My friend Bill Brown, a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary and my occasional Sunday School teacher, wrote an amazing Easter piece here that discusses the empty tomb of Easter as almost prescient to the situation we find ourselves in, as we sit in quarantine due to COVID19. After all, Jesus’ first appearance after resurrection was to fearful disciples, huddled together in a locked room, much as we are now. Please read his beautiful words.
Along with Easter, our current situation also reminds me of the concept of wilderness in the Bible. Wilderness always denoted exile from civilization, separation from other people, and trials. It was a pause in normal life– a form of silence. And silence, like the silence of the empty tomb, is the beginning of resurrection.
Silence was considered a feminine principle in pagan and other ancient religions. Gnostic Christians (arguably the original Christians) believed that enlightenment came from merging the masculine and feminine energies, the masculine being the active, and the feminine being the passive, the silent.
Other ancient religions recognize the importance of this feminine principle of silence and rest. It is the reason these religions have sabbaths and promote fasting. This is not surprising since if we were to attempt a scientific definition of God, she would have to be silence (along with nothingness). Silence and nothingness are what preceded the Big Bang, after all. So there is no creation without silence first.
The wilderness experience, a silent timeout, interestingly always seems to last forty days and forty nights in Jewish, Christian and Buddhist teachings. I am sure volumes of scholarly material have been written about the symbolism of these numbers, but one thing that comes to my mind is that astrology played a prominent role in ancient religions, and the planet Venus, quite visible in the night sky unlike other planets, goes retrograde for forty days at a time.
Retrogrades in astrology are supposed to be times of reflection and release, times of silent inner work. Therefore, when Venus, the ultimate feminine planet, moves backwards in the sky, retracing where she’s been, it would make sense that the wilderness is calling us. The empty tomb beckons. Silence and contemplation demand our attention.
On May 13, 2020, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter all begin retrograde motion at the same time– an exceedingly rare occurrence– and it is no coincidence that we find ourselves all being literally forced into a place of reflection. About ourselves. About our values. About our pain. About our choices. About our society. We can no longer deny the feminine energy that demands contemplation instead of action, the action we use to ignore our pain and avoid healing it. Our planet, ravaged in so many ways by this unchecked masculine principle of action, is giving us this loving timeout to heal ourselves as individuals, because we cannot heal matter without healing our consciousness first, and our world, its people and its creatures need us.
So I invite all of us this Easter, and May, and June, to take advantage of our forty days in the wilderness, to look within, to understand our inner pain that we reflect back and inflict on the world, and to heal it. Not someone else’s brokenness– not Donald Trump’s, not socialists’– but our own. Such silent contemplation is prerequisite to all change that we want for our lives and our world. Because silence precedes creation. And we can create a magnificent future. IF. WE. USE. THE. SILENCE. TO. EXAMINE. AND. RELEASE. OUR. IMPEDIMENTS. TO. LOVE.
The real work.
And you can do it.
Until next time, joy and laughter to you. And triple sinks.