Faithful Betrayal - Holy Fire

By Jamie Coats

First of the Trinity


God does not

If God had raped Mary
Do you think we’d have her joy
So magnificently described?

God sends Gabriel.
He appears as the most
Gorgeous of men.

She hugs him saying,
“You are so beautiful.”
Places her head on his chest,

Looks up
And tentatively
They kiss on the lips.

He moves to kiss her again.
“No,” she says,
“My betrothal is arranged.

My father is making me marry.
I cannot defy him,
My blood-line, my tribe.”

Gabriel steps back.
“You get to decide.
God’s love is consensual.

Any other story
Is a lie made up
By man.”

Mary tremors at the idea.
A woman freed to choose
Love over tribe,

A woman no longer
Property of man
With the right to decide.

Knowing that this right is
The centre of God’s love
For all mankind.

She chooses love.
She defies her dad,
She faithfully betrays her blood.

“Be it unto me
According to
Thy word…”

Gabriel, Mary
As man
As woman

Fully alive

Through each other

To be

To and from
Now one

With God
Now spiraling
In a greater orbit

Knowing they are
Saying yes to life,
To Jesus.

She gives birth to a boy,
Who grows to be a man
Who in time understands,

But before,
His tribe raises him
As their man.

Like all of us
He learns the normal
Basis of hate:

Who’s in?
Who’s out?
How is my blood superior?

I am a boy,
I am this belief and religion,
I am of my tribe.

Second of the Trinity

The Syrophoenician Woman

He grows into a prophet,
Limited at first,
He prays to the Father,

And says he is just a man for
The lost sheep of his tribe.
One day he meets a woman,

A woman who says, “No,
That is not good enough.”
She prays as a Mother,

The Mother who is
For her sick child.

She is foreign,
Annoying, cloying
And totally persistent.

She is not of his blood,
Gender, race, tribe
Caste, class or God.

He denies her,
He reviles her,
Finally calls her a dog.

She faithfully sees past
The hate he’s been taught
She knows his heart.

She stands her ground,
Tells him,
“Even dogs get scraps.”

Like flint
She strikes him,
Sparks his love.

She breaks the clasp that holds
His cultural coat of hate,
It falls away,

Revealing the loving heart
Given him
By his mother and God.

His mutual love flows,
He loves her daughter
As his own.

He heals
Into the Messiah.

Third of the Trinity

Mary Magdalene

He is now on the path
To be crucified
By those so superior.

Now he honours every woman,
Every foreigner,
Every other.

Now he’s got it,
Are you surprised
Why he is such a hit

With all the women
Of the Gospels

Are you surprised
That those of power,
Still dressed in hate,

Come after him
For such betrayal
With bloodshed in mind?

Betrayed by a kiss,
Led through the crowds,
They kill him on a tree.

Mary Magdalene
She watches him die.
His agony consumes her,

She struggles to stop
The terror
From petrifying her.

He dies. Is it over?
The light is fading fast
When his body is released.

She follows
As they take his body
To the tomb.

A new one carved into rock
With a circular stone
That rolls back into a slot.

They haul his body
Down into the antechamber
Onto the preparation table,

No time
To put him into
One of the burial slots.

It is Sabbath,
She’ll return when allowed.

On the third day
She comes early,
Still in darkness

With enough myrrh
To stop the retching
That celebrates

The victory of those
Who kill those who
Put love before blood.

The stone is sitting
In its slot
Rolled back.

No stench,
No body,
Another humiliating loss.

The rock-carved tomb,
The ultimate dead end,
Is emptiness.

Have the men of bloodshed
Desecrated his body
And hidden their evil deed?

“No!” she screams.
In the place of despair
She is faithful to love,

She feels it envelop her.
She turns, risen he is there,
Betraying death itself

Her love explodes,
It is that mutual love
It feels consensual

Beyond sexual,
Union with God.
No hatred to those who kill,

Compassion for all,
Resurrection love
From her pours forth.

Finally Holy Fire

Yes his act is sacred betrayal.
Yes his reward is death,
Yes he is going to ask you to

Stand with the poor,
Under the stars and
Light the candle of a little child.

You will light her candle
Regardless of who you are.
Free, you will not ask

Of gender
Of race
Of tribe

Of caste
Of class
Of God

You’ll faithfully betray
Your tribe if you answer
Yes to what Jesus and

The Trinity of women ask,
“Are you flint enough
To light Holy Fire?

