Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Mystery of Passages

I was thinking about "passages" today and how I collect for my computer files images of passages. These are pictures which are evocative of something mysterious or deep within me (us), what some call archetypes.
A passage is of course a journey from one place to another, or from one stage of life to another, or from one time to another. So we might also speak of passages as a journey or a pilgrimage. The Scriptures and the Christian, as well as other, spiritual traditions speak of the "journey of life" and the "spiritual journey." (See my material on the spiritual journey HERE and related categories on my personal page)

The spiritual journey also involves what are called rites of passage. This is passing from one kind of way of life to another, or from one stage of spiritual growth to another. Baptism is a rite of passage. Marriage and ordination are rites of passage. But rites of passage can also be on a smaller scale than birth, death, or big life changes.
Here’s an interesting discussion of rites of passages as well as their similarity to the creative and the therapeutic processes:
       "The initiatory process, the creative process and the therapeutic process all have a  tremendous amount in common. They are all rites of passage.
     "The archetypal structure of a rite of passage (which is used for initiation and for transitions in life) is threefold. The first phase is a separation -- a breaking away from the normal workaday world and entry into ritual space (also known as sacred space or, more technically, liminal space). Once within the ritual container, the second phase is the ordeal -- the confrontation with personal and archetypal materials that need to be integrated for the rite of passage to succeed. Once the ordeal has been successfully navigated, the third phase is the return, where the initiate is blessed and received back into the larger culture, with a changed identity and all the gifts the initiate received during the process.
     "This may sound archaic and daunting, until you learn to spot variants of this process. For instance, the creative process follows this same pattern. The artist goes to the studio, wrestles with the creative process, and returns with a new creation. Therapy also follows the same structure -- the client enters the therapeutic realm in relationship with the therapist, confronts and integrates painful material, and emerges with healing and greater inner resources. Likewise, when we go to the movies or read a novel, we enter another reality, are swept along with the struggles of the characters, and we emerge transformed, or at least entertained.
     "It is a universal process that we all experience over and over again -- though usually it is done unconsciously. In fact, we go to the arts precisely because they create (or mimic) this pattern."
Harry LeBlanc  From "Arts of Passge" (emphasis added)
Perhaps this speaks to you or not. But I think of something like coming to Sunday Mass or other liturgies and what it could mean for as a "passage" (dramatically or not). We in some way separate from the everyday world to enter the sacred space of the church. We are not escaping from the world for we bring the world with us wherever we go; however, we do leave our ordinary pursuits for a time to enter the church with others on the Catholic spiritual journey.

The Procession into Mass reminds us that we are making a passage into the House of the Lord

Then, as LeBlanc said, we proceed to "the second phase [which] is the ordeal -- the confrontation with personal and archetypal materials that need to be integrated for the rite of passage to succeed." To put this into spiritual language, we encounter the story of Jesus, his life, especially his Death and Resurrection, and integrate or struggle to incorporate these "mysteries" into our lives. We may have to confront our sins, our failures, our fears, our hopes and dreams, etc. in the course of the Mass. Granted we may be more or less sensitive to this depending on where we are at in our spiritual and life passages. For example, teens (but other ages as well) are sometimes "bored" at Mass until the Mass is a Funeral for a classmate or friend who is killed in an accident. Then the Mass may become all too real in what it confronts us with and promises.
Then, ideally, we return back to our ordinary world from Mass having a new sense of purpose, a new outlook, sins forgiven, fears reassured, etc.
Some of the images I share from my files here probably express for me an inner desire to wander, to go on a journey, to explore where the unknown road is going. Maybe it’s because I (and I think a lot of people) feel that our life journey seems measured in inches, not miles. Where are we going? Is everything becoming too routine? Is this desire a desire to escape, or is it our soul reminding us to take time and pay attention to the passages we are making right now? To be sure, Jesus walks with us on our journeys. (See Luke 24:13-35 HERE)

The Passage of Israel through the Red Sea going from Slavery to Freedom

is the pattern for the Spiritual Journy for Judaism

and later for the Christian Faith as a type of Baptism


An image like this reminds me of a journey upward and it is titled "Ascension"


A favorite photo I took at the Franciscan Shrine of LaVerna, Italy.

Here is a passage of descent from the mountain


Sometimes our spiritual journey is like passing through a desert


I really like the sense of passage captured in images like this. Where is it leading?


A classic image of a journey with companions


Very evocative to me of both the beauty and mystery

and the invitation to the journey

Return to Home Page