On Our Inner Being, Sophia

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Christianity, as I’m always so wont to point out, has innumerous flaws, and at the end of the day, our mystical quest cannot be a constant struggle to follow rules or exist within the framework of what we might call “moralistic” Christianity; moralistic Christianity is the sort that has rules governing everything, oftentimes, silly, irrational rules that can’t possibly be something of the Law of God. 

At the end of the day, my experience is with what I must go, and my experience, most recently, has again turned me to the Aeon Sophia, the Holy Wisdom of Christ.

How shall I explain Sophia to you? How can I? I’m not sure. All I know is that whatever this experience I have of Sophia is, the experience seems to be what so many of the New Agers and other such mystics refer to as the Higher Self and the World Soul and so on.

Sophia is the feminine aspect of Christ, His feminine counterpart, “Christ Our Mother.” I think that what our Catholic faith has been trying to express about the Blessed Virgin Mary may indeed rightly apply to Sophia, though Father Troy did say that the early Gnostics saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as a symbol or sign of Sophia.

At the root of it all, though, Sophia appears to be core of our being. How strange it is to discover that “Stevo” is less and less something real and is more and more only some strange, external manifestation of an inner, deeper, and far more real SOPHIA.

Many months ago, I turned to Sophia in prayer one night as I lay myself down to sleep, and I had the most certain experience of unconditional love. Nothing we can ever do, no matter the evil, no matter the sin, can ever cause Sophia to stop loving us. She loves us with all that she is; we cannot be made to be separated from her, no matter how hard we might struggle and try. No crime, no sin, no atrocity is so great that Sophia will not love you.

This assurance of unconditional love is something of a clue to the unraveling and dissolution of our own sinful nature. The promise of unconditional love, the promise of unconditonal acceptance and approval, at least at this moment, virtually dissolves the impulses I would otherwise have to do what we would call “evil.” The basic or instinctual passions dry up in their own way, or perhaps we might say, they are drowned in something far greater than their fire.

I had an impression earlier of a Sophia-themed Eucharist in which the Holy Communion consisted of a kind of cake. Maybe that was simply an explanation that there’s a component of consuming the Divine Feminine in the Holy Eucharist that we and the Church have carelessly overlooked for two millenia. I had the distinct impression that consuming the Body of Sophia is extremely integral and important to the Christian mystic.

It’s bizarre to explain how REAL Sophia is to me. She’s so incredibly REAL to me; it’s not that I don’t appreciate and give due reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary (I do), but sometimes, I feel like the Blessed Mother’s reverence pales heavily in comparison to that afforded to Sophia.

Maybe, indeed, they have different roles, and those different roles should be respected and preserved and not overlapped. But this would smack, unfortunately, of the attitudes of Protestants who made failed attempt to distill and preserve the “true” teaching of Christ while effectively aborting the only components of the twisted religion we call Christianity.

In fact, perhaps, archetypally, that’s why the Catholic Church is so incredibly and forthrightly OBSESSED with abortion. (I turned on EWTN the other day, and naturally, the talk show was about abortion and the full-on war that was going on with the culture and so on, with the talk show being hosted by two more self-righteous Roman Catholics who defined “Catholicism” as liking the pope, being against gay marriage, and being against abortion.) The Church has, through its own fault, it’s own fault, it’s own grievous fault, often aborted the Eucharistic Christ and the Eucharistic SOPHIA from the Mass, from the theology, and flushed the poor infant down the toilet from the liturgy. Having committed the grave sins that take the Holy Spirit’s favoritism from the parishes, they are left to face, albeit in a largely unconscious way, their own evil that is projected onto the world.

And before any idiot fundamentalist of ANY religion comes at me, I should point out that the above is not a commentary on whether or not abortion is sinful, murder, or a free-for-all adventure in the reproductive rights for women; rather, the entire statement is to say that the Church’s OBSESSION stems from the fact that they’ve outright killed something inside their tradition (or if they haven’t, they’ve tried) that’s incredibly important and parallels the atrocity that they call abortion. 

A Ranting Mystic,

Stevo

Questions and Answers

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Well, as luck would have it, I’ve finally been attending an Episcopal church that’s larger and more traditionally “High Church,” as it were. 

Except for the part where I’m rapidly finding that in the realm of Anglo-Catholicism, even the Anglo-Catholics don’t seem to always “get it.”

One thing is true: when we say “Catholic,” we do mean something a little different than the Romans often do. But contrary to what the Romans may say, we’re not completely using the word differently.

I digress as this isn’t what I want to discuss.