Biblical References: Luke 1, 23:26-24:12, Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 15:21-28, & John 20:1-18

To share this poem with friends forward the link jamiecoats.net/holyfire/

Faithful Betrayal - Holy Fire is third poem in the Candle Trilogy.

Click here to read about a beautiful mini-book of the Candle Trilogy.

How did the Mary Manifesto Come About?

I wrote this Manifesto to respond to a question put to me by a Professor of Old Testament studies at a Theological Seminary in the USA in 2017.

I had just read my poem, Faithful Betrayal-Holy Fire, at an evening poetry reading. The poem grapples with respect and honor for the feminine and women in the gospels and was about to be published by the Anglican Theologian, Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, in a book called Untamed Gospel.

The Professor had written to me earlier when she first read the poem to say, “It is really good, really brave, really interesting! Thanks for sharing it with me, and … the world. I am very glad -- thank you!”

The question she asked that evening was, “I know this is a bit of a cheap question but who are you as a man to write on this subject?”

This question has become central to my meditations and reflections on how men can be allies of women and address centuries of unbalanced power between the sexes.

How can we men unlock the doors that men have locked against women? The Mary Manifesto takes this question to heart of the Christian symbol of authority, God. Whether or not you are a believer I think everyone can agree that religious concepts and imagery have enormous programming power over our culture. Can we have a conversation that ends the idea of male dominance over women, that puts joy of consent at the heart of everything and unleashes a new era of romance, of men and women, and lovers everywhere with equal rights and power falling in love with one another and falling in love with God?

The Story of How I wrote the poem Faithful-Betrayal Holy Fire

In 2007 I went to India and I went on retreat at a Roman Catholic Jesuit Zen Buddhist retreat centre for a week of silent meditation. It is called Bodizendo, at Kodaikanal in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. While I was on retreat I was contemplating how young Indian women graduate students who I have been working with, I am involved with Lady Doak College – a women’s college in Madurai, would ask me to write to their fathers to thank them for allowing them to pursue advanced education and degrees. This made me think about the story of Mary and the angel in the story of the Annunciation that leads to the birth of Jesus. What I realized was that these young South Indian women, if they have had their marriages arranged by their father and then one day, so to speak turned up pregnant by somebody else that would lead to terrible consequences. They would not defy their fathers. Mary, the mother of Jesus, defied her father, or whoever had already arranged her marriage to Joseph, to have a child by another father.

The other thought that I had was that in life and in nature new life happens when the male and female have sex, or cross pollinate or cross fertilize. So, I wanted to look at the Christian story and ask what gave birth to this story and if most new natural life comes from the male and female entwining then how do we look at the gospels? What happens if we ask are the gospels about men and women combining to create new life?

At Easter in Jerusalem a fire is lit on Easter in the Holy Sepulcher - a chapel supposedly over where the tomb that Jesus was laid in after he was crucified. The fire, the Holy Fire is then passed candle to candle to everyone. I had the good fortune to celebrate Orthodox Easter in 2017 on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher with the Ethiopians and I got to light the candle of a little Ethiopian girl. Now before I lit her candle, I did not ask her what she believed, and I realized that as a Christian everyone is asked to light the candle of the person next to them and not discriminate in any way. Light every person’s, every child’s candle. So, what gives birth to this Holy Fire? What love is it that asks us to love and revere everyone regardless of who they are? My poem asks what created Holy Fire?

This is what I wanted to explore in my poem that came to me while I was on retreat.

The poem describes three male-female interactions in the Gospel: Mary and the Angel, Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman and Mary Magdalene and the risen Jesus Christ and then describes my experience of standing on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem at the Ethiopian Orthodox Easter service and my lighting an Easter candle held by a three-year-old Ethiopian girl.

The poem explores the birth of Christianity as not so much the product of Jesus portrayed as the only son of God but as Jesus as this fabulous human being, who is born of an incredibly radical mother, who listens so deeply that he sheds his cultural upbringing that he is just for the Jews to become a Messiah figure for all of us. This is Jesus who has a love in his heart that is not restricted to his tribe but is to be available for all. His divinity shines through his humanity so brightly that his love overcomes death, and this news is brought to us by Mary Magdalen.

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