33: and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34: And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?”
35: And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36: And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37: For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38: And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
- Gabriel comes to an insignificant young woman, in an insignificant town; she is without children, without education, without connections. The angel comes announces that she will bear the Son of David, but she rejects the offer. Her statement “How can this come about since I am a virgin” is a refusal made in the delicate middle-eastern way, for she is not naïve; she knows exactly how these things come about. She is waiting for more. The angel has not delivered his whole message. So Gabriel goes on to explain that “the Holy Spirit will overshadow” her.
- With the message now complete, Mary accepts the proposal. She indeed wants the Spirit to come and possess her; nothing else will do. She is inspired by the Spirit to demand the Spirit. She and the Spirit have a relationship which she has known from the start. No man will possess her; only the Spirit will do since she is the icon of the Spirit.
- The idea of Mary as handmaid has been inadequately understood. Her ‘fiat’, “let it be done to me”, has been interpreted as submission. Rather, her ‘fiat’ is linked to the ‘fiat’ of creation when God says “Let there be light”. Her acceptance is also a command. She is both in command and also in obedience. Only those can command who have learned to be obedient. Those who stay simply in obedience and never move on to command are simply subservient.
- Mary has the obedience of faith, which the capacity to move mountains, and to bring heaven to earth. Her ‘fiat’ is not so that ordinary light should shine but that the true Light should be seen in the world.
- Her faith is not propositional in the first place but the interior knowledge of which propositions are the reflection. Her faith is union with the Spirit. It is the perception and production of the future. Mary makes the future come to be.
- Kālī dances. It is the dance of frenzy and possession. She is the energy of Ïiva who is effectively a śava, a corpse beneath her feet. She dances because she is essentially śakti, energy, power, capacity. Śiva can do nothing of himself. He can do all when Kālī is with him.
Mary – Kālī
- She will manifest the Word in flesh. Her birthing is her dancing. Just as the devadasī of the ancient temples of India dances before the image of the deity, expressing him, so Mary performs her dance. Inspired by the music of the Spirit she will manifest the hidden Word in a way unimagined before. She dances a dance never seen before.
- Just as the Spirit is in no sense the tool of God nor just the relationship between Father and Son but is truly God in a way that is completely free and initiatory, so too Mary dances in a way never seen before, inimitable. This Spirit/Woman, who is of the Spirit since the first moment of her existence, is completely free, going as she wills, just as the Spirit comes and goes in a manner no one can know. She refused the first invitation to dance, which Gabriel made. She accepts the second invitation to the dance.
- She will dance at the cross, as she sees her son lifeless as Ïiva. Her dance will be the joy of the Spirit that he breathes into her.
- Her dance breaks down all the structure humans put into place with such effort. The stones of the temple, made by human hands, fall down at the sound of the dance. We have frozen Mary in her beauty. We have tamed her. We are overwhelmed by her fearsome power. But she invites us to be overshadowed by the Spirit, possessed by the Spirit, and join her to dance according to the Spirit-music, for she and the Spirit are one.
- What is your dance? If you had wings to fly where would you go? How would you move? Are you staid, ‘stuck in the mud’, frightened, dispirited, frozen? Where are you free and not inhibited by others?
- Observe the dancing that is in you. See the dance of the “Spirit who comes and goes” – in the emotions, in the play of mind and heart. Observe the energies in your own body, the inspirations of the mind, without fear. What music is playing in you and urging you to let go? How drop the frigidity and let the fire possess you? When do the categories of the mind cease; when does the freedom of the Spirit overshadow you? Allow your heart to sing, and your being to fly. Let Mary be in you to lead you in the Spirit of the dance.
- What is the dance in the Church? What is Mary’s dance in the Church? She leads us, if only we would allow ourselves to be caught up in her excitement.
- There are false spirits, but these are noticed when the music ceases, the joy goes out, the excitement abates. The music becomes noise.
