HOLY WEEK CONTEMPLATION
|HOLY WEEK CONTEMPLATION|
From the beginning of Holy Week, we have been tracing the journey of the seven planetary forces that rule the seven days of the week, standing as prototypes for our human experiences. We have passed from the shining Sun forces of Palm Sunday, to the reflective character of the moon, the assertiveness of Mars, and the fulcrum balance-point of Mercury. Mercury, celebrated as the god of healing and as the god of communication, commerce and even thievery in ancient Rome, inspires inner and outer movement. As we learn to understand the lessons of Mercury, we can find the quiet center of all movement in our heart. This marks the first step in the journey towards the awakening of the true I-Am.
Thursday represents the next step on the journey through the planets, in which the awakened self reaches out beyond its own inner core, learning to embrace the world with love.
Thursday stands under the rulership of Jupiter, celebrated in ancient times as Jove or Zeus. As a king, he rules with wisdom and generosity. The task of the true king is to have an overview over the well-being of his kingdom, caring for it with love and compassion. He must forego his own self-centeredness, and expand his awareness to embrace the whole kingdom. (And of course it goes without saying that this is not gender-specific!) The new king must become a participant, must become a servant.
CHRIST AS THE BESTOWER OF THE I-AM
Meditations on the nature of Christ the cosmic creator spirit and Jesus the great initiate human being unveil to us deepest questions of human existence. Among them is this: in offering himself to become a bearer of Christ, Jesus was able to give over his separate human self for the greater good of humanity. And Christ was able to give over his all-sovereign spiritual majesty to become a human being.
In do doing, Christ as a “king” became a servant of humanity. Every word he spoke, every deed he did in his years as a human being served to lay the seeds of a future for humanity. Uniting himself with Jesus, He gave to human beings the possibility of taking the next step in evolution, so that we could become bearers of the I-AM consciousness.
Christ gave to human beings seven powerful meditative pictures of what the I-AM is. Each of these is a mantra that we can meditate upon: each has the possibility of opening new insights to us.
I-AM the Bread of Life
I-AM the Light of the World
I-AM the Door
I-AM the Good Shepherd
I-AM the Resurrection and the Life
I-AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
I-AM the True Vine
CHRIST AND THE LAST SUPPER
On Thursday of Holy Week, Christ Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with His disciples.We can find this described in beautiful language in the Gospel of St. John, which describes how He speaks with great love of His connection with humanity. Then, we read, He knelt at the feet of His disciples and washed their feet. When I consider this image, I am moved at the image of the Lord kneeling in service of those whom he came to serve. The archetype of the king no longer stands above his folk: Spirit bows to the world in love.
Other gospels tell us then of how Jesus picked up the bread and the wine at the table of the supper, and blessed it before sharing it with his disciples. Christ said to those sitting with them “Eat this, drink this, and do it in remembrance of me.” In this, He poured all of His life forces, then, now and into the future, into the world of matter. Christ promises that He will be in matter, working as a seed force, forever. We will walk on him with our feet, touch Him with our hands, see Him through our senses. We need only choose to perceive Him, and we awaken in our selves.
Through the presence of Christ, the I-AM has entered into the life of the earth, and is active, everywhere. Spirit does not stand aloof from its Creation. It lives in my mind, my heart, my body, even as it lives in the material substance of the earth.
THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT
As He sat with his disciples for the Passover feast, Christ Jesus shared with them his most intimate thoughts. Only hours later, in the darkness of night in the garden of Gethsame, Christ was taken prisoner by soldiers, and delivered into the hands of the those who would eventually crucify Him. The next step in the drama of Holy Week becomes a dark tale of betrayal, cruelty and evil.
Christ, obeyng a higher lawfulness, allowed himself to become vulnerable. In the darkness of night, the seed forces he offered to humanity would be laid into the earth.
OH, THE VOWEL OF JUPITER
Thursday is the day of Jupiter. We perceive its signature in the gesture of the king: wisdom, life and abundance. In the body, it rules the liver, long honored as the source of good health and vitality. In language, Jupiter speaks the sound “Oh.”
