The Life: In prayer, sisters find the unconditional love of God

Margaret Gonsalves is a Sister for Christian Community and feminist theologian active in the Ecclesia of Women in Asia and Indian Women Theologian’s Forum. As founder of ANNNI Charitable Trust, she networks with nongovernmental organizations to run free residential programs in intensive spoken English, sustainable development skills, and workshops for the empowerment of indigenous girls and women.

From my novitiate onward, I used to find that the morning hour of prayer bored me to death. When I was appointed an animator of the socio-pastoral community, I used to see some sisters drag themselves out of bed, praying the divine office half-asleep, some with sour faces and some unconsciously responding to the intercessory response: “Lord Jesus, we are your brothers” with complete gender unconsciousness!

This sorry state of our religious prayer life motivated me to grab the opportunity to redesign the Canticle of Mary as the “Ode of the Theotokos” (Luke 1:46-55) for morning prayer, chanting it while performing the “sun salutation.”

Gradually, I noticed an increase in the sisters’ energy level as they consecrated the first stirrings of body, mind and heart to God: “I will pray to you, Lord, you will hear my voice in the morning; I will stand before you in the morning and gaze on you” (Psalm 5:4-5).

The sisters were filled with the synergy of the light of the resurrection, enlightening all (John 1:9). As they felt healing from the sun of righteousness, they spread their wings to explore creative ministries: “The sun of justice shall arise, and you shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). Thus the day ahead was sanctified for our good and the good of our neighbors.

“Ode of the Theotokos” (Luke 1:46-55) for morning prayer, set to the 12 steps of the Sun Salutation by Margaret Gonsalves. (Graphic by Patricia’s Fashion & Art)

 

Mary’s canticle spoken on her visit to her cousin Elizabeth is a prophetic hymn of solidarity: The Mother of God visiting Elizabeth at the margins, celebrating the gospel of God’s favoritism toward women, thus instilling our dual mothering presence into the world. Now it gives our sisters Mary’s courage to challenge the misogynist, enthuses them with the synergy of the royal priesthood of the baptized and connects them to the eucharistic sacrifice (1 Peter 2:9).

The sun salutation is a series of 12 poses performed in sequential order with 12 chants addressed to the sun god in Sanskrit. I have replaced that with the 12 stanzas of the canticle.

Practicing daily should create a good flow of creative energy in the body, mind and spirit, setting into motion an energetic feeling that remains throughout the day. It induces deep breathing, loosens up the joints, tones the muscles and the internal organs, activates nostrils, removes lethargy, makes the mind alert, strengthens the endocrine system and burns extra fat.

May we all heed the invitation from Mary to abandon control, dispense from worldly expectation, live freely, and enjoy the journey.

Copied from GSR a section of the NCR newspaper with her permission

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