24 Oct

La Moreneta is a little statue of the Madonna and child. She is black. Legend has it that she was carved in Jerusalem in the early years of the Christian church, and moved to Montserrat by Templars. Shepherds found her in a cave in the year 890 and, when even a troupe of Benedictine monks could not move her, a church was built to house her there, with a monastery nearby.

Montserrat is a strange rock formation, forty minutes outside Barcelona. It rises suddenly out of the plain, incongruous with the rolling Mediterranean hills surrounding. It is difficult to see in pictures, but in the golden Spanish twilight this limestone outcropping looks like hundreds of ancient giants overlooking the valley. The little group of buildings is dwarfed by these ancestors.

The monastery is now home to a group of radical nuns who spend their time writing a new constitution for the state of Catalonia. One of them, when asked if she thought women should have more power in the church, responded that women should Be More Powerful, right where they are, right now.

We paid for parking, and walked along the cliff, taking pictures of the fantastic view, and the towering stones. One can also take a train from Barcelona, which must be quite a lovely ride. Mosaics in the church courtyard honor places on the Templar route through Europe, Alexandria, Antioch, Carthage, Fatima, Lourdes, Compostella, Montecasino, Rome…
There is a spring with salty water gushing from a cave behind the church. A sign reads, “Mistica Font De L’aigua De La Vida”. We taste and cleanse. On the other side of the church is an entrance which leads the visitor down a long corridor and up some stairs to where La Moreneta sits overlooking the church from behind the altar, through a little gold-framed window.

On the way in, we pass mosaics of female saints, most of whom I’d never heard of. On the way out, are frescoes of women in plain clothes, doing traditional women’s work, and some reading, or teaching. We don’t see one single priest. This is a women’s place.

The sitting room of the Madonna is a shimmering cave, lined with gold mosaics, relics, and and a bronze dove hanging from the ceiling on a delicate chain. Encased in a bullet proof glass cylinder, only the sphere she holds in her right hand protrudes from her protective aura. Devotees approach silently in prayer, and touch or kiss her orb, to receive her blessing. Very much like Darshan.

The corridor leads to a little chapel behind her, where another window reveals her back, high above the altar. A grand statue of Archangel Michael guards her, before a giant stained glass window, saturating the room in light of every color. I cross myself and sit down at a pew.

“Use me,” I pledge to La Moreneta. She replies without haste, “Mmmmm… Si, but first… give me your resentments.”
With my Vipassana training, I go inside and breathe through my resentments, one by one as they surface. When I feel that I am clear enough, I offer my surrender again. “Use me,” She smiles.
“Hmmm… That’s good…. Now give me your grief.” I find the heaviness in my heart, and breathe through it, with silent tears, until I feel it clear.

“Use me, Mistress,” I open my heart, but I know she isn’t done.
“Now give me your rage.” She says. This time my tears run hot. I know she has to make space in my cluttered being for her blessing to run through me. I huff and I puff, and I blow the wall down. I use my alchemical breathing to draw the bile, venom, and sulphuric acid out of my joints and tissue and organs, up my spine and into my brain, where they are transformed in the alembic of vices into crystalline fuel.

When I feel clear, I don’t have to ask. I make myself big and wide. She pours the water of life through me, like a firehose aimed at the top of my head. I feel it descend deep into the earth. I sit for some time, then make my way through dim corridors into the church, where a lone organist is playing her heart out to La Moreneta.


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