Archive for November, 2012

Living in the dark

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I did not go to Mass today. I am so angry at the Church, angry at myself too that I did not see through the self-serving hype – but then neither did anyone else. A Fr. McVerry put it well the other day. He said how can you expect people

“to commit themselves to a male-dominated, authoritarian institution which suppresses dissent and attempts to control what its members may even discuss?”

I am reading Christian Beginnings by Geza Vermes and also Jesus: An Historical Approximation by José Pagola. It is so refreshing to get back to the historical Christ (in so far as one can) before all the accretions, the glosses, the aggrandisment imposed by the Church from the second century on. It is the simplicity of the relationship between self and God, the directness of it, no intermediaries, that is so compelling, and this is what he preached. It is what he lived.

But people love the smells and the bells, the dressing up and the elaborate ceremonies. They like their talismans and their little rituals, their holy pictures, their statues and candles, all the things which diminish the impact of cold, hard reality. They need reassurance. They need something which insulates from the void, that sheer fall just there out of sight where one dare not look. Something tangible, something which comes with assurance that if you do this and that and avoid sin, all will be well. For many this is enough. They accept what is handed to them. And there is a simple beauty in this placid acceptance. Questions can be unsettling and raise doubts. Best not go there.

But, for all of us, darkness lurks just there at the edges of vision and many are afraid of the dark, though God is there in the darkness. And they are afraid of silence, even more than they are afraid of darkness, though one can only really listen when there is silence. I sometimes think we are like sparks thrown up by a bonfire. We flash briefly in the dark and are gone. Life is so ephemeral and as one approaches the end there is a tendency to ask, ‘Is that it?’ And yet, looking back, I felt there were times when I touched something so enduring, so fundamental, so reassuring that the passage of time had no meaning. Those times are only a memory now. Darkness pervades but, strangely, it is not the aweful black of the void with its terrifying vertigo. The darkness is close, comforting and, somehow, even luminous at times.