This talk was given at Mormon Women’s Forum Counterpoint Conference on April 28, 1993 by Carol Lynn Pearson.
THE INTERFAITH SEARCH FOR THE DIVINE FEMININE
Last November you may have smiled, as I did, at a story in the newspaper under the heading, “All is forgiven: Galileo was right.” The first lines read:
It’s official: The Earth revolves around the sun, even for the Vatican.
The Roman Catholic Church has admitted to erring these past 359 years in formally condemning Galileo Galilei for entertaining scientific truths it long denounced as against-the-Scriptures heresy.
We further learn that thirteen years after he appointed it, a commission of historical, scientific and theological inquiry brought the pope a “not guilty” finding for Galileo, who at age 69 in 1633, was forced to repent by the Roman Inquisition and spent the last years of his life under house arrest. His sin had been challenging the biblical vision of the earth as the center of the universe, asserting instead that the earth makes an annual journey around the sun.
I tell this story today because it is a fine example of a paradigm shift, one that in its day was condemned, but that we see now brought us closer to truth.
I wish to place my subject today, “The Interfaith Search for the Divine Feminine” in a similar context. I believe it to be a paradigm shift of the most profound magnitude, one that will surely bring us closer to truth, and one that will affect us far more deeply than the one that involved Galileo, because the way we see ourselves and the way we view each other is much more vital than the way we view the planets.
We have for the last five thousand years viewed maleness as the center of the universe, with femaleness revolving around it in a subordinate or auxiliary position. The shift that has been occurring in the last couple of centuries and particularly the last couple of decades is creaking into place an idea that seems outrageous to some–the idea that femaleness is as central as maleness, that the one does not revolve around the other. This shift is happening as an absolute historical necessity, and just as it affects the way we look at the face in the mirror, the face across the breakfast table, the faces on the train and on the television, so it affects the way we look at the face of God.
And the way we look at the face of God affects the way we look at one another, which is finally why we must look again at the face of God. Because, as Mary Daly, Catholic theologian said, “If God is male, the male is god.” Of course. And changing the way we view God will change the way we look at and behave toward one another, which is finally the most compelling justification for the search.
It is happening. Millions of women and men in all parts of the world are searching for–and in their own way finding–the female face of God. And, given the leisurely pace of historical progress, I find the speed at which this shift is happening astonishing.
Just over twenty years ago my friend Jan Tyler and I–both of us starving for validation of female spirituality–made an appointment with BYU archeologist Wilford Griggs because we had heard a rumor that in his work with the Dead Sea Scrolls there was a mention, a hint that could be interpreted as referring to the Heavenly Mother, and indeed there was. I would have walked a hundred miles in the snow for that little hint, that tiny crumb.
And those first indications that something was in the wind–the bumper sticker that said, “Trust In God, She Will Provide”–the poster that read, “When God Made Man, She Was Only Joking.” Shocking!–but we had to smile and buy them for our friends. We had been so hungry for so long!
What a difference two decades can make. Today there is an avalanche of excellent books and articles that approach the subject from every angle–history, psychology, archeology, scripture, personal experience. Go into A Woman’s Place bookstore and browse. Pick up When God Was a Woman, The Chalice and the Blade, The Language of the Goddess, The Hebrew Goddess, The Great Cosmic Mother, The Goddess Within, In Her Many Names, The Return of the Goddess, The Goddess Changes. And certainly books for our own culture, such as Maxine Hanks’ recent Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism. Recently someone asked if I had read a book called The Feminine Face of God, and I had to say, “No, I haven’t had time to read that one yet.” Hadn’t had time! Once on my journey I found a crumb every few miles. And now my table runneth over.
I believe that there are those who feel–who hope–that the interest, even passion, that a large number of Mormon women and men are showing in the subject of the Heavenly Mother is just a blip on an ongoing patriarchal landscape. The contribution I would like to make to this conference today is to assure everyone present that this phenomenon is not a blip, it is a paradigm shift. It is universal and it is permanent. It is far from complete but it is irreversible. To mix some metaphors, it is a chick that will not go back into the egg, and it is a horse that is already out of the barn, though the farmer try with all his might to slam the door. The chick is pecking and scratching and the filly is running for all she is worth, free and strong across the field. And all of this under a sun that was always the center of the universe, no matter what the Pope said.
