Madre Dolorosa, Archetype for our Times

Easter week here in southern Italy and elsewhere is the time of dramatizing the Passion of Christ. In Ostuni this Pasqua, a passion play spectacle involving over 300 actors and orchestrated by a well-known cinema director, is narrated from a startling contemporary point of view—not the Passione de Cristo, but il Dolore delle Madre, the pain of the Mother.

This narration of our times shows us the mother carrying her dead son through the streets, accumulating, as she goes on her grieving way, every large and small anguish of others; bowing under the burden of violence against women, acknowledging, as she walks, all the human dramas of suffering but especially the torments of rape and female mutilation and slavery. She carries her son, and also, she carries the pain of crimes against women.

Here is how I understand the metaphor. Her beautiful boy Gesu is lost to her because the patriarchal worldview could neither countenance his message of oneness nor tolerate his gynandrous gentleness. She grieves for her boy, and beneath the personal pain, she laments the peace on earth and gender equality so lost that, despite archeological evidence, we have pretended it never existed. Here is the story of our times, the story of women reclaiming peace and good will on earth, by first recognizing their true and terrible suffering under the dying patriarchal worldview.

The Madre Dolorosa as an archetype also helps us understand that focusing on a single identity is a path to prejudice. The Madre archetype can bind all our sufferings and all our progressive movements into one resilient strand. It can show us how to grow beyond identity politics, how to become kindred spirits on parallel pathways. As we each do our part to use a new and hopeful lens, we can create possibilities previously unimagined. Together, we create a world that works for everyone.

Speaking truth to power this Pasqua means women and men everywhere raising their consciousness. It means women stepping up and men listening. Whoever you are, let your sorrows be felt and seen, release them to make space for your visions for the new world. This Easter week can begin not only a new season, but a whole new era on our tiny spinning planet.

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