Just before Holy Thursday, MrsDarwin posted an excerpt from Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chapter 76, along with her own meditations on the concept of being "dead to sin."
I turned the first paragraph from Julian over in my mind all through the Triduum and all through the Octave of Easter. Here it is as MrsDarwin excerpted it:
The soul that wants to be at peace must flee from thoughts of other people's sins as though from the pains of hell, begging God for a remedy and for help against it; for the consideration of other people's sins makes a sort of thick mist before the eyes of the soul, and during such times we cannot see the beauty of God unless we regard the sins with sorrow for those who commit them, with compassion and with a holy wish for God to help them; for if we do not do this the consideration of sins harms and distresses and hinders the soul...
MrsDarwin's meditation is on being "dead to sin," the knowledge that sin has no real power over us (unless we allow it to -- which means that the power is not in the sin, but in us to lend our power to sin). I think she is mostly writing about our own sin, but taking that first paragraph from Julian, of course it means the sins of others, too. The sins of others have no real power over us, if we are grafted to the vine of Christ, only the power that we give away.
+ + +
It feels like an audacious thing to write, in this era of constant courteous awareness of, the compulsory acknowledgements of privilege, power, victimhood. Today's buzzwords obscure timeless concepts: the rich man; the eye of the needle; blessed are the poor. Outer wealth and poverty deceive us. The heart itself may be rich or poor. We have to make allowances for what we can't see in other people. Anyone might carry an invisible disability that we need to allow for; at the same time we must believe that anyone, anyone, once grafted invisibly onto that vine, lives in a new way and has access to a life in which no vileness can have real power over her ever again. An illusory outward power, perhaps; but only a power which she gives away. In Christ the Victim once for all, there are no permanent victims.
It's hard to find that place to be, on the edge. We owe allowances for the beaten-down, the miserable, the fearful, the unbalanced. And at the same time we believe in a promise that it all can really be escaped. We have to honor the great difficulty, the bravery, the immense trust that it takes for some to die -- not just to sin -- but to the power of suffering and injustices that come from outside, from malicious individuals and hopeless bureaucracies. And despite honoring the difficulties we have to hold out always the firm belief that anyone, no matter how weak, can do it. Even though it's obvious that there is a vast inequality woven into human nature, that for some it will be easy and for others it will be hard, and those of us who have had it easy must bite our tongues and, standing with those who have struggled mightily and honorably prevailed, take on a dread humility, and try somehow to witness to people who have a harder road yet to travel than we can even imagine in nightmares.
+ + +
Other people's misdeeds have no power over me, so Julian implies.
But people -- people we trust or love or respect, or whose counsel we freely seek! -- assail us with invitations, demands, to contemplate vilenesses.
Sometimes, the sinners are people we have never met except through the mass media and the social media. Sometimes these people have names and other times they are just handy totems; friends and fellow travelers invite us to abuse them and revile and renounce them personally, as a means of reviling and striking at something impersonal, like a system or a policy.
Other times, they're friends, parents, siblings, coworkers, the occasional passerby, people who have turned their faces and hands to us. People who wound us, shallowly, irritatingly; or deeply, lastingly. People who have driven us to tears, or to rage, sometimes to wounding bystanders with new wounds.
+ + +
We don't believe anymore in fleeing quite completely, do we? Evil grieves us, as it should. The experts in our natural minds, such as they are, tell us now that anger is a normal stage that human natures may have to traverse before we reach acceptance of any grief, or forgiveness of any wrong. If they are right about that I know of nothing that would exempt Christians. We still have flesh, and bleed if you prick us.
+ + +
You may have intellectualized and rationalized your anger, instead of facing it, said the man in the opposite chair. It may be that forgiveness, for you, still means you have to go through that anger and fully express it.
+ + +
I want to skip over anger, fury, weeping. I want to leap straight to peace, to acceptance, to pity for a mean and small-hearted human being, a broken one, maybe one born blind, maybe in the grip of something nameless, legion; baptized yet mayhap nearly (we are told to believe it can never be more than nearly) powerless now.
I want to skip over it, lightly, and alight on the other side without looking back. I want to forgive, but to do so bloodlessly, coolly. "That one, mired in darkness, deserves not our anger: we regard that one with an imperious pity."
I guess Julian holds out two ways to us. The fleeing way, the one where we beg God to stop us from even thinking about the damned misdeeds of others. I suppose this is what we ought to do with the latest Meme of Outrage.
The other way is the one where
we regard the sins with sorrow for those who commit them, with compassion and with a holy wish for God to help them;
If the experts are right that by nature we may some of us have to pass through anger, face it and experience it, contemplate the sins of others, then this is how we do it.
Which is never bloodless.
+ + +
Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday. I took up the novena on Good Friday with an intention. To embrace true Mercy, not a false and bloodless one; and if I have to pass through anger, to pass through it in the company of sorrow, and to emerge from anger into real mercy and forgiveness, grieving a true loss but living in a true hope.
+ + +
What is WRONG with some people?
Only God knows. That's the catch.