Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

March 7, 2016 Comments Off on Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Artist: The Rev. Posey Krakowsky

Artist: The Rev. Posey Krakowsky

I must confess, that when Sean Scheller asked me to create one of the Stations of the Cross this Lent, I really wanted to make “The Women of Jerusalem”.  One of the focal points of my seminary studies was the intersection of working with my hands (quilting) and theology.  I wrote more than one paper about my hope that we could revive respect for the nurturing power of activities that were traditionally seen as “women’s work” (bathing, cooking, cleaning, childcare, preparation of the dead for burial).  I also linked them theologically to the sacrament of Baptism, since all of them are forms of regeneration of the human person.

Let me clarify right away that I am making a distinction between “women’s biology” and “women’s work”.  It is a biological reality that women are the ones who bear children (and the ones who can nurse babies with their actual bodies).  Feminist theologian Beverly Wildung Harrison tells us that because of this biological reality, women are often put in charge of “women’s work”: those day to day activities that make for human survival in most societies.[1]  But in reality, this “women’s work” can (and should) be done by persons of every gender.  When we honor and lift up “women’s work” as a primary example of the nurturing work of God incarnate (instead of denigrating it as less important than “business” or “running the world”), we are giving a recognizable face to the challenging actuality of living out one of our baptismal covenant’s central promises.  To honor “women’s work” is one answer to the question: “How do we respect the dignity of every human being?”

Author Kathleen Norris speaks movingly of this reality in her short book, The Quotidian Mysteries:

I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self.  They may by young parents juggling child-rearing and making a living; they may be monks or nuns in a small community who have to wear three or four “hats” because there are more jobs to fill than people to fill them.  If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments of solitude and silence that come their way, (…) and listen for a sign of God’s presence (as) they open their hearts toward prayer. (…)  This is incarnational reality, the sanctity of the everyday.”[2]

 As a quilter, the very medium of my art incorporates that theological perspective.  A quilt is most often meant to nurture – too enfold, to warm, to embrace, to sooth.  The women of Jerusalem have come out to mourn Jesus as he makes his way to his death — they are performing a function that was thought of as “women’s work” in ancient Judea.  It would be the women too, who would come first to the tomb on Easter morning, ready to honor his beloved body in death.  Even when all seems hopeless, it is the women’s work — the ululation of mourning, the washing and anointing of a body with spices — that will lead us towards resurrection.  The work of our fingers informs our minds and our hearts.  The repetitive, soothing actions of our hands and bodies help us nurture each other, reaching out to establish connections even in the midst of our despair.  We Episcopalians know this instinctively because we practice it every week in the liturgy; our worship is embodied and engages all of our senses.  The loving work of God becomes incarnate in the loving work of our own hands, the loving work of the body of Christ in the world today.

– The Rev. Posey Krakowsky

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[1] Beverly Wildung Harrison, “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love,” in Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality, ed. Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ (New York: HarperOne, 1989), 215.

[2] Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work,” (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), 70-71.

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