To move the sound “Oh” in eurythmy, we round our arms in a great, symmetrical circle. This roundness is buoyant and light-filled, overcoming the heaviness of gravity. But most importantly, in making the Oh, our soul needs to step outside of itself. The singular “I” of Mercury evolves to become an experience of community, caring for others as much as it cares for itself. In rounding the arms in Oh, we aspire to embrace the entire world, thereby experiencing that we ourselves are but one point on the circle of community.
So Christ, in entering the earth, created a circle of abundance. At the Last Supper, His radiant love embraced the disciples in the archetypal “Oh.” And the circle of His never-ending love continues to expand throughout the entire earth.
|HOLY WEEK CONTEMPLATION #4|
|WEDNESDAY: STANDING IN THE BALANCE|
QUALITY: MOVEMENT AND BALANCE
In this year of the corona virus, humanity, wrapped in the cocoon of mandated quarantine, faces essential questions of life.
Unfortunately, many will be confronted with urgent questions of survival, perhaps not able to secure housing, food and essential supplies. The foundations of society are confronted with the very real image of death. As the days crawl by, we have watched enough movies, done enough puzzles, to last a lifetime. If we are lucky, we are gifted the chance to go outside often enough to breathe clean air, hear birdsong and enjoy the greening of spring. We are able to enjoy good food and loving conversations with those near us.
But all of this poses the urgent question: What are you really doing with yourself in this time of retreat?
What balance are you finding in this weeks of quarantine?
Now restricted to the interior rooms of our dwellings, our interior spaces open up. By this I mean: the interior spaces of our souls. Increasingly we find: it is time to face the inner questions, such as: can I be comfortable in my own skin? am I driven by the incessant urge to distract myself? does the societal fear drummed up to a fever pitch take root in me, too?
Centuries ago, Henry David Thoreau chose to seek out these states of self-isolation. He chose to move into the woods to be alone, writing he wanted to “confront only the essential facts of life, and not, when it came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
In my own experience, this time is a gift to confront these essential fact. For when all else fades away, there is only one true place we can go to find the authentic self, and that is the center of the heart. In our threefold self, neither the mind nor the gut alone can give us the balance that we need. We need to find the fulcrum point of our selves in the heart.
True: we need clarity of thought to stream through all of our consciousness, to be honestly seeking understanding and wisdom. And as long as we live on the earth, we need to feel the power of being grounded in caring for the needs of the present day.
But it is the heart—the heart chakra— that can hold the dynamic balance between these extremes.
In my eurythmy practice, this feeling becomes somatic. Standing quietly, we can cultivate the experience that the heart has an “interior door to the infinite.” When we center ourselves in the heart, we can be aware of many wonders simultaneously: the present moment and the infinite, the heavens and the earth, the head and the limbs, self and others.
In the heart, you are both World and Self. Here is the home of the Spirit Self, being born in you through your life journey.
Here we learn to love life.
Here there is no fear of death.
This is the lesson of Wednesday, the middle of the week, the day of Balance.
WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
In the meditative journey through Holy Week, Wednesday stands at the midpoint, offering the fulcrum in the unfolding drama. Midpoints always imply a crisis, and a turning point. Here we move from what has been towards what will become.
Holy Week marks the journey of Christ’s last week of his life on earth in the body and soul of Jesus. We could also say it marks the journey of the human being Jesus as he walked through the last week of his life on earth bearing the stupendous power of the Christ in every aspect of his being.How could this limitless Creating Spirit and this earth-man merge into one? How could God become so small, and the human being become so pure a vessel that they could become one perfect union?
And to take the next step: how can I work on my own self so that I, too, can become a vessel for creation, for God?
