(Image from here)
Before she came to this town, Grief was a woman named Eliea. She was a potter and she glazed her big-bellied pots with earth colors until they shown like dull bronze. She had four children. The daughters live inland now in the distant foothills and the oldest son left the family as soon as he could get away. It was the young boy with the golden curls and laughing eyes that gave her great joy. He loved the ocean. He was barely walking when he learned to swim and not much older when he learned to sail. One day about two years ago the sailors brought his boat home empty.
Never have I heard such sounds of weeping as when Grief found out her son had drowned. She screamed and howled. She stamped her feet and smashed her pots and bowls. She ate with her fingers. She tore at her hair and it grew wild and matted. She wandered from place to place with no sense of where she was or how she came to be there.
One day at the edge of the forest Grief heard another woman crying out. She spoke with her. She listened to her story. Grief was surprised. She had never met anyone else who had suffered as she had. Together the women sat in the clearing and mourned their children. Through the long afternoon, through the twilight, through the night, they wept and wept and wept and wept. In the morning Grief was washed clean of her tears. She came to our town and started to do her real work.
~from The Book of Qualities, J. Ruth Gendler
Please visit Rebecca, who is hosting Virgin a Day for these first 12 days of December.
From Matthew Fox's essay on The Black Madonna:
8. The Black Madonna calls us to Grieve. The Black Madonna is the sorrowful mother, the mother who weeps tears for the suffering in the universe, the suffering in the world, the brokenness of our very vulnerable hearts. In the Christian tradition she holds the dying Christ in her lap but this Christ represents all beings—it is the cosmic Christ and not just the historical Jesus that she is embracing, for all beings suffer and the Black Madonna, the Great Mother, knows this and empathizes with us in our pain. She embraces us like a tender mother, for compassion is her special gift to the world. She invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us. Creativity cannot happen, birthing cannot happen, unless the grieving heart is paid attention to. Only by passing through grief can creativity burst forth anew. Grieving is an emptying, it is making the womb open again for new birth to happen. A culture that would substitute addictions for grieving is a culture that has lost its soul and its womb. It will birth nothing but more pain and abuse and misuse of resources. It will be a place where waste reigns and where Divinity itself wastes away unused in the hearts and imaginations of the people. Andrew Harvey writes of how the Black Madonna provides “an immense force of protection, an immense alchemical power of transformation through both grief and joy, and an immense inspiration to compassionate service and action in the world.” She is also “queen of hell,” or “queen of the underworld,…that force of pure suffering mystical love that annihilates evil at its root and engenders the Christ-child in the ground of the soul even as the world burns.”  She holds both creative and destructive aspects within her.
To grieve is to enter what John of the Cross in the sixteenth century called the “dark night of the soul.” We are instructed not to run from this dark night but to stay there to learn what darkness has to teach us. The Dark Madonna does not run from the darkness of spirit and soul that sometimes encompasses us. She invites us not to flee from pain and suffering. Mechtild of Magdeburg in the thirteenth century wrote of this darkness in the following manner: “There comes a time when both body and soul enter into such a vast darkness that one loses light and consciousness and knows nothing more of God’s intimacy. At such a time when the light in the lantern burns out the beauty of the lantern can no longer be seen. With longing and distress we are reminded of our nothingness….I am hunted, captured, bound, wounded so terribly that I can never be healed. God has wounded be close unto death.”  Mechtild does not run from the darkness but stays and learns. “God replied: ‘I wish always to be your physician, bringing healing anointment for all your wounds. If it is I who allow you to be wounded so badly, do you not believe that I will heal you most lovingly in the very same hour?”  What is it we learn in this darkness of soul and spirit? “From suffering I have learned this: That whoever is sore wounded by love will never be made whole unless he embrace the very same love which wounded her.”