Also Listen on:
Today liturgically, after forty days wandering the wilderness, we begin entering the mystery that leads to the promised land. To make any sense of that we need to participate, to the extent we allow ourselves to, in the sacred games: especially the game of telling a story which becomes firstly a key into the enigma of our own life; secondly, a passkey into the mystery of all being and existence.
The word mystery might make us think of an Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes story which gets rationally unravelled and explained. Or, more interesting, it suggests the term mysterion, used twenty-seven times in the New Testament. This refers to a mystical reality that everyone can experience but that is super-rational or super-logical. In ancient times the ‘mystery religions’ were cults by which aspirants were ritually initiated into secrets that should never be revealed to outsiders. Early Christianity has some similarity to these but with the great difference, as St Paul puts it, that the ‘secret is Christ in you, the hope of a glory to come.’ The telling of the story of Jesus through the scriptures, is the essential ritual of this Holy Week, connected to other liturgical rites that a child can enjoy – and that we can, too, if we can be childlike. Here at Bonnevaux, weather permitting, we will begin the Palm Sunday procession with a donkey which a trusting neighbour has lent us. On Saturday, at the Easter Vigil, we will do what everyone enjoys doing, and light a mystical bonfire.
A mystery is something we encounter but that awaits exposure and interpretation. We feel we are awakening in the mystery as we may sometimes become awake in a dream. Hidden in the story we are entering, there are many archetypes. If we can listen to the story subtly, these will help us approach the roots of consciousness; and we will sense an interior structure of meaning emerging, rather than an explanation we are imposing. We will experience the kind of meaning that is a deep connection and resonance, engaging with our own most intimate life-experience, incomplete but fulfilling. We are the story we tell about ourselves but what we tell depends greatly on who we are telling it to, and how they listen and then the connection created with them.
The setting of the story of Holy Week is the mystical city of Jerusalem, sacred to three of the world’s major religions. People still cannot live together there peacefully, perhaps because they haven’t listened carefully enough to the stories that each§§ tell about it. Today opens with cheering crowds, like a football team successfully arriving home after the World Cup. Jesus is the prophet they have been waiting for. Hosannah! The story soon ends in rejection and failure with a crucifixion on Golgotha, the garbage dump of the holy city. ‘It is finished’.
But, of course, the story is endless, because of the presence, the ever-present presence that we feel in the events and in their central figure. The presence is mysteriously eternal, impossible to verbalise. But it becomes stronger and stronger until, after a short and totally painful disappearance, it returns bringing with it a new dimension of reality, that is more real than anything and life-transforming.