The new parish I’m attending is large enough that they can do the whole opening procession and recessions complete with candles and acolytes who aren’t adults. I’m not faulting my home parish of St. Michael’s for having adult acolytes; indeed, we have no children to be acolytes for us. We’ve had incense a couple of times but never the candles in the procession. 

Did I mention St. Mike’s is a tiny parish?

Also, we have no Tabernacle or Sanctuary candle at St. Michael’s, something that’s bothered me for some time now. The priest explained why, and it wasn’t a terrible reason; it’s not like the people there thought it was so incredibly Catholic that they couldn’t stand the idea of a Tabernacle, it’s that the former Bishop, before Bishop Duncan, didn’t like the theology of the Tabernacle and didn’t want churches that didn’t have one to get one. 

But what we did have at St. Michael’s was a congregation that knelt every time we prayed. If our priest said, “Let us pray,” we were down on the kneelers, no exceptions, no variations. 

St. Mark’s in Troy and Holy Nativity in Panama City don’t kneel for the opening collect for the day and for a few other points of prayer. 

But I digress. 

Holy Nativity had the beautiful Catholic aesthetic I love so much, and then came the Sanctus…and boom. No Sanctus bells. 

…what?

I’m not sure I understand this. They have a Sanctuary candle and a golden Tabernacle/aumbry, their liturgical rubrics include the typical elevation of the Host and Chalice along with the lesser elevation of the Host-over-Chalice, yet…they don’t ring the bells?

What?

At least at St. Michael’s, we rang bells. We didn’t always use incense, but by God, even if He couldn’t smell our prayers, Jesus could hear the bells ringing. At least we kneeled. There weren’t many of us, but those of us at St. Mike’s, at least most of us, did identify as being Catholic and not Protestant. 

Holy Nativity must be the sort of parish where they save all the smells and bells for the High Holy Days alone, and that makes me sad as they otherwise are High enough in liturgy to almost classify as outright Anglo-Catholic. Their Mass has definitely been the nicest I’ve been to, I think, and that isn’t meant to be offensive to my home parish, either.

But even at Holy Nativity, as elsewhere, there’s an issue with the actual Communion Ritual: the priest almost speeds through it. The same thing happens at St. Mike’s, at St. Mark’s, and even at an ANGLO-CATHOLIC PARISH who had a video of their Mass online. The only outstanding difference at the Anglo-Catholic church I saw was that they used incense. 

People…slow it down. SLOW DOWN the Communion ritual itself. 

Maybe it’s unfair of me to compare their liturgy to the Mass on EWTN because EWTN tries to be ultra-traditional, and they use a lot of Latin even in their Daily Mass. They have enormous wealth by which to execute their rituals, and they have things timed in a different way than most people do.

The reality is this: I think from the Offertory to the actual bidding of the Communicants to come forth, the ritual should take around 15 minutes. Often, it seems to take about 5 instead. 

I think what happens in Anglican liturgy is that the Offertory is combined with the actual offering that is taken up from the congregation in such a way that part of the ritual in which the priest reveals the chalice, paten, and so on is slightly obscured because people are digging in their pockets for money. The Lavabo and such isn’t really separated out clearly in the BCP, and sometimes doesn’t even occur, so…yeah.

But I shouldn’t complain, either, because part of the issue is that at St. Michael’s, we didn’t have very many people, and so everyone received Holy Communion before you even realized what was going on.

Holy Nativity is different: there are a LOT of people, and my boyfriend and I sit on the verrrrry back pew. Needless to say, I and everyone else wait for what seems like a loooong time.

Yes, I wish Catholic Christendom would focus more on administering the Sacraments correctly. Absolutely. The Sacraments are the life-blood of Christianity as opposed the Bibliolatry that seems to have garnered popularity. Bishop Hoeller said it best when he referred to people’s obsession with the “Dead Letter of the Bible.”

Anyway, my boyfriend, who is in actuality my future husband, asked me if Episcopalians believe that the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ. 

The trouble is, there’s no consensus on the matter in the Church. The official stance, the one I adopt, and the one even my best Anglo-Catholic brethren adopt, is that of Real Presence. We acknowledge that Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are actually, truly, and substantially Present in and as and under the guise of mere bread and wine. 

We do not, however, defend this as particularly being Transubstantiation, though oftentimes I feel like I want to just give in and accept this as the mode of my understanding of it.

But I refer simply to say that I, as a liberal Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian mystic, hold my Eucharistic theology to be that of the Mystery of the Real Presence. It is a Mystery that exists above and beyond ordinary human consciousness, and I much prefer Platonic and Neo-Platonic defenses of the Mystery to the Aristotelian metaphysics employed by Rome.

That is all for now.

Stevo