The new book Megatrends for Women gives some interesting glimpses into what women will be up to in the next number of years. A whole chapter is devoted to the Goddess and another is titled, “Women and Religion: to Hell with Sexism.” We learn that in some American seminaries there are significantly more women than men preparing for the ministry. And we further learn that
Central to women’s spiritual quest is outright rejection of the notion that God is somehow male…the collective memory of the Goddess is reawakening as millions of women acknowledge their power…and channel sweat and creativity into transforming the world.
Let me suggest that if you find yourselves getting discouraged with what may or may not be happening in your own backyard–in our little corner of the vineyard–you stop chatting among yourselves for a bit and lean over the fence and chat with some of the neighbors in their little corner of the vineyard. You may be heartened.
The observations that I would like to share with you today are more personal than academic. You can go to the bookstore or the library and read the same literature that I can. But what you cannot do–and how I wish you could–is to experience first-hand what I have in the last three and a half years as I have presented my play, “Mother Wove the Morning” to well over two hundred audiences in this country and abroad. And as I talk about the overwhelming positive response I have had to this play, please know that I know that the standing ovations and the tears and the embraces and the gratitude have been only a little for the writing and the performing and the interesting costume and the clever props. What the applause has really said was, “Yes! Oh, yes! Our loss has been unspeakable! I–want–my–Mother!”
I played for six months at a theater in San Francisco, and my backstage position allowed me to see the door as the audience came in and received their programs. I was fascinated. I sat there night after night watching them as intently as in a few moments they would watch me. Who are these people? Why did they come here? Why did they take a full evening out of their weekend and drive in and find parking and pay nineteen dollars to see a play about the gender of God? Look at that tall man with the white beard and the glasses, probably a psychiatrist or a professor. Those four smartly-dressed women laughing together–what did they talk about at dinner next door? The long-haired hippie guy in Birkinstocks–the woman in a gold wrap and upswept black hair and jewels–the mother with a girl about ten and a boy about twelve–what did she give up in her budget to bring two children tonight? I would have done the same, of course. I would have walked a hundred miles in the snow.
So I sat there and watched the audience come in, knowing that it didn’t matter who they were or where they came from. As Matthew Arnold said, “The same heart beats in every human breast,” and in these hearts–a hunger for our lost Mother that brought them there tonight. And in my heart–gratitude that spilled out of my eyes. “Dear God–dear Mother and Father–thank you for all these people. Let me give them the best that I have.”
“The same heart beats in every human breast.” The interfaith search for the divine feminine. Every religion is meeting the question. There are no exceptions that I know of. Some religions are addressing the subject with enthusiasm. Some are addressing it with caution. Some are addressing it with great reluctance and with fear. No religion is not addressing it.
The following stories do not cover the waterfront, but they are the ones that I know. First from the Catholics.
One of the first performances I gave was on the UC Berkeley Campus, sponsored by the Catholic student organization at Newman Hall. This audience clearly caught every nuance in the script–laughed at the very mention of Tertulian–and after the long standing ovation was finished and I visited with the audience, a young man said to me in italics, “Do you know how important this is? Do you really have any idea how important all this is?”
In Chicago I received a card that said, “Dear Carol…I am a Catholic priest…Last night I saw you perform ‘Mother Wove the Morning’ and I left at the end without shaking your hand. I don’t know what I was afraid of, but I realized this morning what a gift you have given me, and I am ashamed of myself for not telling you personally and publicly…perhaps I was afraid because of the guilt that was stirred up as I remembered how I have treated ‘Mother’…for the first time it ‘came home’ to me just how much we have lost by banishing ‘Mother.’…I wish that the Catholic bishops could see your play next fall at their annual meeting…May Mother and Father bless you!”
Also in Chicago I performed the play to one thousand girls at Mother Macaulay, the largest private school for girls in the world, I was told. As several of the faculty members drove me to where I was staying, one of them said, “I love my church, but I am determined to help make some important changes in my church.”
To that I replied, “Tell me, if you took patriarchy out of the Catholic Church, could you still have the Catholic Church?”
“Oh” she said with eyes shining, “then the church could be truly Catholic!”
