Personal and ministry interests have had me engaging some of Richard Rohr’s cross-cultural analysis of male spirituality and initiation rites. (cf., Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation and From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality)
He postulates that, across time and space and religions, there are five essential messages sounded through such rites:
- Life is Hard
- You Are Not Important
- Your Life Is Not About You
- You Are Not in Control
- You Are Going to Die1
A displacement of such rites (and their essential messages) are, according to Rohr, a real basis of a lot of our angst and dysfunction as a culture and society—as we all, male and female, are in need of these messages. [Tempting it is to point out how these messages run counter to “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” the prevailing religious belief of American teenagers — according to sociologists Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton in their 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press). But, I will save that for another post.]
Especially interesting to me as I read this material on my way into Holy Week was the very deep and soulful realization of how “this stuff is at the heart of my ongoing journey into the second half of [physical and spiritual] life!”
Somewhere inside of me, a little voice was triggered: “You mean these Lenten messages and this Lenten journey continue into Easter?!??! Isn’t there a reprieve? Isn’t Easter a time of letting go of and moving beyond Lenten sacrifice and fastings and disciplines?!?!?”
To which another voice within… (As a 1 on the Enneagram, I have quite a few internal voices… At least, that’s my story and I am sticking to it!) To which another voice within said: “Easter’s is not so much the message that the [soul] Surgery is over but that the [Divine] Physician can be trusted!”
And so, Lent continues (as does Advent and Christmas and Epiphany… and, indeed, Pentecost, for that matter). As Christians, we are locked – as individuals and communities — in an ongoing cycle and rhythm of all these Feast days and the spiritual dynamics they embody and represent. But, now, they are all transformed and illuminated by Easter’s message: that there’s a Power and a Love that is on our side, that Life and the Lord of Life can be trusted and en-joyed — even as the initiation continues!
1Probably no surprise to those who read Rohr and know his penchant for paradoxy (seeing things beyond “either-or” framings) that he’d take these five messages and marry them to five counterbalancing messages from our Lord:
- It is true that life is hard but: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28).
- It is true that you are not that important, but: “Do you not know that your name is written in heaven?” (Luke 10:20).
- It is true that your life is not about you, but: “I live not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
- It is true that you are not in control, but: “Can any of you for all your worrying, add a single moment to your span of life?” (Luke 12:26).
- It is true that you are going to die, but: “Neither death nor life / can come between us and the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).