(apologies for the long introduction!)
i love holy week. the stories are great for sucking one in. they’re almost devoid of emotion in their telling, but the moment you get below the surface they come alive with layer upon layer upon layer of complexity – political, social, cultural, theological. the moment we think we’ve worked out the meaning of a story is the moment that we have to give it up again… let it become a mystery again, so that another layer will reveal itself.
my absolute favourite (this year, anyway) is the story of the woman who anoints Jesus with oil, who wipes his dirty feet with her hair, and then hears the life-giving words of Jesus “she will be remembered…”. One of the gospels calls her Mary, there’s a long standing rumour that she was a prostitute, a sex worker.
two things came to my mind as i read this today:
– psychologists say that one of the survival mechanisms that children who are victims of long term sexual abuse develop is the ability to disconnect the mind and the body. they can put their mind somewhere else so that it doesn’t have to live the reality that the body is living. it’s an essential coping strategy, a very clever survival technique. for some it’s a technique that they carry with them throughout life, when it’s outreached its necessity, something they can’t ‘switch off’. they’ve lost the ability to integrate, to know themselves. interestingly, it’s one of the skills that sex workers – an overwhelming number of whom have been sexually abused as children – use to survive their work. don’t let your mind be where your body is, while the inhumane is done to it.
– and i thought of Andrew Dutney’s comments in Food, Sex and Death about ‘remembering’ not simply being a passive act of thinking, but a physical act of putting back together what has been dis-membered: a re-membering.
[the following should be read, if possible, as it was written… with the track ‘beautiful’ from the urban myth club playing as accompaniment…]
this is my body broken for you
there are many ways to break a body.
when someone pays their piece of silver to have their way with you in a dark corner,
down a back lane…
to make your body theirs to do with what they will.
and if you can, you break yourself before they break you
your body stays, your mind detaches,
and you disintegrate,
or when someone sells your body for pieces of silver,
for those in power to do with as they will.
and as you hang on a cross, battered, disfigured.
your soul splits from your body, and spins into hell,
this woman touches Jesus
[she whose story all of history knows by rumour and reputation]
and she offers him all she has to give:
but she stays with it, this time.
all of her.
and those who are watching, can’t
[it’s hard to look at raw grace face on].
they redirect attention with words of political correctness
questions that need to be asked
but not in this moment, not at this time,
when they’re asked not for revelation, but for diversion
but Jesus knows no gift more divine
than one who has been to hell before him
coming back to life in front of him,
and honours her one more time:
remember her not as a person to be bought
or a body to be broken
this is now who she is
gift and giver
loved and lover
body and soul
holy and whole.