In July, I was watching a movie called “Gladiator” starring Russell Crowe. Near the beginning of the movie is a scene with his character, Maximus, kneeling before a makeshift altar after battle holding carved wood figures of his wife & child left behind at home. He begins to pray. “Ancestors, I ask for your guidance. Blessed Mother come to me with the Gods desire for my future. Blessed Father watch over my wife & son with a ready sword. Whisper to them I live only to hold them again. Ancestors, I honor you & will try to live with the dignity you’ve taught me.”
I am only vaguely familiar with ancient Roman beliefs but I was really touched by the devotion I could feel in this prayer & it brought tears to my eyes. Especially Maximus addressing his “Blessed Mother” which probably referred to his physical mother who had passed over since it appeared that this prayer was addressed to his ancestors. As I didn’t realize this at first, I thought he was addressing his prayer to God as his Mother & to God as his Father. This resonated deeply in my heart. I have been raised in a primarily patriarchal culture that views, addresses & worships God as Father to the exclusion of God as Mother despite the fact that we are all created in God’s image & likeness & half of us are female. Hearing Maximus address God specifically as his “Blessed Mother” with so much respect, humility & devotion made me realize what I am missing in my prayers & in my relationship with God. For while I usually begin my prayers with “Dear Mother Father God,” they are still primarily addressed to God as Father since that is how I have been raised to think of God. My adding “Mother” to the address has been my effort to counter the limitation that I have felt for a very long time.
I remember the first time I saw a picture of God. Well, not really God but someone’s vision of Melchizedek who is spoken of in the old testament bible. He was depicted with deep piercing blue eyes & glowing white hair & figure. I recognized him immediately. This was the God of my childhood. This was the God I’ve known as long as I have memory. This was the God I’d seen as a child. I imagine we all have images of God. Unfortunately, our images can limit our perception of God & therefore limit our prayers & our relationship to God. This is possibly one of the reasons for the commandment to not make graven images. If only it were that easy! What images of God do you carry around? How do your images control or limit you & your relationship to God?
For myself, this movie made me look at my images of God & decide that I have missed out on a fuller experience of God by unconsciously assuming that God is only my “Blessed Father”.
In my home, I have an altar area in a corner. Hanging above a small table on the left is my favorite depiction of Jesus the Christ in a gold & black frame, below it hangs an ornate gold & black cross. On the right is an equally ornate silver, gold & ivory cross above a framed prayer. I have been aware for many years now that the framed prayer is simply holding the space until the right picture to replace it comes along. I have looked for this picture for years. Temporarily, I found a black & white picture of Mother Mary cut out of the local newspaper that I particularly liked so that has been stuck in a corner of the prayer frame. Well, exactly a month after “Gladiator” aired on TV, I finally found the right picture in a gift shop at St. Mary’s – Mary in an ornate gold antiqued silver frame. Am I Catholic? No, but for Christians, what better role model than Mother Mary & Mary the Magdalen. Both of which this picture perfectly captures as well as what I felt when Maximus prayed to his “Blessed Mother”. Have I replaced my old image of God with Jesus the Christ & Mary? No but I feel that I have finally begun to expand my perception of God.
May You Live, Love & Laugh in the Light of God