For E, with love, who encouraged me to keep writing.
Today, the Feast of the Assumption, calls me back to a much earlier and formative time – my Catholic childhood. And, although I left the RC Church decades ago, and subsequently joined the Episcopal Church, certain remembrances have resonance with me from those early days.
My recollection is that there was a special devotion to Mary, often observed by women in the church, especially by my Father’s mother, also named Mary. There were yearly ceremonies, such as the May crowning (May being dedicated to Mary), which held a reverence and solemnity that was joyous and moving.
For me, now, it is not important to hold firmly to an assertion that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven. Today, this feast day brings me back to the Annunciation.
The Day of Yes. Where it all started, according to the recountings.
These two moments, Annunciation and Assumption, frame a lifetime. And, they both represent, for me, transition and expansion. In the first instance, an expansion that only “Yes” can bring. “Yes”, when uttered in a moment of possibility that seems so terrifyingly right, can be the most transformative word in our language. Terrifying and freeing. “Yes” can set into motion powerful changes, some quick, some glacial. Whereas “No” constricts, “Yes” releases.
“Yes’, in the right moment (and moment after moment), allows us to participate in the kenosis, or self-emptying, practiced by all the spiritual masters. For Christians, Jesus is the Master of this Way. You may know of, or revere, others.
Death, the other transition and expansion, frees spiritual energy from the material body, allowing it to become more greatly accessible. Many have witnessed to this. Hence, death, as well as “yes”, has transformative power.
Many of us have experienced one, or more, “little deaths” on this plane of existence that have created greater space and smoothed the transition to newer life. Saying “yes” to a “little death” may be preceded, at least in my case, by years of clinging to ways that didn’t work or weren’t honest (and aren’t those often the same?); holding tight to things or people I didn’t really need; and/or without the belief that Life will provide what is best for me.
I have come to see that saying, “yes” to life is also saying, “yes” to death.
“Die before you die,” said the Prophet
Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?
I was born when all I once
feared – I could
From Die Before You Die, by Rabia Basri,
Female Sufi saint (717 – 801)