- In this dance, we leave aside all knowledge, and enter into rapture, not knowing where we have come from or where we shall go. The Spirit inhabits our spirit, possesses our spirit, and overshadows our spirit. The Spirit brings us to birth so that we are spirit.
- III Kālī the goddess, Mary, Queen of Heaven
Luke 1: 39: In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,
40: and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41: And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
42: and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43: And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44: For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
45: And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
- Mary, the young woman, does not hesitate to go on foot for a journey of several days. How did she look after herself? She is plucky.
- She goes to the hill country of Judea and greets her cousin Elizabeth, and her joy is infectious. The mere sound of her voice penetrates down into the womb of the old woman so that her foetus leaps, “dances”, with joy. The old and the young meet, the Old and New Testaments meet; the two foetuses meet. It is the visitation: in Mary God has visited his people
- Elizabeth cries out, acknowledging her as ‘the Mother of my Lord’, giving her the high title of Queen Mother, the woman in the kingdom who, even more than the wife of the king, had access and power. For in those days the king had many queens but only one Queen Mother. Elizabeth acknowledges Mary as the Queen of Heaven and earth.
- Kālī is the deity greatly revered in West Bengal, dangerous and beneficent, all powerful and feared. She is both ferocious and the giver of boons, as befits a goddess who is energy itself.
- Joy is not a noticeable feature of Kālī. Yet, her more benign representations try to show another aspect of her complex character, for she does bring relief and salvation.
Mary – the Kālī
- Mary is not like Astarte, the Babylonian Queen of Heaven. She is not a goddess in the way that God is God. She is powerful, precisely because of her vulnerability. Her powerlessness is her power. Where others place obstacles in the paths of goodness, she does not. As the creature totally accepting to be creature, she has the power of God, for he cannot resist her receptivity. She allows him to be God. She gives God purpose. Therefore grace upon grace is poured into her lap.
- The Giver gives according to the capacity of the recipient. Mary not only receives the gift but determines what the gift is to be. Mary is capable of receiving infinitely because she is the icon of the infinite Spirit.
- She has every gift and therefore can bestow every gift. She does so freely since she is the icon of the Sprit who is free.
- What is your deepest joy? Name those moments where your heart leaps. Are there none? What makes you feel really good about yourself?
- Your joy is your power. The joy you communicate makes you light of the world. Those peaks experiences are the fruitful moments of your life when you are triumphant, effective.
- Whenever the eternal joy moves in you it is because the Word of God has been heard in you. It is Mary who gives that Word; it is the Spirit who brings you to the Word.
IV Kālī the beneficent, Mary, Mother of God
Luke 2: 6: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
7: And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.
- The Emperor Augustus considered himself the great benefactor of the world and had bronze plaques placed in the forum to proclaim the era of peace which he has established. The Jewish messianic imagination looked for a conquering warrior Son of David. But it is really Mary, the insignificant woman from Galilee who has brought the peace this world cannot give.
- In her left hands Kālī holds the sword and the head of the demon. Around her neck is the garland of skulls; severed arms form a belt around her waist.
- But her right hands are beneficent. With one hand she commands her devotees ‘do not be afraid’ and with the other she grants boons. She is both terrible and beneficent. She takes and she gives. The animals sacrificed to her are cut up and distributed as food. The blood from the severed neck is placed on the forehead as a sign of benediction.
Mary – Kālī:
- Mary the virgin has demolished the pride of ancestry and tradition. She emasculates and empowers. She gives the sign. Wise with the wisdom of the Spirit she gives the threefold sign: “the child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger”.
- In presenting the child Mary shows the absurdity of the value of violence and control. She is giving the child who holds every value and hope, infinite promise, every possibility. He will grow and become the saviour of the world. Who is the saviour, he who saves or she who provides the saviour? God gives, and Mary gives: she and God are one. She knows this as she places the child tenderly, for she is aware of her acts.
- She wraps him in swaddling clothes not only to protect him from injury but also to determine from the start that he will again become still and wrapped in cloth, the long winding band of the shroud. Him, to whom she gives birth, she also sends to death.
