Sunday, January 9, 2011

London 19.12.2010: Atlantic Wastes and Lambs of God

Plane, en route to Atlanta, where we’ll board a flight later today for London.

One of the lessons of growing old is that one no longer has the luxury of a wide range of personae to try on in various situations.  This is not due to lack of imagination or opportunity.

It’s due to the recognition that there’s simply no point to the mask-donning and play-acting.  Mask removed, one will be the same obdurate, blessed self one was before one assumed the mask.

Besides, old age is the ultimate persona, the ultimate mask.  Inside the cover of the aged body—the wrinkled face and faltering limbs—lives still the little boy or little girl of youth, as fully alive as in childhood, if unseen and unknown to everyone observing the mask.


Reading Marele Day, Lambs of God (NY: Riverhead: 1998).  Interested in a tiny bit of synchronicity between its plot and some of my thoughts lately.  I’ve been blogging about Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet as Jesus becoming woman, in his cultural context.

This v. the cult of the manly-man priest, which has become so strong in American Catholicism in reaction to the scapegoating claim that gay priests are responsible for the sexual abuse crisis.  In my view, the recent statements of the U.S. Catholic military archbishop Timothy Broglio opposing an end to the ban on openly gay soldiers reflect the same presuppositions re: a club of manly men:

To which Jesus wouldn’t and couldn’t belong, given his wish to become a woman, when he washed his disciples’ feet . . . .

And this conversation reminds me of something about which I’ve often thought—what a world of difference it might make in episcopal and priestly ministry, if priests ever scrubbed toilets.  Mopped floors.  Cleaned out bedpans.  Swept, mended, ironed—and on and on.

As I think of this, I recall Ellen B. saying isn’t it interesting Jesuits write so eloquently re: solidarity with the wretched of the earth.  While Latina woman clean their houses, cook their meals, launder and mend their clothes, scrub their toilets, etc.  Freeing them to write grandiloquently about solidarity with the poor.

And I suspect Marele Day might agree.  Her book’s about this tiny remnant of nuns left in an isolated island monastery on which a young priest has his eyes.  For lucre and gain, for the church.

And so, of course, when the three nuns realize his intent, they make him a captive, and justify this extreme action by considering they’re rehabilitating him and teaching him what it means to follow Christ and live in the communion of the saints.

And they begin to realize something’s wrong when they invite him to pray with them soon after his arrival, and he says, “Of course!  I’d love to lead you in prayer!"

And in making him captive, they cut his clothes and he can’t leave, because he’s naked.  And doesn’t know how to mend his torn clothes.

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