The organist in my ward in California gave me the program from a conference on the future of organ music he had attended at St. Patrick’s seminary. It included an anthem with these words from fourteenth century Julian of Norwich, one of the mystics the Catholics are rediscovering:
As truly as God is our Father,
So just as truly is he our Mother.
In our Father, God Almighty, we have our being;
In our merciful Mother we are remade and restored….
It is I, the strength and goodness of Fatherhood
It is I, the wisdom of Motherhood.
It is I, the light and grace of holy love.
It is I, the Trinity, it is I, the unity.
At a breakfast at Notre Dame University, where I was invited to perform my play, a young man offered a blessing on the food directed to “Our Father and Mother.” And in my own Oakland stake center, at an interfaith commemoration of Martin Luther King day, the Catholic priest who gave the main address spoke of God our Father and Mother.
This, of course, does not mean that in Rome the Pope visions God in terms as much female as male. But the Pope does vision the sun as the center of the universe, which surely is a good omen. In the meantime there is foment among the Catholics on feminist theological issues, producing the stories I have just told you and producing as well the story I read in my newspaper last month of Matthew Fox, radical Oakland theologian, being expelled from the Dominican order for a variety of offenses, one of which was his feminism, including his work to bring the feminine into the image of God. The Dominicans, by the way, were the group that sponsored the infamous Inquisition that burned huge numbers of women as witches.
Incidentally, a few years ago Matthew Fox was silenced for a year by his order, and for that year he did not speak in public. However on the day that the year’s punishment ended he gave a public address that began, “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted.” That is a good story to keep in mind at a conference themed to the subject of silence. Women will not be silenced. We may be interrupted from time to time. But we will not be silenced.
Another little glimpse I have been privileged to have into what people in other churches are doing comes from doing my play at a Christian mission conference that had as a special guest Brian Wren, a minister in the United Reformed Church in England. I already owned his book, What Language Shall I Borrow?, subtitled “God-Talk in Worship: a Male Response to Feminist Theology.”
When I met Dr. Wren and during the time that he spoke at the conference, he was wearing a T-shirt that read, “God Is Not A Boy’s Name.” And his talk echoed the sentiments I had read in his book.
[Patriarchy] distorts our vision of God by seeing the divine life exclusively through male eyes and depicting God in the image of male dominance. This implies that the other half of humanity, created co-equally in God’s image and likeness, is not fit to depict that divine life. (Wren, 55)
The impassioned resistance to the very idea of speaking of God in female terms is linked with patriarchal culture’s disvaluing of the “feminine.” If the structure of patriarchy, and its disvaluing of the “feminine,” are brought to light, I suspect that some will reaffirm the patriarchal order, but that many will be willing to follow the implications of their conviction that women and men are created as coequals in the image of God. (Wren, 135)
Dr. Wren analyzed the first 328 hymns in the 1983 Hymns and Psalms: a Methodist and Ecumenical Hymnbook. Male imagery was used 76.5 percent of the time with nature imagery like the sun accounting for the other 23.5 percent. There were no female images whatsoever. He says, “The fact that the genderless Trinity is prayed to and depicted in exclusively male images and pronouns must give humans a hooded or one-eyed vision of God.” (Wren, 117, 118)
But Dr. Wren does something besides criticize hymns. And this is something that I commend to every person at this conference. Don’t just criticize. Do something about it. Whatever your interest and skills dictate–do it!
Dr. Wren has become well-known for the splendid poetry of the hundreds of hymns he has written in what we might call inclusive language. He has devoted great love and talent to creating such hymns as “Bring Many Names.”
Bring many names, beautiful and good;
celebrate in parable and story,
holiness in glory,
living, loving God.
Hail and Hosanna,
bring many names:
Strong mother God, working night and day,
planning all the wonders of creation,
setting each equation,
genius at play:
Hail and Hosanna,
strong mother God!
Warm father God, hugging every child,
feeling all the strains of human living,
caring and forgiving
till we’re reconciled:
Hail and Hosanna,
warm father God! (Wren, 137)
The United Church of Canada seems to be a place where the concept of God as Mother is being welcomed. I received a very enthusiastic phone call from their Director of Media, who had been given a video of my play. He could not say enough about how thrilled he was with the play, and subsequently wrote me a letter asking to distribute the play to their many dozens of bookstores, suggesting a cross-Canada tour, an appearance at their National Conference in 1994, and a showing of the video on Canada’s “Vision” television network.
