Clothed with the Sun

Submitted by Joyce Hollyday on June 21, 2012 - 7:44am
A Celebration of Birthing

When I wrote a book on biblical women and social justice in 1994, I gave it the title “Clothed with the Sun.” The phrase comes from the opening of the 12th chapter of Revelation, which describes a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” I was thrilled when artist Betty LaDuke offered her painting “Africa: Madonna” for the cover.

Soon after the book was published, I was invited to speak at a Mennonite church in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. Hanging behind the altar was a large, colorful banner bearing the image of that painting: a mother cradling a child, bathed in the sun and surrounded by animals and stars. In the years since, that gorgeous gift has hung at the center of a number of “Blessing Way” rituals for pregnant friends.

Last night a circle of women—ranging in age from 13 to 60—gathered around Beth and the banner at the farm where I share community with friends. Beth is a member of my congregation who, by all appearances, is going to give birth to her second child at any moment.

Each of us lit a candle from Beth’s, which we will light again in our homes when we receive the word that she has begun her labor. We each also placed a bead on a piece of elastic thread, creating a bracelet that Beth will wear to remind her that we accompany her through this hard and holy work.

Blessings and stories were shared. Rosalva, who is visiting from our sister church in Cuba, told us that she cared for another mother’s newborn for nine days before it was discovered that their sons had accidentally gotten switched at the clinic. She gave thanks that Beth has chosen a home birth.

Prayers were offered for Beth’s husband Brian and her 3-year-old son Jonathan, who will face the delights and stresses of being an older brother. Terri, a mother of two, shared that a few months after the birth of her daughter Anna, when her son Will was 3, he expressed his wish for her to be home more. Terri explained that she needed to work so that they could live in a home and have food to eat. Will offered a creative solution: “We could eat Anna.”

Anna, now a 13-year-old and Jonathan’s babysitter, gave Beth a blessing for patience. Beth’s mother, who drove a couple hours especially for this ritual, shared stories of Beth’s birth, reminding us all of the circle of life and the generations of birthing women whose spirits will accompany Beth in the days ahead. And the “woman clothed with the sun” smiled down on us all, encouraging each of us as we parted to claim the power of the sun and the moon and the stars for whatever it is we are struggling to birth.