- Then she places him in the manger, the feeding box of the animals, because she destines him as food for the world. She is the housekeeper of the world.
- What is your sign? What is the symbol of your life? What do you give that expresses all that you are. Draw it or write the words down. Allow the mind to be infiltrated with the wisdom of the revealing Spirit. Show what is your gift. Your gift is God’s gift: the one Christ. Be as aware as Mary when she gave the one threefold sign. She treasured all these things in her heart; likewise spend some time treasuring this sign you have given to the world for its redemption.
- In what way do you die? In what way are your rejected and by whom? This shadow in your life indicates the way in which you can be saving.
- In what way are you food for the world? We give food in imitation of Mary and by virtue of Mary. Her act enables our act. She who is blessed among women is active among both men and women.
V Kālī’s tongue, Mary and the Blood
John 2: 1: On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;
2: Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.
3: When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
4: And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
5: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6: Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
7: Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
8: He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it.
9: When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom
10: and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
11: This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
- At the wedding feast in Cana when the wine is running out, Mary turns to Jesus. He realizes she is asking for more than wine, and he seeks a delay, just as in the garden when the cup of the passion is handed to him, he will draw back. He says to Mary, “My hour has not yet come”, just as he will say to the Father, with whom Mary is at one, “Let this chalice pass me by”. But Mary disregards his protest. She will have the blood. She wants the best drink, not wine but blood. She is confident that she will succeed and commands the servants “Do whatever he tells you”. She sends him to his passion.
- Animals are brought to Kālī every day. On the great feasts bullocks or better still animals, which are considered to be impure are felled with a great axe by the officiating priest. Kālī’s great tongue is red with blood. She sucks up the blood of demons but also the life-blood of the world.
- Kālī drinks the blood, and gives life-giving blood. At Kāmākhyā, her great temple in Assam, the reddish water which pours out of the yoni the cloven rock at the heart of the temple is understood to be the menstruation of the earth and indeed the menstruation of Kālī herself. Kālī is the goddess of blood.
Mary – Kālī
- Mary too wants the blood. She will save mankind from blood by giving it blood. The great blood lust is satisfied only by the terrible outpouring of the most precious blood, that of the God-man greater than any ox. There is no blood like it. The “best wine” has been kept till now.
- This is because Mary perceives the possibilities in Jesus. She wants the “finest essences”. She wants the life of the God-man, the eternal covenant in his blood. Just as the Spirit drives Jesus into the desert to do battle with Satan, Mary sends Jesus to the cross.
- Mary is both fearsome and life-giving. Her thirst will be satisfied as she stands before the cross and sees the life-blood pouring from his hands and feet and side. She will see the finest essences given to her in the first instance as she stands nearest the cross, but also to the whole of humanity. She did not want the seed of David, but the blood of the Son of David. Her ambition is total.
- This is because Mary is the icon of the Spirit who proceeds from Father and Son, for whom there must first be Father and Son so that the one Spirit may arise from them both, triumphant. The Spirit is the apex of the Trinity.
- And Mary smiles as she receives the blood, and gives life to the world.
- What is your thirst? What do you really want?
- What is the finest aspect of your person waiting to be brought to the surface? In your hour of passion, what will come out of you? What life-giving blood needs the experience of suffering to pour from you?
- For whom would you shed your blood?
- What blood exists between you and those around you: bad blood or good? Are you ‘blood brother’ with anyone?
- Mary wants our blood also. She, who is raised in her totality body and soul in heaven, is fully active in the world. She wants the finest essences and will have them. To you she also says: ‘They have no wine’. What ‘wine’ will you give, what blood? She will smile as she drinks, and her smile is intoxicating. It makes us worthwhile. It justifies us, for Mary is the icon of the Spirit and her smile is the smile of the Spirit. When the Spirit smiles on us, then we know happiness. The smile of the Spirit is the beatific vision.
