Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cries From the Cross of Christ - the Third Cry.

Meditations on Jesus' Words During His Suffering: 
by Priest Symeon Elias (Robinson) -copyright 1996

(This article is an examination of the cries from the Cross, and some of the meanings one priest gives them. Originally written in 1996 as lenten articles and complied and edited for limited distribution in the fall of 2001.)

Third Cry

"Woman, there is your son."
"John, there is your Mother."
What a complicated story is the story of Mary! What a complicated "theology" and "mythology" Roman Catholicism has created around her! What can we know of her? How do we reconcile the Birth Narrative stories with the Woman who arrived with Jesus' Brothers (who church tradition tells us were his first cousins, the sons of another Mary) at the height of Jesus' ministry, thinking him "mentally ill." This Mary arrived with relatives in tow, wishing to rescue Jesus, her son, before he said anything else that would get him into trouble, before did himself any further harm. The gossip was in the air, everyday it was a new outrage assaulting her ears. What did she know and understand? Who can understand it, if there relationship was so close as some theologians and romantic inspiration writers try to envision, why he would tersely refuse to see her, dismissing her importance saying, "Who is my Mother, who are my Brothers, but they who do the Father's will." These cousins who arrived with Mary that day, ready to do battle with the Disciples for "possession" of Jesus; where were they on the day of Crucifixion? Apparently they were not ready to do battle with the Romans. What a weak little crew actually followed Jesus to the Cross. All the big-strapping-Males - absent. All the bravado, all the Macho talk and blustering statements, "I'll never desert you." "I'll stay with you to the death." - -All shone for the hollow sham and shame it was. What grief and anger must have pierced Jesus' heart as he listened to the hollow statements of solidarity. Is it any wonder that he turned to Peter and addressed him as Satan, "Get behind me Satan!"

"Can you drink of the Cup I will drink?"
"Oh sure, no problem. Got'cha covered, Man."
No wonder he sweat drops of blood in prayer in the Garden as he faced the reality of the night and day to come. No wonder he asked, "If it is possible take this Cup from me." - - - - but then the reality of his nature shines through the struggle with his humanity and he said, "None the less, not my will, but Thine." This submission of Jesus to the Father's will is not an act of falsehood, as some try to make our submission to the Father's will over our own will, characterizing it as - a "failure to be oneself."  This act, which seems to totally ignore himself and his own good, is not false, but in the Vedic understanding as taught in the volume of the Second cry - it is Jesus Acting upon the Truth of his own nature. For if it were not his "core" he would not have been able to choose his course of action - towards the Father's will - and hold to that decision and succeed.

We cannot understand the "on again - off again" relationship of Jesus to his mother Mary, until the reality of the statement Jesus made in the Garden is understood - "None the less, not my will, but Thine." For Jesus, this statement is the sum-total of his motivation and method of living and through the Temptations and all his life it was or became his core. It was His confession of a Faith that was the driving force of his every thought and motion, as is witnessed as early as his twelfth year, when Mary and Joseph suddenly realized that Jesus was missing and they returned to Jerusalem in a huge hurry and found Jesus in the Temple teachingt the scribes. It was a core being that created conflict in his family and in his closest relationships. When they found the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple they scolded him - as only parents can who are equally relieved that their child is safe and angry that he has put them through such anguish and fear. "Don't you realize that I have to be about my Father's affairs?" Don't think that Jesus' tone wasn't filled with the arrogance that only a teenager can affect when they have been "unjustly" accused. He was at a loss to understand why they would not know where he was, and what he was doing. And evidence seems to indicate that Mary had a habit of forgetting who he was and what he was supposed to be doing; culminating in a trip to "retrieve" Jesus, at the height of his ministry when the crowds were so thick around him that they could not press through. The reality of the human maternal instinct is clear in the New Testament's descriptions of Mary. This maternal instinct being a part of the "truth of Mary's nature." As all mothers should, she wished for the health and survival of her child - at all cost. What inhumanity would be pictured if Mary had coldly observed the course of Jesus' life, detached from her normal and good humanity, her natural maternal instincts, coldly resigned to his bloody fate and never uttering a word of protest.  I love her the more that she was truly HUMAN and not some demi-god, immaculately conceived as is the Roman error. And sadly there were times when her wonderful and natural instinct was at odds with the Will of the Father, which was the Drum Beat of Jesus' Life. In Mary we have a wonderful picture of the reality that the highest Human emotions are sometimes wrong in their expression, and even our Good intentions have to be tempered by an understanding of God's Will.

