Writing about the implications of the event of the crucified Christ is kicking my butt. Everything about who we are as human beings after the fall screams control. We rail against anything that seeks to dominate us. I should say: I bristle under the push and crush of another. It is true, pride is certainly a culprit. But, it is also that we are not made to be controlled, per se. We are made to give everything up. Still, when trust is not forthcoming, it is all too easy to hoard and defend—my space, my position, my ideas, my energy. . . . And, this is precisely where I waver in my attempts to use this Lenten season for meditating on the cross, to finding ways to live out what I am discerning from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations, by writing and by practice. Time and again I am slapped with the realization that I too easily put up my fists at any hint that my borders are being breached.
I am struck by what Dorothy Day writes in one of her journal entries:
“Oh, the loneliness of all of us these days, in all the great moments of our lives, this dying which we do, by little and by little, over a short space of time or over the years. . . . But we repeat that we do see results from our personal experiences, and we proclaim our faith. Christ died for us. Adam and Eve fell, and as Julian of Norwich wrote, the worst has already happened and been repaired. Christ continues to die in His martyrs all over the world, in His Mystical Body, and it is this dying, not the killing in wars, which will save the world.”
Hope. Faith that the suffering of Christ “transformed the meaning of human suffering.” Yet, its realization is twofold: “those who suffer can take hope because they suffer with Christ, but those who inflict suffering on others must also realize that they inflict it upon Christ.” (200) The implications of Day’s and Julian’s implicit understanding of the scope of salvation can be a problem for some. But, only when attention is narrowly concerned with the eternal fate of specific people, theoretically—human, lower judgment—“rather than a very practical inquiry into how we ought to hope and how we should emulate in our lives God’s mercy upon sinners”—higher, divine judgment.
In a recent post I wrote, Lived authentic communal embodiment of the gospel occurs when the Body is “purified according to the model of Trinitarian reciprocity, rendering not the static egalitarianism of modern liberalism, but the drama of the servant’s exaltation. What Julian gives us in vignette is something that is neither feudal ‘stability’ nor modern ‘liberty’ but a Trinitarian ‘charity.’” (189) There is nothing in the Trinity that contains domination or control of one Person over Another, power imbalance, oppression. The Trinitarian act and Being is charity, is love. It is giving to receive only to give back . . . again, and again.
To emulate in our lives God’s mercy is to lift the servant above the master. This is no guarantee of stability; it is not a promise of being given carte blanche. It is Trinitarian ‘charity,’ indulgence, extravagant love—a love that makes no sense. Love that lifts the underling above the executive.
Thomas Keating, recently disclosed, “So, I’m struggling, and physically I’m not so vigorous, so I think of myself when I stumble around the cloister as simply manifesting the mystery of Christ’s journey to Jerusalem and then his way of the cross, so I feel more and more a great responsibility. I think that’s the natural or spontaneous unfolding of God’s presence in us, which is opening us to the oneness of the human family and our accountability for everything else. So you might say we are just as much someone else as ourselves and certainly God is more us than we are.”
Christ opened himself to us at the wound at his side on the cross, rent the boundary between God and us. And, God in us and between us. The result of this supreme action of Love is that I become more of who I am most truly. This same God in you and me makes us more of who we are when I open myself at my wounds to you—then true love begins. Why is this so hard?! I have this instinctive reaction to whine and complain about this slight or that injustice, or recall the sting of another’s salt dashed on my sores. It is vulnerable. It is scary. It is wrought by hope and by faith. And, it is here that we emulate God’s mercy . . . and truly love. The pain is so little in comparison to the Love that knows ultimate suffering—for us . . . for love.
But, this kind of love is not meant to console. It is meant to evoke the drama of the servant’s exultation, Trinitarian charity. And it is this giving up for Other “which will save the world”—if we are in it together. Please pray with me, meditate with me on these visual and lyrical images, and allow the Spirit to speak to ways that you and I might elevate another, and hear the assurances that my wound, your wound is enclosed in the wound of Jesus . . . and let the borders slip away.