VI Kālī and sacrifice, Mary the Consort
John 19: 25: But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26: When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27: Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
- At the cross stand the three Mary’s: the unmarried woman, Mary of Magdala, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the mother. Jesus, however, never calls her ‘Mary’. His title for her is “Woman”. It is an address of admiration and also a claiming of her and a command for her to be Woman. She is the woman who sums up all womanhood and every stage of womanhood. She is virgin and consort and mother. He is the Man to her the Woman.
- She is his mother, but now he gives her a son. Through her Christ gives rise to Christ. She will give birth to Christ in every way.
- To Kālīghat, in Calcutta, goats are brought in their thousands, with garlands of red flower around their necks, a portent of what will happen to them. They are slaughtered before the hall in front of the sanctuary where the ‘statue’ of Kālī is found, that black granite pillar on which are carved the three eyes, the two eyes of ordinary sight and the third eye of insight. With her great tongue she ‘drinks’ the blood of the goats while the devotees crowd in the narrow passageway wishing to have sight of her and to receive her blessing. Kālī wants sacrifice and will give blessing.
- The name ‘Kālī’ can also be understood as ‘black’. She is the dark goddess and her pillar in her main temple in Calcutta is rightly black. She is best worshipped at night. Her consort, Ïiva is worshipped principally on ‘Śivarātrī’, the darkest moment in the year, at the full moon in the darkest month of winter.
Mary – Kālī
- Mary stands there, not just the mater dolorosa, the mater lacrimosa, although she knows sorrow and desolation. As she sees her son dying she receives a son. It is a scene of dying and birthgiving. It is archetypal. It contains within it every meaning and significance.
- Mary stands there and wants to see the fullness of love. She wants to hear Jesus’ last great cry, which contains every word and every revelation, where the fullness of sorrow and joy coincide. She has given birth to the Word for this: to hear the paroxysm of the Word. Mary, the icon of the Spirit, wants to hear the message of love. The Spirit who is Love wishes to hear the Word of love from God who is Love. All is love in this moment of agony.
- The Spirit arises freely from the Two. The Spirit is God. Since the freedom and essence of God are identically the same, the Spirit freely arises as God. Spontaneously and without cause the Spirit arises. How is this possible? It is the mystery of divinity, which we are only beginning to explore.
- Mary, the woman of faith, wants to lose her son, her dearest work. She wants to go to the utmost depth of faith where there is no light, no word, no knowledge, bleakest desolation and abandonment. Faith, that darksome light, always involves sacrifice; Mary, with her whole being, wants to experience in herself the fullness of faith and therefore the totality of sacrifice. She wants to come to that fullness of life, which is available only in the totality of death. She wants to come to that one moment which is both the dying and the rising.
- Mary fully assumed into heaven wishes to hear with her glorified ears the cry of love escaping from our lips. She heard it from the crucified one. She wants to hear it from those who follow his path. For his passion is not complete till all his followers have also known how to cry out in faith and experienced the darkest pit of faith. For this cry of love is the best. It reveals God.
- She is “blessed among women”, the one whom the whole world loves. She wants to be loved by all. Just as the Church will make up for all that has yet to be undergone by Christ in his passion, so too the Church will make the joy of Mary complete. What will be given to her that will make her cry out in joy and transport us to heaven itself? She wants the finest essence, the finest jewels, the universe offered to her. As the icon of the Spirit who requires both the Father and the Son, Mary requires all to be hers.
- What cry of joy or desolation takes you to the heights and reveals to you the fullness of love? What sound takes you into the divine mystery?
- What limits are there to your hearing; what deafness assails you?
- What should you have said but did not say? What is it you most wanted to say but perhaps no one has let you say it. What joy rises in your hearts which you want to cry to proclaim to the highest heavens? Many silence the many.
- What is the word you want to hear? What should have been said and was never said? What silence surrounded you when you needed to hear the word of encouragement, the word of love, the word of forgiveness?