In the story of Holy Week in the Bible, Wednesday presents us with two powerful archetypal figures in Jesus’ circles. One is Mary Magdalene, who kneels at his feet with a bottle of precious ointment and anoints him with the devotional power of her overwhelming love. The other is Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. It is said that he had been hoping that Christ would reveal himself to the world as a fully public savior and bring political and social peace to the world. He grew impatient with Mary’s deed, and fled to Jesus’ enemies. For the price of 30 pieces of silver, he revealed to them where Jesus could be found, and led them to him the following night.
In the crisis of Wednesday, these archetypes can speak deeply to our souls. Don’t we all bear within ourselves two souls: the idealist and the pragmatist, the generous and the greedy, the pure and the impure? How can we balance the polarities in our being? How can we create the active center point in ourselves that can endure the tension between extremes?
How can we access the quiet place in the human heart that is really aligned with truth?
Can this time of quarantine give us the strength to seek, find and build our center?
The Eurythmy Gesture for Wednesday
The planet Mercury rules Wednesday, and speaks through the vowel sound I (ee). In the eurythmy gesture for I (ee), we can experience the archetype of the Divine Ego, of the I-Am, as it strives towards self- actualization. I invite you to move this gesture with your own body. (You can find more about the sounds in my book, Eurythmy Movements and Meditations)
This I (ee) is spirit self is the Ego, the I-Am, and its invisible fuel is the essence of spirit-being. So, too, in the course of each human life, we can evolve past the immature experience of defining ourselves by what we are not, and begin to define ourselves from within. The Ego, the I-Am of the human being is the eternal flame that burns in the inner core of our being. It is never in a stagnant condition. In constant self-creating, it lives in the dynamic relationship between being and non-being, interior and exterior, right and left, up and down, heaven and earth. As if on a tightrope, the I-Am seeks and creates balance between polarities. It creates itself anew whenever it awakens into self-consciousness. The sound I (ee) rings forth from the soul when it manifests its own light-being in spirit filled self-manifestation.
Begin by imagining yourself clothed in radiant yellow-orange. Feel your heart, the center of your being. A stream of light radiates outward from this center with energetic red brilliance, expanding outwards through the upper arm into the space above you. Balance this outgoing energy with a blue counterweight in your other arm. The lower arm grounds you, helps you feel the earnest necessities of life. Feel the dynamic tension of the forces of the two. The awakened human begin can balance heaven and earth, spirit and matter, light and dark. As you practice this gesture in eurythmy, learn about your own soul. Do you tend more towards the light or towards the darkness? Can you be both practical and enlightened.? Can you bear responsibility and align yourself with high spiritual striving?
Who are you? Who are you becoming?
This is the gesture of the awakened heart, a heart that allows itself to learn through constantly practicing awareness of the I-Am. This is the prototypal gesture of Christ, imprinted into human beings for the first time through one human being, and vouchsafed for all humanity as our future birthright. Walking the path through matter, we awaken through balancing heaven and earth.
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As Holy Week unfolds, we meet the power of Mars on Tuesday. Mars has long been associated with masculine, self-assertive actions, with power.
What are the true sources of Power? And what power has been vouchsafed to human beings?
We can imagine the tremendous forces of the natural world: volcanic eruptions, tectonic shifts, hurricanes, tornadoes. Far greater are the forces of the cosmos, where stars are born and explode, or collapse into black holes.
We might well believe that these are mere mechanical process, because they can be explained through physical laws. But if we long to go deeper, then we may ask: “What being or beings are moving behind the phenomena we perceive?” Without denying the validity of scientific explanations, can we explore Consciousnesses that are active behind the phenomena of the world? Are they the source of the power that we now perceive enchanted into forms and mechanics?
The spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner urges us to consider ranks and ranks of beings, each of whom have different levels of consciousness. We human beings are but beginners on the journey of our acquisition of consciousness, and we rely on our modest physical senses to reveal to us the ways of the physical world we live in. But beings far greater than we have more subtle and more expansive consciousness and abilities. Their very being IS source of love, of will and intention, of wisdom and movement and form. Their deeds and thoughts are the powerful sources of all aspects of our world.