The Jewish tradition is also being affected by the revisioning of God. After a performance of my play in San Francisco I was approached by a woman who introduced herself to me as the first ordained female rabbi in the Reformed branch of Judaism. And my good friend Gloria, who at age sixty had a wonderful belated bat mitzvah, tells me that the synagogue she attends in Los Angeles is busily bringing female imagery into their worship. And, of course, the more radical Jewish feminists are writing and celebrating new Sabbath prayers.
Blessed is She who spoke, and the world became.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who in the beginning gave birth.
Blessed is She who says and performs.
Blessed is She who declares and fulfills.
Blessed is She whose womb covers the earth.
Blessed is She whose womb covers all creatures…
Blessed is She who lives forever, and exists eternally.
Blessed is She that redeems and saves.
Blessed is Her Name. (Wren, 162)
I remember the sweet face of my teenage daughter Katy’s Jewish friend Rebecca as she said to me, “Your play made me feel so proud to be a woman. It made me feel so warm inside.” Rebecca calls me “Ema” just for fun, because I lived on a kibbutz in Israel in my youth and studied Hebrew there. “Ema” is the Hebrew word for “mother.” Beautiful Rebecca deserves to have her femaleness rendered in a divine image, a heavenly “Ema.” As does beautiful Katy. May Judaism and Mormonism be worthy of these beautiful girls.
Of course, one branch of the human family that is very enthusiastic about the return of female imagery for God are the neo-pagans. The followers of Wicca, not to be confused with Satan worshippers who are entirely a Christian phenomenon, find their roots in ancient nature worship. I was invited to participate in an Interreligious Dialogue Council through the Institute for the Study of American Religions and have become acquainted with several practitioners of Wicca. They have been invited by the city of Nashville, which is called the Athens of the South, to hold in August a dedication of the now completed statue of the goddess Diana, which I was told is the largest indoor statue in the U.S. I was invited to participate in this event and present the scene of my Greek woman, but I had already made a commitment to give a very important talk at August’s “Sunstone” symposium. And, while I wish them well, my heart is more with the Mormons than with any other group.
In a long conversation I had with one of the leading pagans, he referred to a news story in which a woman whose mother had disappeared early on decided to find out what had really happened to her and the discovery she made was that her mother had been killed by her stepfather. This pagan gentleman said to me, “That’s what’s happened in our family. The real Father did not kill the Mother. A step-father did. Our goal as pagans is to bring the Mother back into the human family.” To bring the Mother back into the human family. Where have I heard those words before? Maybe a hundred times. From people of all different faiths, in whose breasts the same heart beats.
Well, leaping from the pagans to the Evangelical Christians, which is quite a leap, but keep in mind that the same heart is still beating. I am staying in Utah with my brother and sister-in-law in Sandy and I went to church with them the other day. A woman–who had the day before accosted me in Smith’s Food King to tell me how grateful she is that I have a voice and can speak for women who do not have a voice–accosted me again in the foyer of the chapel. (I use the word “accosted” because it is a fun word; these exchanges were very welcome and very pleasant.) She brought out a book from under her scriptures and said, “Have you read this one?” I took the extended book. Women In the Maze, subtitled, “Questions and Answers on Biblical Equality,” written by Ruth A. Tucker, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
“No, I haven’t read it,” I said. Another book I had not read.
I thumbed through it while keeping one ear open for the Relief Society lesson. The cover quotes the same statement from a child I use in my play: “Dear God, are boys better than girls? I know you are one, but try to be fair.” The first chapter is titled “Is God Masculine?” And her answer? Of course God is not masculine, and while not throwing away the good image of Father, we have to find a way to enlarge the image, and she suggests there is emotional benefit from perceiving God as Mother. She chastises both the Mormons and the pagans for opposite extremes, the Mormons for making God not only metaphorically but literally male, and the pagans for their pantheistic goddess worship of Mother Earth.
