Christmas makes me sing a few hymns from my convent days. Among them, the hymn I love most is ‘Ma Mavuni’. It’s a Sinhala hymn, calling to Virgin Mary. I have no idea if it has an English version.
Ma mavuni athi premaniya
Me loke mage adhaara
Shoken ma nithi santoshaya
Yangyave mava sundara
(My most beloved Mother; you are my help, my refuge in this world; you save me from sorrow and lead me to joy; you are the Mother of prayer, most beautiful)
As I sing this, I recall the little statuette of the madonna, that all of us sang to as young girls. These expereinces have led to a story found among the pages in this blog as ‘silent night; whispering night’. I never realised the ‘mother cult’ we were so much a part of in the convent, simply becuase it was never really interpreted in a feminist light. I wonder if others who were a part of the same expereince, who sang along with me to Virgin Mary, our mother of sorrosw, our mother of joy, recall these moments the same way as I do…
There’s something about those sad eyes and the blue robe…and how many women from around the world must be praying to her in the same vein…Tarkovsky captured this on a celluloid poem in Nostalgia, in the scene ‘The Madonna of Childbirth”. In an old crumbling church in a remote Italian village, a statue of Mary is carried in by women, praying fervently; among them is the one who hosts the ritual, praying for a child…at the fever pitch of their prayer, the robes of the statue is flung open and a flock of tiny sparrows fly out to freedom from the virgin’s womb.
I’m deeply moved by this scene. Is it becuase I am a woman? Is it because I was in a convent? Is it because I resonate with the yearning of a woman? When women want, they want so badly, so madly, so completely. They pray, they fight, they cry. As if wanting is the be all and end all of exisitence.
Do men want things to the same degree? Do they ever pray? In the same fervour I mean? Does a man ever want to be a father as much as a woman yearns to be a mother? And is it correct to say, that all women want to be mothers? What about those who don’t want to be mothers; but yearn to be loved as women, as madly and as fervently, as those who pray to become mothers?
I read somewhere that to live, is to want.
We pray for wanting; for the joy of wanting; for the sorrow of wanting;
So this is for the Mother of mothers…
Madonna of Childbirth from Nostalghia by Andrei Tarkovsky