Holy Mother of God
She had wild hair, which seemed to rise up from her wild, drunken preaching. It was a summer garden party of friends who were used to this, and they were amused, somewhat.
She said, “Listen, listen.”
I was one of the friends, and, pitying her, I was the only one who listened.
She raised her glass.
“Do you know anything about the ritual of ordination of priests?”
“The ritual of ordination of priests is supposed to be a rebirth, a rebirth that eliminates women, as if men were reborn by men into the holiest presence of God. There it is: men are ritualistically reborn by men into new and holy lives, leaving behind their natural births by their mothers.”
She held out her glass to me and asked for a refill, and I refilled her glass.
The bottles of wine were on a cloth-covered table, the white cloth stained with red wine.
Not thanking me, she took her glass and said, “But God comes most naturally from the mother, from the very breast. The proof of the existence of God is not in the head, but in the breast. The high priest of the ordination of men into the holiest presence of God should be—has to be—a woman, who gives birth to men and in giving birth passes on the nature of true religion, passes on the nature of true belief in God in her very milk, she a mother who had a mother who had a mother who had a mother, each mother, by the sheer impulse of generations upon generations upon generations of motherhood in her, engenders the most powerful faith in a God impelling life. That is God: the impulse, the sacred impulse, of life, made sacred by generations upon generations upon generations of mothers.”
She spilled wine on her bodice when she drank.
Cross-eyed, she looked at her glass quizzically, seeming not to understand why the glass was empty. Again, she held out her glass to me, which I refilled.
“The mother, the great mother, is the source of faith in God, and she will sustain the faith, will sustain the basis of faith in life, in life eternal in this world, this world she herself gave birth to and nurtured and will never, ever allow to die. The mother of each and every one of us—each mother a mother from so far back in motherhood she is immortal—all become, all together, the great mother, and she is the greatest proof of a loving God.”
Yet again, she drank down her wine and held out her glass to me for a refill, and I did.
Everyone was sure she was a spinster, a woman who never had a lover and who never gave birth, and was, perhaps, a repressed lesbian, but perhaps not, perhaps just sexless. We tried to be tolerant of her when she became drunk, which she did at these parties.
I accompanied her home, she stumbling and repeating over and over, “Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God.”
David Plante is the author of the novels The Ghost of Henry James, The Family (nominated for The National Book Award), The Woods, The Country, The Foreigner, The Native, The Accident, Annunciation, and The Age of Terror. He has had stories and profiles in The New Yorker, and features in The New York Times, Esquire and Vogue.