Follower of Jesus (20) – mourning (4)
Apr 09, 2017
Follower of Jesus (20)
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they will be comforted. (4)
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Matthew 27:46 (NIV)
These heart-rendering words of Jesus come shortly before he relinquished his spirit in this life. After all, as the living embodiment of the eternal Christ, he had lived all of his life with the sharp awareness of the presence of God in his mind – and at this time, I suspect from this outcry, he was shocked to find that the conscious awareness of God was gone. It appears obvious to me that this sense of total loss was his most painful moment; the physical pain was intense, but he knew that it would be over soon; but this spiritual loss was mind blowing and drastic, and apparently totally unexpected.
Jesus was truly in mourning. Jesus fully experienced at this moment the depth of despair that only the fully human can experience. I am writing this to be published on Palm Sunday, when Christian churches are reaching the culmination of the Lenten season, and the gospel first announces the passion, or death of Jesus.
Every life, at some time during and after a devastating event, will pass through this ‘dark night of the soul’. Truly we reach the depth of mourning and no consolation seems possible. C. S Lewis, often called the 20th century’s greatest Christian apologist, lost his wife to cancer around 1960, and he wrote “A Grief Observed”, a book revealing the enormous pain he suffered with that loss; almost shattering his life. He wrote: “when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. —- Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is coming to believe such dreadful things about (God). The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all’, but ‘ So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer’.”
This is a cry that comes close to despair. These intense moments when there does not seem to be any comfort anywhere, as the pain just continues and continues some more, are the extreme of this life. Many do despair, and suicide is not uncommon. When, like Lewis, it is the result of the loss of your other self, it is not uncommon for the remaining partner to fade into death in a very short time, sometimes within a day or two as the pain is so great.
But God offers the comfort of time to evolve. If we can hold on during these extreme moments, the great healer of time will ease the burden. The pain will never leave entirely, but it can deepen your life into greater and greater dependence on that kingdom of God that lives within, as Jesus promised us; and the intensity of the pain will mellow. There is no other place to turn if we are to heal; and that kingdom of God within and among us is always present for us. It often takes much time before we can reach that kingdom through the pain, but it will eventually fill our inner being with a radiance that takes that pain and joins that pain with the eternity of the soul.
Cynthia Bourgeault talks about the loss of her husband many years ago, and the agony she went through afterword’s. But they evolved eventually into what is called the Fifth Way, such that their relationship has only deepened over the years into a virtual life that stands as part of her everyday life. In her book “The Meaning of Mary Magdalene”, she describes the pain and despair of Mary Magdalene at the death of Jesus. Mary Magdalene was at the cross, the only one mentioned by name in all four gospels. She is mentioned as sitting at the grave, until she left to bring the spices they would use for final rest. The gospels tell of her despair when the tomb is found empty, and how when Jesus spoke to her in the garden how she clung to his lower extremities in joy and happiness, but their relationship was to evolve from the physical love evident in that garden scene, to where she became the “apostle of apostle”, dependent on the imaginal (not imaginary, but from the spirit world) or spiritual unity that is open to those who love deeply.
The relationship of Jesus and Mary Magdalene was much more complex than that, as the gospel of St. Philip and the gospel of Mary Magdalene hint strongly that they were more like husband and wife, but that is another story.
After the resurrection the relationship became more like the “Fifth way” as described by Cynthia Bourgeault in the eye opening book mentioned above, as Cynthia has experienced herself in her life. Cynthia’s husband died many years before. Their love has continued in a process she describes as a continual mutual sharing of love and ideas, from the spiritual or imaginal world and the physical world.
What I am saying is that these extremely painful moments can be gateways to a new life; they can lead us to see life in a very different way. These moments can open us to a life that is in two worlds: the life in the physical world we all understand, and a life that we can now see in the metaphysical world that has always been there but we have not seen it.
Comfort will come, if we have the patience for it.
Oh Comforter, your gentle touch is always present to us. it is in these moments of crushing loss that we are open to Your golden rays. You have allowed time to be the vehicle that open up the vistas of grace that await us at these times. There appears to be no other means that can open up our ego and crush our self-centered mind. These vulnerable periods are a gift that is part of life. These moments reveal a new meaning to the word ‘love’, meanings that bypass our ego and strike fully in our heart. It is only in the heart can we begin to see that truly the kingdom of God is here, aching for us to enter and rest.
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