So if you had thought the Evangelicals were all safely ensconced in patriarchy, you are wrong. I presented my play at a national conference of Evangelical and Ecumenical Women, and met Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, whose name I had long known and several of whose books I had read. She is a professor of English at William Paterson College of New Jersey and is an outspoken Evangelical feminist. In one of her books Virginia says,
…because of human alienation from the Ground of our own Being, we have developed gender definitions that are distorted. And then Christians…have legitimated those gender distortions by settling exclusively into certain biblical metaphors for God until those metaphors have developed the force of an idol. We have spoken of God as our Father, our King, and our Master so exclusively that we have forgotten the many other biblical metaphors that depict God in ways that would undercut male primacy and female secondariness and teach us a partnership model of relating. (Mollenkott, 84)
Clearly in an effort to challenge these exclusively male images, Virginia Mollenkott chose as the title for her speech at the conference we shared, “Claiming Our Birthright As Daughters of God Herself.”
I think you would be interested in my brief glimpse into the situation of our sisters and brothers in the Reorganized LDS Church. Last fall as I was presenting my play for a week in Kansas City, I arranged a visit in Independence with the current president and the just-past president of their equivalent of the Relief Society. I had a wonderful, warm visit with these good women, and I learned that their “women’s issues” are really quite different from the “women’s issues” in my church.
They are concerned about making women who have not been called to the priesthood feel as valued as those who have been. They feel listened to by the church male leadership but know there is a long way to go before they have full voice. They are not troubled by the lack of women and female imagery in the Book of Mormon because they have given up the Book of Mormon as an historical document. They are not troubled by the specter of eternal polygamy because they believe Joseph simply erred in that regard. They are not troubled by the disappearance of the Heavenly Mother because they have no anthropomorphic God. I asked them if they have any information of Joseph teaching of a Heavenly Mother. They said no. I asked if they sing the hymn that we call “Oh, My Father,” and I sang a little of the melody. They said they sing that melody but they have different words to it.
They are, however, in their own way, changing the image of the sex of God. Like many protestant churches, they are not attempting to add female images but they are deleting male images so that they emphasize words like “Creator” and “Sustainer.”
You would find interesting the statement one of these women made to me as I left her home. “The way we see it,” she said, “We’ve got Emma’s church and you’ve got Joseph’s.” In fact, as I went with her on a tour of the RLDS temple in Independence I heard a phrase I have never heard in all my years as a Mormon. The man leading the tour stopped us in a hallway and pointed to the wall and said, “And here we will have large portraits of Emma and Joseph.” I noticed it as I would have noticed if in my Sunday School class the teacher had said, “Eve and Adam.”
That night these two RLDS women leaders attended my play and afterwards voiced their deep appreciation of my work and their commitment to making the world a friendlier place for women. As we parted they said, “Anytime you want to come home, we’ll be glad to have you.”
I must not neglect to tell you about the letter I received a few weeks ago on the stationery of the United States Marine Corps. A chaplain in Japan-Okinawa wrote that he had received rave reviews about my play from a psychologist friend who doesn’t usually rave about anything, and could I please send him a copy of the video so he can use it with his Marines to “broaden perceptions of feminine understanding and insight.” Is that a good idea, or what? Uncle Sam wants–The Great Mother!
I could go on and on telling you about my adventures with various churches and individuals of various religions. I have performed my play under the sponsorship of Catholics, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Congregationalists, the United Church of Christ and Unity. I’ve received gratitude from Mennonites, Sikhs, Southern Baptists, Episcopalians, modern Gnostics, Methodists, Muslims, Russian agnostics, Religious Scientists, Protestants of all kinds, atheists and Mormons. Mormons. Especially Mormons.
I’ve performed on Crete at the International Celebration of Partnership sponsored by Margarita Papandreou, former first lady of Greece, played recently on Aruba, an island in the Caribbean, to four hundred women–about a third of them black, a third brown and a third white. I have recently been invited to take the play to New Zealand.
Proving only this: the same heart beats in every human breast. All over the world and in all religious traditions the common need is evidencing and the questions are the same. Why have we been for all of these centuries without our Mother? Why do we need our Mother? Is a good Father not enough?
Carl Jung said that the most important psychological task human kind faces in our century is the reintegration of the feminine divine into our religious experience.
That important? Why? Why do our psyches, our spirits need a Divine Mother? Who in this room would say you do not need the mother in your own family, even though your father is just great? Who here writes home “Dear Dad” and never acknowledges “Mom”? Who here goes home for Thanksgiving and hugs your father and not your mother? There is an empty space in our spirits and in our worship where the face of our Divine Mother needs to be. But the loss is not just one of aesthetics or sentiment.
