Grace, Peace, Works, Compassion: The Labyrinthine Christian Experience

A wonderful, ancient Japanese Master taught his disciples to pursue happiness, which, he told them, could be better achieved if they would consider the reality of their experience in the light cast on them by death.  He told his disciples to imagine themselves as ghosts. Then, divorced from the fear of coming-death, which they must throw off in order to know real, lasting happiness, they should imagine themselves as ghosts walking in daylight through the place where they spent most of their life-time among the living.

That is, he directed his disciples to watch their past life as a play in which the central character has  been completely removed. How would the play be different if the lead role were not occupied? Would he be missed for his humor? Would the other actors need his speech to speak their own lines? Would the play make sense without him? Would the world be a better place for his being or better still for his going or even better still for his  never-being-at-all?

In a labyrinth the sojourner is neither meant to stay nor compelled to progress. He is the central character removed from the play, which may continue without him but cannot end or make real sense without his participation. Someone must see the objects de art so that he may make sense of the objects (or not) and so have the reflective images make sense of him. What he senses when his senses are fully engaged but completely devoid of the usual role and actors in the play defines how he may feel happiness (or not), deal with death (or not) and finally arrive at his own spiritual consensus (or not).

Life, devoid of the coming-death-fear opens up to grace like a moon flower opens up to the glowing Mother Orb in late summer. We can come to the bud in the early morning when it is fully open to love and adore the result, or we may sit quietly, growing patience as we watch the bloom open to the night, a little at a time, until we forget what it looks like now for the sake of remembering the infinitesimal  bloom work of the flower in response to the stimuli that cause its creation in force.

A play, a story, a bloom at night, may be like the process of the sojourner through the labyrinth. He is the central player, perhaps the only player at all. Some of my readers are much more versed in the Labyrinth language than I but I think the sojourn through the labyrinth should be taken in different forms; once as the navel gazer, slowly and then, rapidly, in a group of strangers or as a family. The sojourner should be corporeal once, a ghost the next. When alone he might pretend to be a person half his age or a person of opposite gender and twice his age. There are times when his sojourn should reflect the exact images he sees. At other times he ought to be casting his own light, covering the images he sees with a light he carries in his soul.

And, sometimes, he should destroy the labyrinth without pity. He should do so without a reason or a warning. He should not be expected to build again, only to destroy what is in his sight. Grace does part of its job when it takes issue with evil and another part of its job when it will not countenance complacency.

What does his life look like when he makes the pathway himself? Or, does he sense he can in no way make his path himself? Does he always tread a prescribed pathway, circular or linear, in a maze of images someone has put there for him?

The Christian experience, in its labyrinthine reality, can never be exactly like, nor other than, a prescribed sojourn. Jesus often talked of Himself as the Way, by Whose Person others could know Truth and Life. To come to the Father was to come by the Way, with definitive image set along the path, illuminating the way and altering the sojourner as he proceeds. He might not move with the same speed as others but he would have to process in some way because he would find the one thing he could not do is to remain where he was the way he was in the beginning. Saul could not “kick against the pricks.” Peter had to learn to treat Jews and non-Jews the same in the light of Christ.

If the Christian experience is labyrinthine, what, if anything, makes it Christian? Consider our path through a physical labyrinth. Is it Christian because someone fills it with Christian images? Or, is it only what the sojourner brings with him that makes the journey Christian, or something other? What is the point of conversion and what are its causes? Marx thought a sincere dialectical anti-materialist (which describes most modern Christians, in theory) was an anarchist and a radical nihilist, a destroyer, because any political establishment or social guarantor must by nature immediately create unthinkable inequality. He was right in the choices he gave us but, like Freud and Jung, wrong in that he gave too few choices. Marx, Freud, Jung (with his Christian view thoroughly unlike that of Marx and Freud) offered a static view of reality (Roark, you will disagree, but you are wrong, not evil, just wrong), because they made us choose one side of the labyrinthine walls, always at one place and always in the same time. They left a place for conversion but a lesser place for God.

The Christian Sojourn through the labyrinth, alone, alive, dead or in the company of the Resurrected Christ, invites the prophet to each seder.

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