Rev. Carolyne Mathlin
Every year on the first Sunday of the New Year I lead our community in the White Stone ceremony. This ritual is derived from a scripture in the Book of Revelation about receiving a new name written on a white stone. When I personally participate in this ceremony my intention is to go into the Silence with a clear heart and mind, remain open to the highest expression available to me and simply record what I receive. This year my word was “Holy Temple.” My rational mind immediately thought it understood the meaning. While that word hadn’t been in my consciousness, I had been wanting (and needing) to focus on my diet and exercise. Surely that’s what this word was holding for me in 2016, to treat my body as the holy temple that it is.
I’ve come to know the importance of returning to insights I’ve received over the years and probing for the deeper layers of understanding that may be there. Yes, my initial intuitions have been helpful, but typically, even when they have felt profound at the time, there is often another, deeper soul relevance to be understood. Case in point, 11 months later I’m returning to my white stone name and it is revealing a new level of meaning for me.
As I have been putting up my Christmas decorations and preparing for our December services I have once again fallen in love with Mary. I was inspired to pick up an old book The New Age Bible Interpretation by Corinne Heline. I began reading about Mary, starting with the legend of her conception. As I read, I was reminded of my time in Chartres, France in 2015 when I got to meet Mary in a new way.
Chartres is a cathedral devoted to Mary and birth. It also is home to one of the last surviving walkable ancient labyrinths. One of the highlights of my time at Chartres Cathedral was a candlelight labyrinth walk. Because the area where the in-laid stone labyrinth is was under construction, we walked a temporary labyrinth in a different section. As I walked I was able to gaze across the way to the North Rose Window, dedicated to the glorification of the virgin. There St. Anne, original Hebrew name Hanna, sits with baby Mary on her knee. I was intrigued. I had never even considered that Mary had a back story or to investigate what it was. But that’s where I left my curiosity. My interest was more in the virgin mother, not the virgin child.
So now, late into 2016 as I once again prepare for Christmas, I’m returning to the virgin child, the legend of her conception and early childhood. Joachim and Hanna, Mary’s parents, couldn’t conceive a child and they desperately wanted one. So they turned to prayer and contemplation. Joachim went out to a remote part of the desert. Hanna stayed home in her gardens to pray and meditate. Both were visited by the Angel Gabriel who let them know they were to have a child. They came running to each other and it is said that they met at the golden gate of the city. They decided early on to dedicate their daughter to temple service and when she was three they followed through on their promise.
A temple is a dwelling place for God, built to create a sense of unity with and home in God. It is here that Mary grew up, surrounded in this physical and metaphysical unity with God. It is said that Mary’s virtue was immediately apparent and that she was known for her purity of spirit and genuine devotion. Mary is the archetype and symbol for conscious consent to God’s presence.
As I gazed up at that North Rose Window in Chartres Cathedral I can now see that I was gaining a new perspective and building a relationship with my own Mary quality. Not the part that is fully developed and surrendered to the movement of God’s presence, but the part that has been dedicated to the temple in order to cultivate that quality. Heline writes that while a long period of preparation is necessary, “each spiritual aspirant, as you qualify for it, passes through the Rite of the Immaculate Conception.” It is not reserved for precious few. It is a part of the spiritual journey in God.
“Holy Temple” has taken on a much more nuanced meaning now. It still includes my diet and exercise, but at a much deeper level also points to a conscious understanding of the Mary quality in me. The aspect that has been living in the holy temple, devoted to serving God, understanding Divine will and living the spirit of that in my life.
The holy temple is where the dedication both begins and ends. The Mary quality in each of us opens a new portal of conscious consent to the Divine action. It comes from willingness to dedicate our life to the Divine as we know it (and by the way, be prepared for what you know of God to change over time too). Then, allow the life that flows from that dedication to come forth. Before the birth of Christed consciousness, there is the willing vessel. Without the vessel, there is no container for the awakening.