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Monk in the World Guest Post: Greta Kopec

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World Guest Post series from the community. Read on for Greta Kopec’s reflection, “Mary Magic and Miracles.”

Once upon a time, I only knew Mary as the mom in the nativity story we heard each Christmas. In the past three years she has become a companion and muse who has taught me many names of the sacred feminine, those names multiplying as I have encountered her in various ways, in different places. She began by inviting me on a journey that would take me to Fatima, Portugal and Cz?stochowa, Poland where I was surprised to meet her as part of tours a year apart. Before each of these trips, she sent me, a non-Catholic, a rosary. She had my attention!

She brought me people who helped me know her through their own stories, books, images, magazine articles, a small icon from Crete.

As part of my SoulCollage® practice, I created eight collages after Fatima, exploring her many energetic presences, including: Alchemical Womb, Mary of Nazareth, Mystical Rose, Our Lady of Sorrows, and Hagia Sophia.  For SoulCollage® we also write from the collaged images with the voice of the energy, as for Alchemical Womb: “I am the one who welcomes you into my cavernous womb where you are safe, where there is room for all. . .”  From the names of those collages, I brought her closer through writing this prayer:

Ave Maria

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us–
You who are the eternal sacred feminine,
We bow to your everlasting power.

Most Powerful Woman, Mother of God,
Goddess within us, remind us we are all
Mothers of God, pregnant with the Holy,
Giving birth again and again.

Hagia Sophia, Ancient Wisdom,
Guide our discernment when
The unbidden Angels appear
With difficult messages.
Help us as women to find our voice
And to speak our Truth.

Alchemical Womb of Notre Dame,
Provide the sanctuary we seek
From the woes of the world.
Heal our wounds and make us whole(y).

Weep with us, Sorrowful Mother,
For all the lost and wounded children
And for all of humanity’s transgressions.

Illumine our Darkness, Black Madonna,
Make us fierce warriors against injustice,
Fuel our righteous anger,
And afford us comfort
In our dark nights.
Do what is necessary to wake us up.

Perfect Mother Goddess,
Help us to see you are just Miriam too,
Ordinary woman of your culture.
Help me to relax my own expectations.

Hear my prayers, Mystical Rose,
As I hold my own mother close
In grateful remembrance.

THEAtokos show me the way
To bear the divine feminine
Into the world.
Be my Star, my beacon,
Beckon me onward.

Mother Mary, come to me,
Let the divine child in me
Be open to your presence,
Your protection, your unconditional

Poland’s Black Madonna riveted my attention on these mysterious versions of Mary (and their miracles) found all over Europe. The day of our visit to Cz?stochowa was the same day we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. The contrast between the celebratory ambiance in Mary’s chapel, where First Communion was being celebrated, and the grimness of the concentration camps was profoundly staggering: Madonna and child shining brilliantly in bejeweled votive clothing, followed by the dusty, dreary landscapes of the camps where fear is an eternal presence, the darkest place on earth. Out of this experience emerged collages about bringing darkness into the light, particularly the ways hatred, cruelty and oppression need to be illuminated for what they are.

More gifts from Mary keep coming unbidden. I was guided toward a new spiritual director who also holds a special reverence for Mary. I came across a tiny gold medallion that was my mother’s, which was labeled “Maria Zell.” I discovered online that she was a dark Madonna in Austria, where my mother had emigrated from as a refugee. I was reminded I come from a very long ancestral line of European Catholics.  I encountered Mariazell again in Christine Valters Paintner’s writing of her experiences. The Abbey of the Arts “Wisdom of Mary” retreat gave me new Marys, especially “Star of the Sea,” as I felt her light and darkness beckoning me to her, while also towards further exploration.

In 2019, at Chartres Cathedral outside of Paris, I found Mary’s “Seat of Wisdom” pose in the dark “Our Lady Underground” statue in the ancient crypt. This seated pose of the older child facing outward was in two of my dreams that I eventually understood as a message to trust my own wisdom as Grandmother, Mother, and Child. How am I Mary’s child sent into the world? I, too, am called to be “THEAtokos”— god(dess) bearer.

In Paris, I sat in the empty little church of “Our Lady of Good Deliverance,” a sanctuary entirely devoted to a larger Black Madonna. Another Black Madonna happened to be visiting for “Mary’s month!”

Mary remains my spiritual companion and muse, especially in her darker forms. Her darkness is the dark night of the soul, but also the sheltering, healing darkness. The Black Madonna is the hidden “earthy” aspect needed to complement the elevated Queen of Heaven. She stands for the oppressed and overlooked. Her message is especially timely for this past year of sheltering, challenges, and trauma. She will be with us as the earth and all of humanity can begin to heal.

Greta Kopec is a spiritual director, workshop and retreat leader, and SoulCollage® facilitator in Portland, Oregon. She enjoys exploring creativity with her women’s groups.

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