Sunday, 16 December 2007

Liverpool Nativity

It was like Advent... waiting in the dark, wondering how long the suffering would end... and languishing for the light. Well, I had been hoping to watch Liverpool Nativity on BBC3, but instead, was tending the sick. At last, she was willing to rest, to sleep, and I headed for the flickering of the glowing Box. I only caught the last three minutes of Joseph and Mary singing with delight and wonder and terror at the beauty in their baby bundle... but it took no time for the emotion to grip me, for Gabriel's words to the crowd to seize my heart with joy and grief and hope. The refugee family are sent into the crowd, and the crowd are commissionned: "welcome them among you... swathe them in your love..." - or something to that effect. It was the word "swathe" which caught me. Swaddling, clothing, snuggling, like the bands that surrounded the newborn baby, compensating for the loss of the maternal womb, reassuring as mothers' arms. Oh, that our communities might again be nurseries for lost children, secure places beyond the womb, for all to be born among us and thrive!


John Self said...

My wife teaches in a primary school in NI which will remain nameless. Last year when preparing the nativity play, one of the boys was due to be the angel Gabriel. However another teacher decided that, as this boy at this young age displayed signs of femininity or effeminacy, that he shouldn't be the angel as they "didn't want to encourage him." The part went to a girl instead: just right, in this teacher's view, for the fluffy wings and halo and white.

Apart from the ridiculous stereotyping, it occurred to me that this teacher was unaware that Gabriel is a male name, and that angels like Gabriel and Michael, while I suppose being strictly gender undefined, are surely more obviously 'male' than 'female'. So why are angels seen as feminine beings?

Wondering said...

Good question. I was just thinking today about how the angel became the fairy on the Christmas tree... I wonder is the feminisation of angels a subconscious way for patriarchal mindsets to domesticate, diminish and take the awesomeness from the original biblical characters. Angels made a habit of saying "Do not fear." It wasn't because they were wielding handbags, was it? Something in their faces, in their presence, struck awe and terror in the hearts of those they met. (Maybe that's why they are seen as feminine?!) Perhaps the question should be, why do we see feminine beings as less demanding of respect, awe and wonder than their male counterparts?

I'm upset about the implied judgment/rejection of the "effeminate" boy. I've never seen any superhero-angels. It would be closer to the truth, surely. And more fun for both girls and boys to play!