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Winter slipped into spring as I prayed and blogged and watched, the initial drama of signing on with hospice morphing into a manageable routine. The hospice nurse and chaplain continued their weekly visits, offering guidance and compassion and laughter. Their seasoned attitude toward terminal illnesses, with emotional and spiritual manifestations, reassured me that I was in special hands. Although still eligible for their care, the parameters of my world began to chafe my spirit. I needed something else.

Then, I happened upon liminal space, a pregnant image that stretched the contours of my swollen limits. Despite low energy, my psyche could breathe again. True, I had cut loose the moorings of past abilities and places I loved to frequent. True, I had no interest in large gatherings, wherever housed. True, I had found increasing solace within my simple home, its solitude and silence enhancing prayer and study. Grief spells came and went, leaving troughs of raw feelings. Dreams continued tweaking my life-path into deeper honesty.

Thus enriched, my watching and waiting took on new dimensions: there was life beyond the diseased one of my eighty-four years, in this incarnation. There would be more learning, deeper joy in Creator God’s multiple universes. I would no longer feel estranged from my true home. Supporting me in this orientation were my CPA community and close family and friends.

From my depths, something like hope began to sing. This would work out. I just had to listen for cues and take the next step, wherever it led.

As one commentator said about liminal space, “Honor the space between no longer and not yet.” It’s where the Sacred dwells, source of ultimate transformation.

 

It was 1977, the Good Friday service at the College Church. My knees screamed as I followed others down the aisle toward the opened sanctuary gates where deacons held a large crucifix. It was time for the Veneration of the Cross. Supported by the pew next to me, I took another step—it seemed to take forever, the crowd sapping my energy, the chant softening my tears. Then, the crucifix was offered to me. I leaned over and kissed the Crucified’s knees, firmly. I knew He would understand.

And I was right. Decades of other Venerations of the Cross followed; with each one came the sense that Jesus also suffered the assault of my arthritic body. And such a companion He has been.

 

 

Only recently did I happen upon The Crucified God (1972) by the German theologian Jürgen Moltmann, a book that emerged from the kiln of his unconscious, teeming with Nazi atrocities and prisoner of war experiences. His book validated my hunch.

Moltmann proposes that suffering is not a problem to be solved but instead that suffering is an aspect of God’s very being: God is love, and love invariably involves suffering. In this view, the crucifixion of Jesus is an event that affects the entirety of the Trinity, showing that The Crucified God is more than an arresting title—it is a theological breakthrough.

In this suffering/death, I draw courage to participate in my own, whenever and however it occurs. That I’ve lived as long as I have speaks to the mystery of this strange, but multi-faceted love pulsating in the marrow of my bones. Yet, there’s more to learn.

Put together a man with a humble spirit, who for eight years scrapped brilliant compositions until birthing his distinct voice, tintinnabuli (Latin for “little bells”)—and you will thrill with the Estonian genius of Arov Part. I had such an experience.

His Miserere (1992) presents an awesome response to the Coronavirus pandemic, together with a long look at the specter of death in our stunned psyches. Two liturgical hymns comprise this choral work: the Miserere, the great penitential Psalm 51, and the Sequence Dies Irae, found in the Roman Catholic Mass of the Dead. Part’s intimacy with the living Word of God shimmers in each note of the score.

As the piece opens, five soloists implore repeatedly for mercy, accompanied by woodwinds and percussion. Pregnant pauses for reflection follow, slowly building toward thundering drumrolls: Catastrophe has struck—monumental shuddering follows in its wake. With its resolution, the choir ascends to radiant heights over the deep-throated resonance of the organ, tam-tam, and bell. Then it’s over. Earth knows peace.

We open our eyes and blink, then breathe. Mercy’s sweetness enfolds us within humble silence, until the next wave of grief… and the next theophany—the story of our lives.

 

 

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