Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 8-19-08

She said, "Blessed is the belly that carried you and the breasts from which you were fed."

Jesus said, "Blessed is he whom God has taught his book and who dies without having become haughty."

Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Zuhd, p. 143 (no. 470) (The Muslim Jesus)


Andrea said...

Hello dear sister,
I read these words and felt blank; a flatness that felt devoid of life, and I offer this only as my 'experience.'
Here is a version that encourages my breath-awareness, translated by Jean-Ives Leloup from the Gospel of Thomas:
A woman in the crowd said to him: "Blessed are the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" Yeshua replied, "Blessed are those who listen to the words of the Father and truly follow it, for the day will come when you will say: Blessed are the womb that never borne and the breasts that have never nursed.

For some unknown reason (I have clever 'ideas') Leloup's interpretation incites my being to feel deeply into the illusion of our bodies and how humanity remains bound by these veils.

I offer no judgment or preference; I just offer my experience.

Thank you for your efforts.

Love, Andrea

lightseeker said...

In a time and society where a woman's value was determined by her ability to produce successful male offspring, this woman's words express the pride and high stature any mother would experience by bearing a son perceived as a prophet, a holy one, i.e., a "son of God." Yet Jesus' response gently yet shockingly subverts this religious and cultural attitude.

No matter which version of this saying one references, be it a Muslim source, or from Thomas or Luke, I believe the saying emphasizes the spiritual value of humility (denial of self/ego) and that one's focus should not be on worship or idolization of the teacher (Jesus) or of his mother (Mary), but on living one's life according to the content of the teachings, i.e., the word and will of God.

In another sense, it is not the person or body, a mere vessel (such as a womb, or breasts - where milk is a symbol of Spirit/God's nourishment or "word"), which is important; it is the content - Spirit - which fills the vessel that should be one's focus and goal. Therefore (per Jesus' response as in the version in Thomas), even a woman who is barren in terms of biological offspring and deemed worthless in society's eyes, nevertheless may be fertile and full of Spirit, and valuable in God's eyes. I believe it was Jesus' hope that one day soon society would come to shift its perceptions in terms of how a person - or even the body itself - was valued.

It's interesting that the version Andrea quoted from Thomas has apocalyptic/eschatological overtones, perhaps foreshadowing (in hindsight?) the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, when situations in exile would be so dire that,in an ironic twist of fate, women who mourned their dead children would now perceive other women who were barren as the ones who were truly blessed for not having to experience the agonizing sorrow of the death of a child to poverty, illness, starvation or brutal persecution...

Again, this points out that the value society places on the physical world (i.e., the outer vessel, the personality/ego, the body) is illusory and can change, even be inverted. Indeed, Jesus was renowned for his tendency to turn learned or preconceived attitudes and beliefs upside-down and inside-out, because it was what was going on *inside* a person that mattered, the individual transformation (perception of oneself) from that of ego/self/body to Spirit. It is the value of the content of the vessel - Spirit - that is real, eternal and unchanging.

Getting back the the original theme of the Muslim saying, humility is an important key necessary to effect this shift in perception/values and, ultimately, spiritual transformation. Transformation must occur first within each individual, and then within society as a whole. As the many are transformed, one by one, the Kingdom is truly manifested upon Earth.