East and West In Christ

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Via Dolorosa

I've been thinking alot about the Way of Suffering. Not because I need any more, mind you. In fact, I'm usually appalled by those people who have to find artificial and arbitrary ways to suffer--you know, like kneeling on glass or something. I think of those people the same way I do of "cutters" (people who mutilate themselves by cutting their body to produce pain). They use the pain like any other distraction: their suffering is non-redemptive because it leads away from the Way of Suffering, not along it.

So what type of suffering is profitable, then? I think that metanoia requires suffering. Again, not that pain itself is somehow profitable. Instead, I believe that the change of the nous requires somes neurological changes that produce pain from the organismic level. As a therapist, I believe that we adapt to the crazy patchwork-quilt of conditional love that we encounter through our life, that we adapt in our bodies, including neurologically. Change at the organism level requires letting go of those adaptions that have shaped my internal tensions and neurological filters that "make" me "feel" safe. Thus, change leaves me anxious and hurting as I fear for my own survival: the more radical change, the more severe the pain.

I think this is why Jesus had to come to save me. I cannot change enough on my own, regardless of whatever method of "salvation" I choose, because I am too afraid of death. Jesus overcame the reality of death. He became human to provide a pathway for me to become divine (whoa, easy there) and he took on the pain of that transition, a pain I believe I could never handle. That's why I must join my miniscule suffering with that of Jesus, because he is the way and the vehicle out of my sin and suffering, a way I could never have traveled.

This makes me think of Francis' focus on the crucifixion. I used to find it macabre; now I believe that old Father Francis knew what he was doing. The more I join myself to (and allow myself to be joined with) the suffering and death of Jesus, the more I am freed to accept the divine life that is available to me, eternally. Not in a masochistic sense, though, since that way only increases the "sin"--the missing of the target. It just means that I embrace the Passion and the Cross because they are the only hope I have of escaping the pain that I have taken on in hope of feeling loved. So I seek those things that increase my "suffering"--the monastic ascetical practices that help sweep the house clean of distraction, for example--so that it becomes more radically like Jesus' suffering. Francis succeeded to the point of the stigmata, an incredible blessing when one looks at it through this lens.

Kinda makes me want to pray for more people "in" purgatory, since the whole concept focuses on purgation of what is "unclean" of me and in me.

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