The meaning of the empty space is what demands our attention. The empty space has tragic consequences. If the parentage of our spirits is not as fully female as male, then femaleness is not as central, as potent, as important as maleness. And if that is the case, the human female is not as central, not as important as the human male. And qualities we label “feminine” are not as desirable as those we label “masculine.” And, of course, vice versa. The devaluing of the female contributes to our inability or unwillingness to vision God in a female image. We are caught in a sad circle: God is not female because the female is not godly because God is not female.
I am not so naive as to believe that restoring the feminine face of God would be a quick fix to all the world’s problems. But I do believe and I say without hesitation that restoring the feminine face of God will escalate the valuing of femaleness, will increase the balance of power and respect in male-female relationships, and will increase our willingness to look at the world through female eyes, feel with female hearts, and try to solve some problems with female brains.
I believe that virtually every social problem that exists will be not erased but positively impacted when we see ourselves mirrored in the image of a Father and Mother God. War. Rape. Domestic violence. Incest and other sexual abuse. Racism. Loss of self-esteem among adolescent girls. The epidemic of eating disorders. Teenage pregnancy. Divorce. Materialism. Excessive international competition. Misuse of Mother earth. The povertization of women. All of these problems, and more, will be positively affected as we gradually unveil the female face of our Creator. The upheaval that is going on around this subject is not part of the problem of society’s ills. It is part of the solution.
A few weeks ago on Easter Sunday in my ward in California, predictably every powerful, righteous divine image was a male image. And then, as we sang the hymn that I used to love, “We’ll Sing All Hail to Jesus’ Name,” we sang at the end of the third verse, “The grave yield up her dead.” I mean they sang. I sang, “The grave yield up its dead.” In a spiteful moment I might have been tempted to sing–and very loudly–“The grave yield up his dead.” But I didn’t. I don’t. I never do and I never will. I will never wish upon my sons and my brothers the incalculable damage that has been done to the spirits and the psyches of women for centuries.
Make no mistake: though only I and my several radical friends in the ward consciously noticed, on a subconscious level–every woman, every man, every little girl and every little boy–was affected in their innermost psyche by that song. The masculine “he” equals God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Ghost. The feminine “she” equals the grave. This is consistent with the imagery we experience every Sunday. Do not think for a moment this has no bearing on the societal ills I mentioned a moment ago. Rape. Incest. Domestic violence. I believe that when we become finally fully aware of the connection between our language, our spiritual images and the devaluing of women, we will weep with utterly broken hearts.
I had a better experience singing a hymn just over a week ago at a fireside in Provo. We sang “Oh, My Father,” originally entitled, “Invocation to the Divine Father and Mother.” I had not heard that hymn for a couple of years and I was afraid it had been banned or discouraged. Most of the congregation there were BYU students. I looked around and listened to these wonderfully bright and beautiful young men and women singing, “truth is reason, truth eternal tells me I’ve a Mother there…when I leave this frail existence, when I lay this mortal by, Father, Mother, may I meet you in your royal courts on high?”
That clear and profound revelation, taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith to Eliza R. Snow, to Zina Diantha Huntington and to others, is in place and will remain in place, and will expand and roll forward to bless the lives of the Latter-day Saints and of others in the world. And it will happen not because we’ve got to keep up with the Episcopalians, not because of the irritant of conferences like this one and articles in “Sunstone” and “Dialogue” and “Exponent II” and the “Mormon Women’s Forum Newsletter,” and not because of letters Carol Lynn Pearson and others have written to the Brethren–though irritants do produce pearls. It will happen, finally, because of the tremendous innate goodness of the Mormon people, the followers and the leaders, female and male, who will respond simply because this is the right thing to do and we want to do the right thing.
It will not happen with a revelation that strikes like a lightning bolt out of the heavens. It will happen like the opening of a window–a glass darkly–that has been there all the time unnoticed in a shadowed room, opening now to let in the warmth and the light of the sun–a sun that has always been there with its generous rays–a sun that has always been the center of the universe, no matter what the Pope said.
We are among the openers of the window. We and our sisters and brothers of many faiths. I cannot think of a greater privilege. Let us do it with determination, with patience, with love. And above all with gratitude and reverence.