We live in a living world, yet as long as we remain passive in our knowledge, we believe our world is dead. These are the great mysteries I seek to understand at Easter. Christ the Creating Spirit was born as the Son of God, and lived as a human being on earth. His level of consciousness contains and encompasses that of all other ranks of beings. Entering into embodiment into this world of substance, He consciously sacrificed His original power. He became infinitesimally small, infinitely human. This was the greatest test of Spirit Consciousness: would the power of Love and Being be extinguished, or would it be able to overcome Death?
What then is Death? There are many layers of death. One is the death that we experience at the end of life. Another consists of the small deaths we go through every day, in our body, in our thoughts and feelings as we evolve.
And yet I believe the actual death consists of our descent into matter. We have died to the spiritual world through being born into the world of maya. We are developing our capacity to be conscious through being taught by the senses. Yet this is but an intermediary level. When we grasp the force of Seed of Spirit that has been given to us, we will be able to be alive, to think living thoughts and have living consciousness by dint of practicing our awareness, constantly.
Power? Power surrounds us on all sides. Cosmic power created the world, and its effects are found in all things. Humanity lives in this world of power, and has seized power and is learning to wield it. Humanity’s capacity to use power has evolved over long ages, and can be seen as a motive force behind all of human history. Power can be used wisely, kindly, lovingly, or it can be horribly abused. When humans misuse power in their treatment of other people, the results include control, murder, enslavement, wars and torture. When humans misuse power in their treatment of the natural world, the results are the fearsome destruction of forests, oceans, ecosystems, and now of food systems, seed crops, genetic integrity.
On Tuesday of the first Holy Week, Christ Jesus openly challenged the power wielders in his world. He spoke words of Truth to the false priests, the money changers, the hypocrites and the fundamentalists. I imagine the force of His spirit-force charging the words that He spoke, as He lay clear to them how they were misusing power. In the face of the absolute moral power that Christ wielded, there is no place to hide. Human beings must judge themselves when they realize the cosmic consequences of their own misdeeds.
The power of speech
Tuesday is the day of Mars, and every Tuesday we meet its challenge. Mars rules not only power but also Speech. It is said that the World was originally spoken into being by the Creator, and that Christ is that very Creating Word. By becoming fully human Christ gave the power of the living Word to humanity. In the fullness of time, conscious human beings will be able to unite with Christ is such a living way that our Word also will be capable of cosmic Creating.
On the journey towards such a future, human beings will hopefully seek to permeate all power with love, and wisdom. The first step towards this consists in learning to perceive the Created World with living thinking that can perceive the moral laws made the world. We can internalize this morality by uniting ourselves with Christ, with Him who made Himself small so that we can be re-born in spirit.
ORGAN: GALL BLADDER
Go to eurythmyonline.com/immune-support to access the new series to build resiliency in times of crisis. Sliding scale!
go to eurythmyonline.com/immune-support for the new series to build resiliency. Sliding scale!
Nothing is so beautiful as spring!
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.
Thrushes’ eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber doth so rinse and wring the ear,
It strikes like lightnings to hear him sing.
The glass pear tree leaves and blooms,
They brush the descending blue.
That blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning,
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning.
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice, and worthy the winning.
Every spring, nature re-enacts this first celebration of existence with the exuberance of spring, as life unfurls in dizzying colors and fragrances and shapes.
Each year I return at this season to this sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins, as my senses are re-enlivened and I am drawn out of my winter introspection into the festival of nature. With the eyes of the poet, I see the grasses, the thrushes, the blooming trees and the blue of the sky. I hear the birds above and the lambs on our farm. With the heart of a eurythmist, I savor the dance of sound, the repeating consonants and the rhyming vowels so powerfully woven in the alliteration of sounds.
In this poem, I can imagine the first day of Creation. God (the unlimited source of all) could no longer contain the abundance of love, and overflowed with an outpouring of living ideas and thoughts, some as big as universes and some as intimate as molecules. God created us, too, on this first day, as creatures equipped to receive all this beauty, all this world, all this love.
