Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Eternal Feminine

Here she is, Mary, as sculpted by the Catholic artist and scholar Harrison Reed Armstrong. I often change the wallpaper on my desktop; she replaced a lovely Chinese Kwan Yin I'll try to post another time.

I see her as not very different from Kwan Yin, whom we call Kanzeon or Kannon in the Japanese Zen tradition. This is a figure that expresses the nurturing, giving feminine principle. I am amazed that Armstrong is able to portray such softness and gentleness in foundry bronze.

His writings on the symbology of feminine/masculine in many traditions are fascinating and not hard to find on the web, though I am not organized enough to give you a URL here.
Perhaps my interest in his work right now reflects the fact that my teacher, Ama Samy, is not only a Zen master, but also a Jesuit priest, and every year on retreat I share in a eucharist to which all are welcome.

As a girl, I lived a block from a Catholic church and associated convent, St. Paul's in Akron, Ohio. Ah yes, in those days the church doors were never locked, and I could go sit there in the flickering candlelight from the red votives at the feet of a statue of Mary. She represented a gentle acceptance that was missing in my life. Perhaps part of her allure was that my father, whose prejudices were widespread, called Catholics "fish-eaters." I have since thought that I was lucky to be raised by very secular people, so that my adolescent rebellion took the form of becoming religious.

Today I would use the word "spiritual," to avoid the connotations of social construct and authority that are part of the word "religion."

1 comment:

  1. cool! i'm linking you at my website. i hope it is okay...