The Reconstructing Hope of the Night Sea Journeyers

Sunday, 7 December 2008

[The] classic pattern of transformation into 'who we are in God' is called the paschal mystery. And it is the only theme of each and every Eucharist - because it is so necessary to believe, and because we will do anything to avoid it. The liturgy slowly convinces us of who we are, although I have often said at Mass that it is easier for God to convince bread than it is to convince us! Bread knows, wine understands. Humans fight, deny, resist and disbelieve anything they feel unready for or unworthy of. Thus Jesus had to present the gift in the image of a resented banquet in Luke 14:12-24. Paul speaks in the language of free inheritance for those who would prefer to be slaves (Romans 8:14-17). In all cases, it feels like a wounding to our sophisticated soul. For some strange reason, love wounds us and beauty hurts us.

When the wound happens in a secular society like ours, we usually look for an immediate way to resolve it: playing the victim, mobilizing for vengeance (while sometimes calling it 'justice'), or looking for someone to blame, or someone to sue! A sacred culture would never bother with such charades and missed opportunities. Rather than a sacred wound, suffering for us often becomes a mere wound and, eventually, an embittering wound. The journey stops there and there's no future. Without the dignifying wound, there is no mystery, no greatness, no soul and surely no Spirit. The theme is so constant in poetry, literature and drama, that one wonders how we could continue to miss it: The wounded one is always the one with the gift; the comfortable one knows nothing.

What we have now in the West, by and large, is embittering wounds. The spiritual 'machine' for turning wounds into glory has been lost by a secular people. Yet all the great mythologies and mystics tell us that we will be wounded, we must be wounded. It is what you do with the wounding that makes all the difference. There is something that you know after having passed through 'the night sea journey' (an archetypal theme denoting a necessary trial of the would-be hero) that apparently you can know in no other way.

... Faith allows you to trust that God is in the suffering and trial: 'I thank you, Lord, for what you want to teach me in this.' Now you won't say that on the first day, or probably not even on the second, but maybe on 'the third day'! Such people are literally indestructible, or in Christian language, 'resurrected from the dead.' This is one meaning of being 'born again' and has more to do with having come through suffering alive and better than an emotional experience after an altar call.
Richard Rohr, Hope Against Darkness


  1. Sue, did you ever read this? The thoughts from Rohr are pretty similar.

  2. Kent, yes, I've read that several times. Thanks for pointing it out again. It was good to go back and reread that wonderful succinctness from Mr Ellul. You know, it never ceases to kind of disarm me that I know this stuff, and yet it's like coming around to the same place again and being stripped of all my knowing once more, and entering in and crying out all over again, why have you forsaken me? And I imagine it will just always be thus. Even though you can know in your head and your heart that he has not, when, as Ellul says, the flesh of your flesh is torn, you can't do anything but to cry out. It feels like a very childlike kind of thing to do, coming from such deep baffled parts of ourselves. And of course, I can't see what is going on so of course I cry out to him. And again, in the crying there is trust. What may seem on the outside to some of our more fundamentalist brethren/sisthren, is actually a paraodixcal indication of the trust we have, that he can take our screamings. I think God must feel especially tender towards us when we are screaming abuse at him in these situations, LOL. That sounds crazy to some, but I believe it to be so. He is not affected by my anger and my words, he can see far beyond it and understand even better than I can why it is so painful for me.

  3. The Psalms are full of it. You are in wonderful company.


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