The group that actually made it to the Crucifixion contained the three Marys, one of them Jesus' mother and St. John the Apostle - a teenager. I can picture the heart of the Centurion Commander being touched by Jesus' prayer, "Father, forgive them." I can picture him ordering the guards to "stand aside" to allow this little group to approach very near the Cross. I can see them looking up at Jesus, and not being able to speak. There was only silence. What could they say to him? What was there to say? If you were there, what would you be able to say to him? The truth is that there is not a Christian Initiate in all of time, who is truly an initiate, who has not stood at the foot of the Cross, in their spiritual person and viewed its reality, witnessed its extreme expression of love and fallen in love with the "man of sorrow" hanging on that Cross and in their heart willed in the core their being to take their part of His suffering and in their being live the passion of the restoration of humankind. Of all the "things" that are called Christian, they only become Christian when this reality is grasped. The core of our nature, becoming akin to the core of His nature - and in the struggle and passion of our human animal that is "dying daily" we choose from that core - from that truth of our restored nature - also to follow the Father's will.

I don't have a "grand" love affair with Blessed Mary - as many Catholics do, though it grows more intense with my years. But I will tell you that on a personal level the greatest compliment I have ever received was from a radical devotee to a mind science which denies the "reality" of Jesus' suffering on the Cross. She said, "He doesn't have anything 'enlightening' to say. He's just an ego in love with Jesus." How could such a person have any comprehension of the great love that is drawn from the spiritual/human heart in the presence of the reality of the Cross. Such a person knows nothing of its reality, to her it is just an ancient myth or at best some sort of "collective symbol." For years, even as a child I could not read the Passion Narratives without tears welling in my eyes and being moved in my core being. I could not understand how people could read the narratives and not be moved in their core. But as time has progress and understanding has come, I realize how blinded people have become by the culture. There is a Modern and Post-Modern fog that hides the Cross in its reality and makes it the subject of armchair speculation and intellectual debate. The meaning of the Cross is its experience and communion, not in an ignorant way, but knowingly, where rationalism and intellectual speculation fail. Sadly, in this Culture how can we come to understand it, when we cannot understand or accept the mystical-truth of redemption itself?

"To the degree that sin is redefined as a negative attitude one has toward oneself rather than an offense against the laws of nature and God - instituted by God, to that degree salvation is going to be recast in psychological categories, according to the dogmas of secularism."  _ Father Alexander Schmemann.

"If sin and standing under God's judgment is the problem, atonement and justification is the solution. But if dysfunction, low self-esteem, and unmet needs are the ultimate problem, the solutions will be prescribed in therapeutic rather than theological language. This is not merely 'contextualizing' the Christian message for a contemporary audience; it is conforming the message and it is destroying the message."  IF such "pull-yourself-up-by-your- spiritual-bootstraps-twelve-step-program-feel-good-ism-'works/salvation'-based in therapeutic definitions" is the understanding message of the Cross, the message of the Cross is lost in the cultural fog. The cultural fog is the "conformity to the world" of which the Apostle Paul warned us, telling us that what would be required of us was a mental transformation - by the "renewing of our minds." We pray in our liturgy, "Lord, open our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, that as the scriptures are read and the Word proclaimed we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Lord, open our minds from our age, to the ages and from the ages to the age-less . . . " Such hearing is not caught in the present culture and cultural fog which is true spiritual blindness. Such hearing when inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Word and Table becomes open to the "eternal Wisdom" the Philia- Sophia Perrenis - The Love of the Eternal Wisdom - the core Mysterion.

