Saturday at dusk at a women’s retreat, twenty-five women gathered into a healing circle. Each held an unlit candle. The retreat centered on Blessed Mother, Mary, and on the floor in the middle of the circle burned a tall prayer candle with an image Our Lady of Guadalupe. The first woman lit her candle from the central one, sat down, and said: “This is what’s on my heart.” She spoke of her joy and anguish, her fears and hopes for her family and the world. We all sat with her for a few moments in silence. She then offered her flame to the woman next to her, saying, “I pass the light to you, my sister.”
Slowly the ring of small, dancing bits of fire grew as the light passed from woman to woman around the room, with Our Lady as our nucleus, our heart and hub, until we were a complete and shining circle. Each woman’s offering of vulnerability and blessing and pain entered and filled the circle and my heart, our hearts, until we overflowed, most of us softly weeping, and we palpably broke our bonds and grew into the night, a fragrant offering to the Divine.
Stay true to your heart’s center, sings the psalmist. For through your inner being Truth and Wisdom are heard, the resource to break all bonds…*
When the wax began to burn our fingers, we came back to the ordinary, consoled, elated, and a little lost. “What do I do to hold on to this strong connection?” cried one woman, giving voice to my own thoughts. The circle was powerful, transformative, and we had to walk away to the ordinary, into the night and the rest of our lives, our many and pressing problems.
I did not sleep well that night. I asked into the darkness, What next? What would the Blessed Mother say to a roomful of women in anguish about the future? Early next morning, I took a long walk next to the river and listened to the wind in the trees and to the sweet calling of birds, so full of plans, so hopeful. What can I offer? I asked the wind, the wild Spirit. And the answer came: Love, pray, dare.
The Energy of Love radiates in everything, and receptive hearts are purified by its Fire.
Love is what women ever strive to do. We care and take care. Take care of. Give, give some more, give too much. Are fierce on behalf of. The challenge is love of self. We forget, are conditioned to forget, that the community, the Whole includes the self. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. Include the self in the circle of the community. Love yourself as you strive to love your children and your aging parents and the stranger coming to you for assistance.
Who will offer the dance of their own life, as a creation of devotion and beauty?
To pray is radical, because to pray is to enter into the always-present, never-ending abundance of God’s love for us. Our very existence is the Beloved’s continual prayer for us as creation. I cannot pray in any of the ways I was taught to pray. What does it mean to pray as women? What prayer wants to come dancing out of my woman’s body?
Come out of the darkness and gloom; break through the fears that hold you prisoner.
Dare to dream beyond the limits we’ve inherited. Dare to stand up to the powers that be. Dare to cry and to heal and to want. Dare to love yourselves into a fierce and immovable wholeness, greater than the greedy forces that threaten the future of our children and of all living things.
O peoples of the Light, Awaken to the knowledge that lives within you! Do you not know your destiny is to be a light unto the world?
*All quotes from Psalm 107, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C. Merrill