Companion

“Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than all other women.  Tell us the words of the Savior that you remember, the things which you know that we don’t because we haven’t heard them.”

~Peter, Gospel of Mary

 Previousely, I spoke of Mary Magdalene as the witness and as the teacher- the Apostle to the Apostles.  I have promised to speak of her as partner.  But while her role as witness and teacher are well documented in the traditional and Gnostic gospels her role as partner is only hinted at.  European legends support the theory that Mary Magdalene and her Rabbi, Jesus were engaged in an intimate relationship but there is little evidence to support this. 

Mythically speaking, the sexual union of the archetypal female and male represented by Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth is the missing piece in the story.  They epitomize the sacred marriage- the union of feminine and masculine on all planes of existence.  It is difficult to speak about this excision without rage and grief.  Most religions emphasis eros as a vital path to mystic union with Spirit.  Sexual union is a metaphor of incredible power which humanity readily understands.  To leave out SO many elements of the story- the mystery of a woman’s body, the sacredness of sex, the relationship between life and death, the joy of the sensuous, has resulted in enormous pain and destruction.  The very absence of this piece speaks to its significance.  It demands a voice and I promise the use of mine in the near future.

Meanwhile, back to what we can glean from what history has handed us.

I have a mentor, Crystal Iyabo Bujol.  She founded the First Women’s Church of the City of the Angels.  Among many other things, she taught me to consider the dictionary as one of my bibles – a source of inspiration as well as information.  I wasn’t really happy using the word ‘partner’ to describe this aspect of the Magdalene and I couldn’t honestly use wife or mate.  Turning to synonyms for ‘partner’ I found ‘companion.’

Companion: a person who is frequently in the company of, or accompanies another or others; a mate or match for something.  And although the dictionary doesn’t say this, the word ‘companion’ implies friendship – a friendship built on the shared hardships, dangers, delights, and discouragements of the road.  Literature and film are full of stories about unlikely companions, forced by circumstance to travel together, who end up as dear friends and often lovers.  Companion has its roots in the words ‘with’ and ‘bread’ – so a companion is one with whom you share bread.

Now we are back on familiar ground. 

Excerpts from Luke 8: Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another… The Twelve were with him, and also some women… Mary (called Magdalene)…; Joanna…; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Here we have a group of women helped by a stranger who found them wandering on the road.  We might assume that once having left the shelter of husband, father or brother they could not go home again.   And yet there is that odd little nugget of information, “These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”   The Magdalene and her female companions seem to have joined the band of disciple out of choice.

The group spent long days trekking dusty roads across rolling hills encountering orchards and fields, springs and rivulets, pasture and forest.  We can safely surmise sunrise, sunset and long siestas to wait out the hot afternoons of the Middle East.  We know of many conversations among themselves and with strangers.  We can imagine the teacher moving to walk beside first one companion then the other, sometimes in silence, sometimes deep in conversation.  We know that Jesus sought out Mary’s companionship often enough to inspire questioning and a tinge of jealousy in other male disciples.  It is reported that he taught her things he did not or could not teach the others and he praised her for her willingness to learn and to see.  It must have been such a great comfort to have a companion who understood the subtleties, nuances and silences of the teachings.  Who looked at him and saw that her friend was hungry or tired, rested or eager.

It amazes me what gets included in these ancient reports.  How, in the face of the rampant misogyny of the early church fathers did all these details about women and their doings retain a place in the official record?  Why weren’t they expunged?  Were these women so well known, so beloved that a century later they still retained so much influence the church could not erase them?  Two thousand years later their names live on.  I count several Marys, three Suzannas and a Joanna among my friends today.  When you consider all the women before and after who were written out of history there must be a big reason these names survived the cut.

So what does all this mean, for us inside ourselves?  What does the sacred marriage have to do with companionship, with friendship? 

The marriage vow is a container, an alchemical vessel, and a cauldron.  It holds the journey that the partners agree, for whatever reason, to now take together.  Friendship, companionship is the fruit of the journey.  It grows gradually, out of shared experience.  One of the great pleasures of such companionship is peace.  Compromise is an inevitable consequence of commitment.  The practice of conscious equitable compromise brings peace. The peace that passeth understanding.  Feel the relief and the rest those words bring- the peace that passeth understanding.   Rumi describes it as the place beyond right-doing and wrong-doing where the lovers, you and I, meet.

Just so, we hold inside ourselves a band of potential companions suffering under the delusion – possessed you might say by dis-ease.   Each thinks him or herself capable of surviving the road alone.  The sacred marriage, removes the veil of this illusion.  That inner company brought to this decision point, looks around, sees each other as if for the first time, and acknowledges that it is on the same journey.  This is a major step – the first step across the threshold.  By sharing the road, with all its attendant challenges and surprises our interior selves begin to come into right relationship with each other.  We begin to come into right relationship with ourselves.   

Although interior alliances, preferences or particular friendships may occur the cohesiveness of the whole will continue to grow and develop.  In the end, it will expand to hold everything.  Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ developed their particular friendship in the context of a dedicated group of companions.  They were not alone. In the end whatever jealousy, betrayal or disappointment occurred, the love , which the group carried for each other held strong.  The men listened to Mary preach and wrote down her words and passed them on.  I think this is why the women aren’t written out of the story.  In the end the bonds of companionship prevailed, as they will for us if we nuture them both inside ourselves and with each other.

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