Tonight I took part in a service for Easter week at St Luke’s, “Women of the Cross.” It was a quiet, contemplative hour in a church lit mostly by candlelight, composed of gospel passages, stories and song about the women who also played a role in the events of the passion. The melancholy sound of a solo female voice in the darkened church,“Were you there when they crucified my lord?” still echoes in my ears. The ceremony was moving and empowering in a way I didn’t expect.
Driving home, it struck me: This was, in its effect, the modern, Christian equivalent of the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries by which women celebrated their very different path through life than the one men tread, and by the completion of which they were reclaimed their power. Men were taught by the Hero’s Journey, the outward adventuring path to the achievement of great goals. The female path is darker, more inward, more deeply involved with death and loss and the growth of spirit. The Greek mysteries sought to prepare women, and empower them for their own singular struggle in life.
Woman have developed many rituals to deal with this essential need – prayer circles, female retreats, drumming circles, quilting parties – but this ceremony faces head on Christ in his aspect as Death God, and speaks of female knowledge that the way to life is through suffering, the so-called “dark night of the soul.”
The Greeks were wise enough to know that neither path is complete without the other. But for too many centuries, too many religions – including Christianity – have suppressed the experience of women who are also *there* and whose stories count.
They still do.