This is the second installment of our Lenten spiritual odyssey based on the Beatitudes. Here is the start: The Blessed; 1 emptiness
And here is the revised version of last year’s Lenten study on this beatitude: Discipline of the Beatitudes pt. 3 Sorrow
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“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
Inside the door is dark and cold; the air, still and musty. Is this place large or small? I bump my head hoping to stand. What seem to be clods of earth fall from my head and body to the floor. Anxiously I reach for the door to return but it’s no longer there—replaced by a soft soil wall which crumbles easily at my finger tips.
“What is this place Lord?”
A drop lands on my bare belly. A tear?
I close my eyes and am in our house—in the kitchen with Anne. She is shouting. I refuse to speak, coaxing her anger. I know just what to say to make her calm, but refuse. Her eyes are bagged and dark. Her face is weary grey. She plays thoughtless with her ring pulling it just to her fingertip and then sliding it back to the base. Why wont she remove it?
Rattling on a frantic stream of indecipherable words; she stops, looking to me with tear-red eyes and scourged cheeks;
I stare down her incredulity with indifference. Why does she have to push this now?
“Well? Are you ever going to speak?”
“Will you do what you must to save this marriage?”
Her face drops, then flushes. Hatred. She rummages for something in the sink to hurl. A cast iron pan!
I open my eyes to the darkness, disquieted. “She was unstable, theatrical.”
‘No. you made her so; gave doubt in place of comfort.’
My ass is uncomfortable on the gravely soil. Stretch my legs out but they hit a wall opposite. Dust and clods fall onto my feet.
“I hope it doesn’t cave in.” My voice dies in the soft earth around
“What can I do about it now.” It was years ago. We were too young. We didn’t know ourselves.”
‘Where did you get that wisdom from, Self, Cosmopolitan? You made a vow.’
“I never cheated.” I thought of nothing else.
‘Cheated? How pathetic. This isn’t a game.’
This must be hell, where to wake is misery and sleep is full of terrors.
The darkness is unbearable. Eyes closed, i’m back in grade school. Stevie Warren is pinned on the ground out in the ball field a circle of boys spectates. Brad is on him slapping Stevie’s face mockingly and stuffing grass into his mouth.
“Liar. Of course you told her. Who else you little faggot?”
“Wassn me.” Muffled through the grass.
Brad sniffs the air, and gags.
“Ew Gross, buddy what’s that smell? You shit yourself?”
“Wassn me.” The crowd laughs some pinching their noses or waving their hands in front.
He looks over Brad’s shoulder into my eyes, pleading through tears.
Holding Stevie’s head down with both hands, Brad turns to look me in the eye.
“You the Nark, Little Johnny Jesus?”
“Well Shit Pants, everyone knows Jesus never lies. Looks like it’s still you.” He starts laying in hard.
Eyes open to the void again. “I’d forgotten.”
‘Liar. You think of nothing else.’
I want to vomit. What a coward. Stevie never came back to school.
“Best friend? You seem to live by a theme.’
I reach into the space opposite where the door was, hoping to find space, and am rewarded.
I crawl timidly wondering when I might bump my head and find I’m in my grave. I go a great distance not daring to close my eyes; my hands, knees and the tops of my feet becoming tender. I stop and lay down on my side in the grit. My hands smart as I rub the embedded pebbles and soil from what feels like raw weeping flesh. I blow on them to sooth. Terror is rising, but I must remain calm. The air thick and dank barely satisfies the craving of my lugs.
I cannot bear the darkness and choose the light of judgement again. Behind my eyes she offers the fruit. It is plump in her hand. Her eyes full of something magnificent that I cannot name, but suddenly need. I reach and take it, looking it over for a long while. ‘You may eat of every tree . . .’
“Go on, it’s wonderful. You must. Don’t be afraid. It’s not true what we were told.”
She is beautiful, glowing; the dappled light dancing on her form under the tree. And those eyes.know something unspeakable I put the fruit to my mouth and bite into its sumptuous flesh. A rush of dreadful power as the syrup runs down my front.
I am naked.
My eyes open to the blackness.
“Forgive me Father. What have I done?
How could I not? What choice did I have?”
‘You chose. You always choose.’
“I . . . know.”
Convulsing, weeping in the terror of my dark loneliness and sin. How could I do otherwise, yet I bear the guilt. My tears flow tuning my bed to mud; I am fairly stuck in it. I roll on my back in order to breathe. I feel a pebble in my fingers and begin rolling it between;
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
I close my eyes again to escape.
A large rolling hill. I am in a crowd walking up toward a man standing at the top. He looks to me as I approach,
“Come unto me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I try to run toward Him, but am now waist deep in mud, sinking as I struggle against it.
I open my eyes, deep in the mud of my tears; a bit trickles in at the corner of my mouth. Coughing, I spread my arms and legs out searching for solid earth.
“Lord I believe; help my unbelief.”
Slowly I inch on my back headward out of the bog. Laying on the dry floor panting, caked in mud. Hands hurting—scrape off all the mud I can, and take up crawling again. For the first time the hope of light ahead. In the faint glow the tunnel roof seems higher. Standing—stretching grateful—just touching the ceiling above. Dry clods and pebbles fall over me. I wend slowly along the tunnel, expectant. The pain of my sores fevered under the mud scabbing. The light grows. Water lapping ahead?
Suddenly I am standing in a large dimly lit chamber. The ceiling goes up beyond the reach of the light. A large dark pool of water before. Light playing on it from a single doorway opposite. The Son of Man stands back lit:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Diving into the water I swim eagerly to meet the Master. The water is cold but reviving. The caked mud falls away; the wounds soothed as I tread washing. But I dare not tarry; I will miss the Lord. Looking up in my now exhausted thrashing, He is walking out the door, the radiance stabs my eyes, so long in the darkness.
“Wait.” I gasp.
“Come.” He states.
Ar the clear sandy shore I rise to my feet clean, healed and clothed in a dry white tunic, only the hem wet in the shallow. A pair of sandals wait on a stone stool by the doorway. I grab them running through into the dazzling sunlight to meet the Lord.
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Cover image: Garden of Gethsemane – Church of the Agony – Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Image at the top: The Virgin Showing the Man of Sorrows, ca. 1475 or 1479, by Hans Memling