Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sarah's List

This post is not exactly about Hebrew.

As a small group of us were winding up our tutoring session with our professor in the library this afternoon, I flipped idly through the new issue of America magazine and found
this poem by Benedictine Kilian MacDonnell.

As it happens, I am also finishing up a paper on
a book on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises as experienced by women, and so I am giving some thought to feminist critique of Scripture, of the Exercises, of the Christian tradition in general.

I have read Scripture and church history and tradition through a feminist lens for as much of my adult life as I have read such things, and so I am always translating, in my head at least, narratives and essays and such into perspectives other than those which appear explicitly on the page. However, I am no poet, and this man's (!) interpretation of Sarah's experience, at least as it is presented in Genesis, is far more evocative than anything I could write:

. . . And who consulted me
when you bid him burn my son
on Mount Moriah? Still I exaggerate?

. . .

Why did I not see light in your light?
Why did your truth not set me free?

As a mother who has recently lost a son and is now studying Hebrew via the story of the binding of Issac, I have had much occasion over the past two-plus weeks to consider Sarah and her plight.

Of course, we do not know, really, do we? The writers of Genesis 22 did not elect to present the story from her vantage point. Perhaps she did see light and truth, albeit differently from their presentation in the narrative of the journey to Mount Moriah.

Did her husband's decision to follow God's instructions kill her? Silence her? Or did she have some things to say? My experience of the last ten months leads me to believe that she had a great deal to say.

We will never know.


Purple said...

Gannet...there is a sermon, waiting to be preached, by you, on this poem...when the time is right...you will know.

Sophia said...

That book by Beth Liebert et. al. is incredible and very important for making sure the Exercises aren't inadvertently spiritually abusive.

You probably know the midrashic tradition that the Akedah experience did indeed kill Sarah (since her death happens right after that story)--either because she heard the sacrifice part and not the happy ending or did hear the happy ending and died of relief. Sarah's perspective is a crucial way in, again, for preaching and catechesis on that story--and its NT parallel--that avoids the all too frequent divine child abuse theology....

mompriest said...

One of the purposes of feminist theology is to write the stories of women and bring forth those voices that the scripture did not record - but surely that does not mean there were no voices speaking, or shouting...or crying...WE need to write those stories...because surely what Sarah knew, experienced, speaks deeply into a common voice/experience of women and she is expecting US to write it...

Michelle said...

I read that poem, too. It had a bite..

I heard a talk on the dynamics of the Exercises for women that was thought provoking. I didn't entirely agree - I'm allergic to any frame that has too many "alls" in it - but it did get me thinking, as a good talk should!