- What you want to hear is what you need to say. Hearing and saying go together. If you want to hear the word of love you must say the word of love. If you want to hear encouragement you must, by abandoning all desire to hear such words, say them. Sacrifice is found in abandoning the wish to hear what needed to be heard and to say it instead. Not having heard the word of love which we so need, we nevertheless say the words of love. This transition is the sacrifice, the dying which is the blessing. For in the saying of words which you needed to hear and were not said to you, then you will hear the words coming from above.
- Of what and whom do we say to Mary “here is your son”?
- In what way can our flesh be transformed into Spirit and be given to her.
VII Kālī the warrior, Mary, Lady of Victories, Immaculate Conception
Genesis 3 14: The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Apocalypse 12 1: And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
2: she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
3: And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.
4: His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;
5: she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
6: and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
7: Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
8: but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9: And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10: And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
13: And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child.
14: But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
15: The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.
16: But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth.
17: Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
- Kālī is the warrior goddess. When the gods have become powerless, she arises in her fury at the demons. Every drop of blood from their severed heads gives rise to further demons, but she drinks the blood and continues to wield her sword, finally defeating the demon army. She is fearsome; she is victorious.
Mary – Kālī
- Mary – meek and mild, soft eyed and passive –has become unbelievable since reality is not like that; God is not like that. She is never portrayed in battle gear and yet she engages in warfare, for there is enmity between her seed and the seed of the serpent. She crushes its head and it strikes her heel. This endless warfare is clearly stated. Where is the look of anger, the fury, the energy of destruction in the portrayals of the Virgin? We need to learn from Kālī who in her fury destroys the demons and drinks their blood.
- But Kālī is also weak, for she imitates the demons. Kālī may be stronger than they, but she uses the same weapons. Mary, by contrast, does not copy Satan. She is so totally powerful that she is calm. She has no trouble in removing him from contention. From the first moment of her existence Mary is without sin and without weakness. She, the Pure, is the Lady of Victories.
- If her smile blesses, her frown condemns. If her smile justifies, her frown damns to hell fire. Do the artists ever portray her glaring in disgust? When she turns away her enemies are crushed. She removes herself into the ‘desert’ and the flood of Satan dries up. This act is strong, not weak.
- Assumed in heaven she still crushes the seed of Satan. Her silence is deafening. As icon of the Spirit her revulsion is the burning fire of the Spirit.
- What does Mary see in the Church, only to turn away in disgust? What does she smile at?
- Who do you turn from, and rightly so? It is not for us to approve all that happens. On the contrary, with the enlightenment of the Spirit we condemn what is to be condemned. With the confidence that comes from inspiration, we say no. With our feet we make our judgment known, walking away from what is unjust. This will bring even the most powerful to heel. Silence is deafening and debilitating.
- Do you have the courage to say no and to withhold your approval and so to condemn?
VIII Kālī and time, Mary, Mother of the Church, The Assumption
Acts 1: 12: Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away;
13: and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.
14: All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Acts 21: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2: And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3: And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.
4: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
- The title ‘Kālī’ can also be understood as ‘she who is time’ (kāla). Mistress of life and death she determines the time of birth and the time of death. She brings all things to their end even as she gives boons.
Mary – Kālī
- Mary is the icon of the Spirit. She gave birth to the Word whom she drew down from heaven. She wishes to bear anew. She who gave birth in Bethlehem will give birth in eternity. She wanted to be assumed body and soul so that she might give birth, body and soul, to those who please her. She can do this because she is not incomplete, or powerless. She is integral.
- She, the woman who is faith, wants the best of essences: that we should be faith. She desires that we become the Word of love. She will receive all this and give it flesh. She will clothe us with her glorious flesh just as she clothed the Word with her human flesh. She will cherish us as her flesh.
- At Pentecost heaven begins to come to earth and earth begins to rise into heaven. Her giving birth to the Church in Jerusalem is already the beginning of the birth in heaven. She is Mother of the Church in time but above all in eternity.