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From my reflection upon the evil splicing the Brett Kavanagh confirmation hearings, together with the media flimflam in its wake, have emerged an ancient liturgical ritual and a story, both from the Bible.

In Leviticus 16: 7–10, we learn of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the most holy day of worship in the Jewish calendar; its intent was to purify the Israelites’ sinfulness that impeded their covenantal relationship with Yahweh. The High Priest cast their guilt and shame upon the head of a goat and then beat it into the desert, never to be seen again. The Israelites felt better, but remained ignorant of the flawed depths within their unconscious, still unknown to them.

Unfortunately, this practice of scapegoating continues, despite the ongoing explorations around the globe in the depth psychology of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

And in the gospel of John 8: 1-11, we watch how Jesus dealt with the scribes and Pharisees, bent upon stoning the adulterous woman in their keep. He looks at them, says nothing, then leans over and begins writing in the sand. Infuriated by his silence, they badger him further and remind him of the penalty in the Mosaic Law for such crimes. Then comes his measured response: “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Then he resumes writing. And we remember what followed.

Both passages speak to the human condition with its minefields littering our inner landscapes. Shrouded in impenetrable darkness lay deadly energies that kill or maim: anger, greed, lust, sloth, pride, gluttony, and envy. I know. I have all of them. Only when trip-wired do we experience them, either in others or ourselves.

That happened during the media bedlam of last Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and its aftermath: frenzy inflated egos, unleashed inhibitions, and wounded spirits, perhaps irreparably.

Evil flaunted its poison. The challenge is to be wary of our own and drop the rock.

 

 

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It is time. Shadowy figures fastening voluminous cloaks at their necks hurry toward the chapel with a vaulted ceiling. A pregnant hush envelops them with freshness. Excitement mounts. From radiators steam heat crisps the air, commingling with the freshly waxed corridor.

Through arched doors they stream up side aisles to their choir stalls beneath stained glass windows, toe out their kneelers, ease themselves upon them, then open their Libers. Before them, red and white poinsettias pattern the sanctuary like a grandmother’s quilt. Fat beeswax candles ooze upon bronze holders and thrust light-flickers into the gloom.

Outside, snowstorms howl at the night, deepening the Cold War‘s grip on the world.

A note from a pitch pipe shimmers the silence. As one, everyone stands, faces each other, and bows. The chanting begins. From side to side, strains of the great penitential Psalm 51, Miserere Mei Deus swell the timbered rafters.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, in Thy great goodness…cleanse me from my sin… create a clean heart within me…renew a right spirit within me…open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall sing Thy praise….”

With the final Amen, tower bells gong in the New Year.

Moments of silence follow. Then, more chanting. This time, the Te Deum, hymn of thanksgiving in union with the whole heavenly realm.

“We praise Thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord…”

And so it goes. These women are in love.

This was in 1960, global prayer offered from the Kenwood Chapel, Albany, New York. I was among them.

A blessed New Year to you and your loved ones!

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Pilgrimages to numinous sites don’t often make it in the news. It was not always that way.

 

In the sixth century, BC, ailing Greeks sought healing at the shrine of the god Asclepius in Epidaurus. Two centuries later, others seeking to be reborn, followed the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis. And still later, Egyptians sought the protection of their falcon god, Horus, on the West Bank of the Nile at Edfu. Hundreds of such sites pepper the globe and are known to you.

 

The magnificence of these sites, still discernible in archeological ruins, speaks of these ancient people and their attraction to the Holy, however experienced: their urgent need for a new paradigm to replace outworn ones; their setting out toward a numinous place, their minimization of hardships, their stripping away of old attitudes, their openness to new learning, and ultimately their psychic transformation.

 

To return to the present …

 

The British author, Rachel Joyce, has woven these same components into her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2012). Six months into retirement from a brewery, Harold has lost his moorings. Barely speaking with Maureen, his wife, his son David long gone, he waits for the grass to grow around their South Devon home so he can cut it. One April morning, however, Harold receives a pink typed note from Queenie Hennessey, a former accountant who had worked with him, now dying of cancer in a hospice, five hundred miles way in the North of England. He is moved to tears. At first, he jots a quick response to Queenie, but on his way to post it, decides to walk to her bedside. He must see her. He takes off. No matter that he’s only wearing yachting shoes and a windbreaker, his debit card in his back pocket. His three-month walk follows, one that unravels his troubled past and opens him and Maureen to the remaining years of their marriage. The hilarity of their youth returns.

 

Another moving read for the New Year! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Available on Amazon

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