Jesus' relationship with Mary was strained by Intend and Purpose - by his LOVE FOR US. He turned his mother away tersely, when she arrived with his cousins, because she wished to interfere with his ministry that was THE FATHER'S EXPRESSION OF HIS LOVE FOR US. It is you and I that stood in the way of even normal respect and the dignity that ANY son should grant his mother. It extended even to his last words to her from the Cross. He did not say, "Mother, there is your son." Instead, he spoke a "dis-respect" that I would not be able to utter to my own precious mother were she alive, he called his mother by the generic name "WOMAN." He did this because of His Love for US. He knew that the scene at Golgotha would be told and retold. He knew the certain ramifications if he called her Mother.

We in Modern times have had the great debate as to Jesus' Divinity. In true a two thousand year enterprise. Sadly even those people calling themselves Christian are divided on the subject. Proving Jesus' Divinity in rational terms, has been of course impossible for modern theologians, as well it should. For if it fell into the realm of "rational only" it would loose its transcendent/eternal power. The material/only crowd has jumped on the human/only band wagon, making Jesus just another Wisdom Teacher and as I said in Vol. I, a sort of Super-Buddha. But this is a modern perspective. The real battle in the beginning was to prove his HUMANITY. Miraculous Births, Virgin Births, God-Childs were the culturally accepted mythologies of the times. What was impossible to believe, and nearly lost in the Church was the fact that Jesus was HUMAN. The trend did not stop with time. The council of the Church agreed to call Mary, Ha Theotokos - the God-bearer. That quickly was translated into Latin as the Mother of God. And so being, began the effort to Deify Mary. She then had to be "virgin born also" immaculately conceived, and so on. Each layer of Mary Mythology, chiseled away at the reality of Jesus' Humanity. It was a cultural thing - just as surely as we battle against the "modern mythology" that all human problems are amendable by therapeutic methods, they wrestled with the mythology of the demi-gods.

Please don't think that there is anything anti-female in these statements of the "deifying" Mary. I love her, and sometimes think that the best and most accurate "view of the Cross" would be from the perspective of her eyes. I think we have done a poor job of recognizing the feminine expressions of God. I take Sophia (The Holy Wisdom of God) as the Personality of the Holy Spirit and SHE lives with me and I believe Mary possessed (to this day) of Sophia in a very special way. But Mary was one-hundred percent HUMAN. She imparted to Jesus a whole and complete human nature. Knowing this battle that would arise, Jesus hanging from the Cross, in love for you and me, so that we could have a better and clearer idea of who HE really was, - truly Human, truly Divine, and so we could better understanding and picture the significance of the Cross - he cast one last insult at his mother, and called her "Woman." Yet it was with love he did so. And what he gave her was all he had left that could be called "earthly wealth." He had one disciple who followed him to the Cross, one friend who Loved him more than he feared for his own life - and that was John the Beloved. And by way of Last Will and Testament, Jesus gave Mary the wealth of that love and devotion, the youthful strength of John to care for her as his own. ** It is significant to note, that the "theologian" upon whose writing and understanding about God and God's Nature, which so much of New Ageism uses with only partial understanding - and sadly sometimes little or no understanding - gained his Wisdom and Understanding of the Nature of God who is Love from his experience at the Cross - for John The Theologian was none other than the young John the Beloved who was given charge of Jesus' mother.

What a beautiful picture of Jesus' Humanity and Divinity is reflected in these words, "Woman, there is your son." His Divinity speaking to us through the ages in his refusal to call her Mother from the Cross, His humanity shown in his wish to providing for the physical well being of his earthly mother. What tearing storms of emotion; what competing priorities, duties and responsibilities is the presence of Divinity and Humanity in the Soul of Humankind! And we who "imperfectly certainly" but with passion seek to do the Father's will, come to know these storms of emotion. It was from this understanding that Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but a sword." And at the same time that on one level we are able to come to comprehend and live in "the peace that is without intellectual explanation  we purposely take part in our portion of the Cross and put a sword to all aspects of our emotional life that would hinder us from following God's will. "Who is our Father? Who is our Mother? Who is our Brother? Who is our Sister? Who are our Children? Who are our Grand-children? . . . but those who do the will of the Father.

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