Friday, July 08, 2011

Beyond Duality (again)

Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.*
c.s. lewis. till we have faces.

Jesus’ declaration to be “living water,” the makeup and mechanism of our bodies, even the composition of blood itself, underscore to the importance of water. However scripture also assigns great value to blood: to the thick and dark, the mysterious and opaque, the paradoxical (the very thing that stains the ground for generations can wash clean a soul; the unseen seat of life which when in view is a portent of death).

The place of both water and blood in our relationship with God are affirmed in the sacraments of baptism and communion while their seemingly opposing natures are united in a masterful transposition that elevates Christianity beyond both philosophy and religion. Jesus first miracle was to change water into wine and once His blood had been  poured out, blood loses its place in the cultic practice and is replaced by wine: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it…”

In Christ, the opaque becomes translucent and the transparent becomes colorful. In Christ, the opposite of death isn’t life, but abundant life. Death isn’t only defeated. It is swallowed up by victory.

For centuries the Christian church highlighted the “thick and dark” parts of the faith. As humanity changed its preferences, the Church shifted its emphasis to that which is transparent, simple, and easy to digest. Without diminishing either, may we now recover wine as a rich symbol for the Christian life?

Water and blood come from above but wine is something we make. This making is a process, a messy process with startling results, and one that involves a sort of death to self in order for the individual grape to be reborn as part of something greater than itself, something that brings out the fullest possibilities of its essential qualities.

Duality: Water and blood. Heaven and Earth. God and Man.

Beyond Duality: Water and blood and wine – the sacred mystery which up till now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God. They are those to whom God has planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendor of his secret plan for the nations. And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all the glorious things to come. ( Colossians 1:27, Phillips)

*These words of Orual, the protagonist of C.S. Lewis’ preferred book of his writing, Till We Have Faces, contrast her perception of the Greek philosophy (water) taught to her by her beloved tutor and the pagan religion (blood) which offered sacrifices to the goddess Ungit. 

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