Hinges: A Curiosity, Part 1

Hinges: A Curiosity, Part 1

I recently came across the phrase Caro Cardo Salutis. It means: The flesh is the hinge of salvation. ‘Hinge’ caught my attention in particular (but the collocation was not lost on me as it was also the day a pelvic bone slipped out of alignment) and so I rolled over on the hot pad in bed and grabbed from my shelf Grace Dane Mazur’s quaint treasure of a book entitled, serendipitously, Hinges (check out those blurbs!)

Somewhere I read (and for the life of me I cannot remember where) of the flesh as the expressly relational aspect of the animate being. This was a refreshing perspective that differed from a notion I have always found deeply suspect: the flesh limited to a metaphor for sinfulness. Karl Rahner wrote, ‘The reality beyond all . . . has come down and dwells in the innermost reality of our flesh.’ This is truly a marvel . . .

I am still ruminating on (whether or) how this relational sense of flesh differs from that of ‘body’. One of the prophets taught (and do hear this verse musically in gorgeous soprano . . . it comes in the second verse – here): ‘. . . though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.’ (Job 19:26) There are, I see, various translations of this fragment, and they seem to struggle with the flesh. Where the KJV goes with ‘yet in my flesh shall I see God’, other renderings have ‘from my flesh’ and wander over to the other side of the meaning spectrum to ‘without my flesh’, or ‘out of my flesh’.I have no ancient languages so I rely on the experts. But, ‘in my flesh’ and ‘without my flesh’, do they not also seem to you contradictory? I wonder where the difficulty lies?

Folds

Folds

The translations appear complicated. The theologian Catherine Keller has a juicy gloss on –pli, that little sound that gets in the middle of a lot of good words, like complicate. It means, variously, fold, envelope, letter, habit. The -pli functions, I see, as a kind of a hinge. This -pli feels soft(er), though, more flexible, more laden with possibility. [More on Keller’s intriguing latest, here and here]. Keller is more aptly described as a theo-poet, actually, a feminist-cosmo-theo-poet, and she has some really interesting and challenging ways of interpreting life in the flesh which would take me an awfully long time to wrap my mind around by myself, I think.

Still, I’m thinking mostly today about the relating flesh–sensing, responsive, inter-being–as that place where salvation,* as the ancient Fathers recognised, is to be found. Through this portal with its intricate folds & hinges, in this body, enfleshed (incarnated), salvation comes.


* from the Latin root salus (health) and whose etymology can be followed (down the rabbit hole) from health to ‘whole(-ness)’ and to ‘holiness’.

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Holy Saturday: The Gaps are the Thing

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“The gaps are the thing.

The gaps are the spirit’s one home,

the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that

the spirit can discover itself

like a once-blind man unbound.

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The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God;

they are the fissures between mountains and cells

the wind lances through,

the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery.

Go up into the gaps if you can find them; they shift and vanish, too.

                                         Stalk the gaps.

Squeak into a gap in the soil,

Squeak(ing) into the gaps

turn,

and unlock

–more than a maple–

a universe.”

                                         Annie Dillard

The Soles, the Soul (and perhaps some sole?)

As I took my morning walk along the river hill-ward under a blue sky seasoned with early cherry blossoms the text for Maundy Thursday was coming through the ear buds of my mp3 player. The feet, my own blessed feet,* for which I am ever-grateful, anchor me to the world I thought in that loose aimless way of thinking which walking welcomes.

When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in that exquisitely beautiful, humble and love-giving act, he sanctified our walk in the world. The Easterners I live among have foot rules which sound similar to those of Christ’s time. The feet, shod, belong to the outside world. Shoes are removed at the threshold because coming inside is entering holy space. But the very Earth, too, can be your threshold as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem reminds us:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes . . .

Your feet, the soles (no accident, perhaps, the homonym with ‘soul’?) tell you where you are in the world, they have a way of remembering, letting you know in which harbour you are anchored.

And doesn’t the anchor, that ancient Christian symbol of hope, bear some resemblance to the feet that anchor us to the Earth? The anchor, dropped deep to reach our deepest, darkest and most secret places set beside the washing of the feet carries the meaning that even the lowest part of me is seen, held and known by Divine Love.

The cross as an anchor with two fishes. This is the epitaph to Antonia, originally in the catacomb of Domitilla.

We are fish

saved through the cross of Christ,

a sure anchor

for our soul

as we traverse the waters of death.

Richard Harries, The Passion in Art, 2

Love your feet; use them for your prayers. Here is a teaching from the Zen tradition that will show you how.


* For a celebration of the advent of feet, watch the Ghibli movie Ponyo. It’s available I think on Vimeo