I see her there, smiling eyes, rosy cheeks, heart full of joy cradling him on her lap. This is the face of the Virgin, the icon of Jerusalem in her moment of great bliss, watching her child grow in grace before she knows the pain of Jerusalem’s mount. I am taken with this image of her, the welcoming mother and so I decide this is an image I am to carry home with me.
We are tired, it is the last day of our journey and because it is her place we decide to stop in to Dormition Abbey, the Church of the Assumption of Mary. Though it is cold outside, the church is grand and warm. The domed ceilings are covered with golden tiles and her image there smiling with her baby son. The amber light of candles floods the room and bounces from the gold dome to the limestone floor in a rhythmic dance; the twinkling lights on the tree invite us, “Come in.”
Past the sanctuary there is a café, of course there is, this is Our Lady’s place—not a cold stone cathedral but a friendly, cozy space for sharing coffee and croissants and the beauty of the day. We unload our weary selves for a moment and enjoy the sunshine goodness of the winter punch and it strikes me, how different is this place.
For all the centuries of debate over Jesus and Women, the rightful place of the—dare I say it—weaker sex, for all the proof texting and poor Greek of sermons built on feminine submission, in the end…he came through her and she welcomed him well. Surely hospitality is a gift of the Divine that we have all known, the comfort of a warm bed, a decadent meal, the embrace of a friend who says, “Come on in!”
Is this not what He first said to us and the message of His church for the world, “Come in, you are welcome at the table and in the bosom of the Lord.” So that hospitality is the first grace given, surely the first and most precious gift given to the Babe who then offered this grace to all people of all times, every race, every age, every gender, all humankind. In this dance of wonder, of relation and mutuality then, He stands at the door and knocks and it is ours to open the door and let Him in.
I am a daughter of the church and the feminist revolution, I confess it forthwith; raised by a single mother and saint who worked three jobs and made sure we had Jesus and Jordache. She taught my sister and me the stories of the Bible that made known this One who loves and welcomes all. If I am biased, let it be so, for I would not trade the ways that I have known Him for all the world.
I have seen Him in the arms of women wrapped ‘round one another after the husband and provider of the home is long gone. I have seen Him in the prayers of the healers bent over the sick and broken in the late hours of the midnight long after the men have departed under pain too great to bear. I have seen Him in the grocery store as we shop for the ingredients to make a casserole of butter and chicken and love. I have known Him in the gracious hospitality of women just as He first chose to make Himself known to us.
I am a woman full captivated by the revelation of Jesus in the Word and in the world, mesmerized and happily confounded by the way He chose to come to us. I have spent my life studying the Scriptures and I have a lifetime more to learn but I invite you to join me on my humble pilgrimage into the text where I am seeking beauty and wonder and moments of holy awe in those places where we find Jesus and Women.