by Heather Sisk
In honor of the recently passed Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene; I thought I’d explore the nature of spiritual direction and prophetic voice.
The Magdalene’s feast day is celebrated during the season after Pentecost, apropos for the season that marks the arrival of the Spirit. Mary Magdalene’s proclamation to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord” (Jn 20:18) is part of the prophetic tradition: a tradition that always signifies a divine message intended for the community.
In Hebrew scripture, the rift between God and humans is always mended through us returning to God, and to God’s forgiveness. Jesus’ resurrection is a proclamation to the people that God forgives. Mary’s personal encounters with Jesus and the resurrected Christ reveal a Trinitarian understanding of God: God as human who identifies with the marginalized and the victim, God as creator who heals and forgives, God as Spirit who dwells with us.
Ultimately sharing this Trinitarian understanding of God begins to set new patterns for community based in mutuality, love and forgiveness.
The Holy Spirit in Christianity is also known as advocate and friend. In Spiritual Direction we learn to be a friend to our true selves. We listen for where the Spirit’s voice abides or connects us and with our higher purpose. This higher purpose in Greco-Christian language is named Agape.
Agape is Love in its highest form. Like the Prophet’s sympathetic appeal, it is a conduit or love between God and human, human and God, and for others in the form of unattached charity and mercy. It is a love that is seated in the heart-space and understands that there are no strings attached.
Essentially it is always the acknowledgment of the true self that flows into acknowledgment of community. Agape is transformative, and through prayer and attention it grows into new language and new activity.
Our prophetic voice is at one time the outward stage of all the inner work of spiritual direction, contemplation and prayer. At the same time, it might also arise in what appears to be a beginning: the voice calling out in the wilderness of our very being. Or it may feel like someone calling our name distinctly, as in the garden in John’s gospel where Jesus calls “Mary.”
Like Mary, we turn, we catch our breath in the knowledge that this internal stirring is our teacher; our “Rabboni.”
Our prophetic nature is our true voice – Love prompting us to action – the Spirit moving us in new directions: to begin again in new patterns of resurrection for the self and for community.
Heather Sisk is a Spiritual Director and retreat leader. She earned her MA in Spiritual Direction from The General Theological Seminary in 2010. Find out more about Heather’s offerings at her website magdalenespath.com. Her art can be found at heathersisk.com.
Thanks to Sandra Schneiders for her insights into Mary Magdalene’s prophetic identity.
image: “Called by Name” Plaster and patina 2012, Heather Sisk