Kathleen McGowan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Magdalene Line series, novels which explore and celebrate the role of exceptional women in history who have changed the world through their courage. Her novels, The Expected One, The Book of Love and The Poet Prince have been translated into over 40 languages and sold over a million copies. She is at work on her fourth novel in the series, The Boleyn Heresy, due for 2013 release.

Kathleen is preparing to launch a new series in e-book format, "Legends of the Divine Feminine", a unique hybrid of fiction and non-fiction exploration into stories from around the world, featuring extraordinary female characters.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Elige Magistrum - The Good Friday Choice by Kathleen McGowan

Earlier today I posted a note I wrote from 2009 because I could not decide what I wanted my Good Friday message to be this year. What could I say about Good Friday that I have not already said? I wrote over 400 pages in The Expected One to make my point about Good Friday. Is there anything left for me to say? Personally, it is a day when I choose to spend these hours between noon and three alone, or in a service that I find inspiring. Today, I am alone by choice. I have decided to cocoon in silence, in the shade of my oak trees and with my labyrinth close at hand for prayer and meditation when I am ready.

I awoke this morning filled with trepidation, that sense of fear deep in the pit of my stomach. It took me a few minutes to realize the fear was not mine, it was not today's fear, it was not of this time or this place or this person. It is the fear and trepidation of 2014 years ago, of another time when it all went terribly wrong. When the players were ill prepared for the plot twist that was thrown to them. And in meditating more upon that concept today, when I knew what I wanted to write.

                                                       My ultimate dissertation on the
                                                       meaning of Good Friday can be
                                                       found here, in my first novel. 

Since The Expected One was first released - nine years ago next week, could it really that long? - I have received literally countless messages in all formats about how that book and its re-telling of the Passion story has impacted my readers. I received one of those messages today, and it absolutely was the greatest of Easter gifts. A beautiful private message from a woman who told me that The Expected One and its story of Easa and Magdalene brought her back to a version of Christianity she could embrace with all her heart. I cherish that message, and all the others, above any other motivation I may have to write. They are my reason for being.

But back to the trepidation. Within the thousands of letters, emails, messages that come from almost ten years in 50 languages and 100 countries, I have also received thousands from those who were moved by this version of the story because it came alive for them. Many thousands have told me that they know they were there on some level, others feel that they are connecting to the archetypes or have a soul connection. But the point is that the story of the last week of Jesus' life is etched so indelibly upon our human psyche, that many of us experience it in a deeply visceral way. For some, it is intensely personal, a "I know I was there somewhere" feeling; for others it is a powerful expression of their faith, the day that changed the world.

But where am I going with this? None of this is revelatory. It's not news that Good Friday is a powerful, emotional, energetically challenging day for many of us. There are 2 billion people in the world today who are focused on the unjust and terrible death of one of humanity's greatest teachers and most perfected souls, at the very least. That amount of energy alone would cause any empath to feel emotional, tired, challenged or worse on this day every year. But I think it is deeper than that. I think the events of Good Friday have scarred us for eternity. There is a wounding deep within our humanity that says the good guys don't always win. That we aren't entitled to our happy ending. That tragedy and sacrifice is our lot.

                                          Our deepest wound?  The Lamentation of Christ,
                                          by Sandro Botticelli.

That wounding needs to be addressed. Maybe, if we all recognize it and work on it together, it can even be healed.

I call it "Cataclysmic Consciousness." I believe that many of us, and I have seen this so many times with people on a spiritual path, are secretly waiting for the other shoe to drop. No matter how optimistic, positive, spiritual, Present-in-the-Now we try to be, there is that voice in the back of our minds, whether we hear it literally or feel it intuitively, that says, "Even Jesus couldn't win this one. Just when we were about to create Heaven on Earth, it all went very, very wrong." In other words, I think the events of Good Friday have programmed us to expect that we cannot succeed on our highest spiritual paths, and have programmed us to accept struggle, pain and even martyrdom as part of the package we signed up for.

Of course, we have to address the basic belief system of what the Crucifixion means, which is always controversial. If you read my books and follow my work, you already know that I do not subscribe to a fundamental belief that Jesus "died for our sins" which is why it is "Good Friday." I do not believe in a patriachal God that requires a blood sacrifice of his most beautiful creation to wash away our evil thoughts and deeds. My God is a God of love, a Creator and Creatrix who love their children as all good parents do. So I reject that it was a Good Friday. For me, it was one of the greatest tragedies in human history - and I think that is true for many, based on the responses to my books.

Bob Marley addresses the question simply and beautifully, "How long will they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look? Some say it's just a part of it, we've go to fulfill the book."

Well, I don't buy it and I don't think Bob did either. I don't believe that we have to fulfill that book or any other. I believe we have to break the cycle of fear. We have to realize that the trepidation that fills us when we get close to making a real breakthrough in our lives comes from ancient woundings that are in our DNA, our ancestry, our souls. They are our challenge to overcome. We must insist that there will be no more martyrs, that we will not let the darkness of fear encroach upon where the light shines brightest, when we are pursuing our bliss. The events of Easter Week hold not only archetypal characters, but also situational models that all of us can relate to in one way or another. The fear and anger of the apostles when Jesus is taken; Claudia Procula's helplessness when her pleading falls on deaf ears; a mother's torment over the son she cannot protect from his own choices, a child's confusion in the world of men and violence, a beloved partner's utter devastation in a loss she could not prevent and did not see coming (I know this one all too well).

                                                      The story of Claudia Procula, the wife
                                                      of Pontius Pilate, was one of my key
                                                      reasons for writing The Expected One

These are stories of shame, loss, terror, rage. They are deep wounds if we continue re-live them and allow them to bleed. But they can become scars instead. A scar is a mark that is never forgotten, that allows us to tell a story, but that bleeds no longer and no long hurts us. I wanted to close out this note with an excerpt from The Expected One, and as I picked up the book I found something very different than what I had been seeking originally - but this is what I opened to. As I read it, I understood why.

It was as if Easa read the thoughts of Pontius Pilate. He replied in a whisper, "I cannot make this easier for you. Our destinies were chosen for us, but you must choose your own master."

Elige Magistrum. Choose your master. It is the theme of this book which took me twenty years to live and write, and a theme worth contemplating. Pontius Pilate allowed fear to be his master, and his resulting decision wounded the world for over 2000 years. On this holy day of remembrance, I will vow not to make that same choice in my greatest life decisions. I reject the fear and trepidation that has haunted me for so long, and I hope you will join me in a similar choice, if that sounds right to you at this point on your journey. I will no longer wait for the other shoe to drop. I will remember that these fears belong to my past, but not to my future. My master will not be fear. My master is Hope. My master is Faith. My master is Love. And if I can stand in that belief from this day forward, then it truly is a Good Friday.

                                                 This is how I choose to see him, everyday.
                                                 Painting by Greg Olsen.