Epiphany VI "meeting" The well is a place of meeting.Although Elisha stays firmly and with good reason within his dwelling in this Sunday’s reading, the picture of Elisha’s well (below) speaks to the subject of meeting.A slave girl meets her mistress, the mistress meets her husband, the husband meets his king, the king sends a message to another king, and Namaan doesn’t meet Elisha.However, Namaan meets his own servant, “If the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?”In the Gospel, a leper meets Jesus and Jesus responds with a defiant and healing touch.
A well also represents a hidden depth, deepening mystery. “Wells are symbols of plenty and sources of life, especially to peoples – like the Children of Israel – for whom the existence of fresh water was quasi-miraculous.Jacob’s Well, from which Jesus asked the Woman of Samaria to give him to drink, conveys the meaning of fresh water springing up – a draught of life and knowledge - ….Symbolizing knowledge, the well stands for the individual who has attained to that knowledge (contemplative wisdom). … if the well is a microcosm, it is the human being itself.” Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p1095
1THE MEETING : Jesus and the leper (Mark 1:40-45)
What is purity? Jesus, moved with compassion, breaks the sacred purity laws and touches the leper. The onlookers ask, “How can he be holy if he touches what is not holy?” Jesus’ action speaks for itself: How could he be holy if he did not?
The highest emanation of all beings, taken in their natural order, is through the noblest beings to the lowest, but their refluence to their origin is through the lowest to the highest.Therefore, it thou art wishful to behold Me in My uncreated Divinity thou must learn how to know and love Me here in My suffering humanity for this is the speediest way to eternal salvation. - Henry Suso (c.1295-1366) The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, Ch.I
The Leper at Capernaum, Rembrandt, c.1657-60
2THE MEETING : the slave girl and her mistress, the servant and Namaan (2Kings 5:1-14)
The weak speak to power.And the mistress listens to her slave girl.The enraged Namaan listens to his servant. When will I turn from the vociferous search outside myself to listen to the still, small voice, and find Christ waiting within my own soul?
You know that every meeting is a coming together of two persons, who come from different places, which are separated from, and opposite to, each other.Now Christ comes from above as a Lord and generous giver, who can do all things.And we come from below as the poor servants, who can do nothing of ourselves, but have need of everything.The coming of Christ to us is from within outwards, and we go towards him from without inwards; and this is why a spiritual meeting must here take place. - John of Ruysbroeck (1293-1381) Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, Ch. LVI
Elisha's Well, Lorenzetti, 1328-9, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena
3 THE MEETING: Via The Illuminative Way
The Illuminative path of grace unveils increasing increments of Light manifested in this season of the soul. In the Gospel portions and in this season’s modes of prayer, Epiphany animates the meeting of Christ in friendship and in love. Characteristic of this meeting, “He cometh privily, sometimes when thou art least aware …”
This sense of God is not a metaphor.Innumerable declarations prove it to be a consciousness as sharp as that which other men have, or think they have, of colour, heat, or light.It is a well-known though usually transitory experience in the religious life: like the homing instinct of birds, a fact which can neither be denied or explained.
“How that presence is felt, it may better be known by experience than by any writing,” says Hilton, “For it is the life and the love, the might and the light, the joy and the rest of a chosen soul.And therefore he that hath soothfastly once felt it he may not forbear it without pain; he may not undesire it, it is so good in itself and so comfortable….
… He cometh privily sometimes when thou art least aware of Him, but thou shalt well know Him or He go; for wonderfully He stirreth and mightily He turneth thy heart into beholding of His goodness, and doth thine heart melt delectably as wax against the fire into softness of His love.” *
EvelynUnderhill, Mysticism, The Illumination of the Self, p242
*Walter Hilton, The Scale of Perfection, bk ii.cap.xli
The heart outstrips the clumsy senses, and sees … an undistorted and more veritable world.All things are perceived in the light of charity, and hence under the aspect of beauty: for beauty is simply Reality seen with the eyes of love. - EvelynUnderhill
Elisha's Well, Lorenzetti, detail
Detail, Coronation of the Virgin, Quarton, 1453-54
Response-rhapsody on I Corinthians 9:24-5 Psalm 30 Psalm 103
You have turned my mourning into dancing. Weeping may linger for a night, but joy comes in the morning.You have clothed me with joy.I cried to you for help and you healed me. You crowned me with mercy and loving-kindness. You met me, and you loved me.
... they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. - I Corinthians 9:25
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.