This is the glory of Palm Sunday, a celebration of all that we have been given for our joy and well-being. Palm Sunday celebrates Christ as the Son of God, the Sun God, the spirit of the Sun who walked on earth as a human being. Songs of praise surrounded Him as he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey those many years ago.
As we considered yesterday, every birth inevitably contains the coffin of a future death. The poet writes that the Garden of Eden will soon come to an end, but we are urged to “have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning.”
This year, like none before, we all enter Holy Week with solemnity. In our self-made cocoons, we learn to seek what is essential. We all know that the beauty of spring will soon give way to the heat of summer, and then, at length, to a withering and fading away. This year, the ghost of death draws much nearer to us.
The man who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday did not raise his arms in boastful, triumphant, narcissistic celebration. He rode into Jerusalem fully aware of the solemnity of the hour, of the trials and sorrows that would lie ahead, knowing that he would be sorely tested, that he would have to seek to fulfill deeds of cosmic magnitude.
We, too, enter this week aware that by the end of this season, many will have died.
Where will we find the forces of resurrection? What seeds will this week bring to us?
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of the “old mysteries.” We must acknowledge that only if we can re-discover the living forces of creation that lie behind the world of the senses can we unite with the forces of life and rebirth.
And on Easter Sunday, through connecting with the very source of life, Christ will illumine for us the path of resurrection.
For, in the words of the poet, this earth is indeed “worthy of winning.”
There has been no time like this in my lifetime, in which the natural world has mandated us to slow down, stop, and face the question of our own mortality. The challenge here is not like 9/11, not a nuclear war, not even—yet—ecological disaster. This challenge is more intimate, slow and quiet. Each of us has to face the stark reality of our own interior.
And what do we find there? Do we continue to distract ourselves, to fear, to despair?
Whom do we meet, in our personal, silent spaces?
Who speaks, in the interior of the soul?
This year, perhaps like never before, we are plunged into the mood of Lent, or pre-Easter. Here we face the deepest questions of our own mortality.
We are forced to face the question: What is death?
Are we ready for our life to be finished?
For our loved ones to leave us, possibly in the wink of an eye?
The coming week, known as Holy Week, is the time of preparation for Easter. Each day carries the powerful archetype of its ruling planet, imprinted on the human psyche
According to ancient wisdom, these are:
Sunday Sun Wholeness and abundance au
Monday Moon Reflection i
Tuesday Mars Assertive opposition ā
Wednesday Mercury Agility and balance ē
Thursday Jupiter Generosity, wisdom o
Friday Venus Love ah
Saturday Saturn Solemnity u
Through the insights of esoteric Christianity, we can find a path of meaning through this week, as we contemplate the archetypes of Lent. In the journey through Holy Week, we face the deep questions of life: meaning, intention, birth, death, suffering, sorrow. These questions are not only for the religious person: these are the powerful questions that are brooding in all of us, as we wait in the cocoon of our quarantines. This is the week to embrace the crisis of the spirit, the trials of life.
This coming Easter will also be unique. There promise to be no outward festivities. Yet in the earthly-spiritual realms, new doors will be opened—doors we very well might not have been able to notice, if life had not driven us to the brink of death. We will have a new appreciation for the gift of being alive, of having been created and placed into time and space. We can draw nearer to understanding our ultimate responsibility: the task of creating the new human being through living on the earth in sacred service to the Creator and the created world.
In that spirit, starting tomorrow I will once again publish the 8 Easter essays I have written for this season, one for each day of the week.
If you miss a blog, you may also find all the Easter essays by following this link: https://eurythmyonline.com/category/festival/holy-week/
Have you wondered: what would you do if you were quarantined in your home?
For the past six years, I have traveled repeatedly to mainland China and Taiwan, offering in-depth workshops in Eurythmy and Anthroposophy.
This year, we are compelled to call off our spring workshops, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) that is affecting every aspect of life in China. Today’s news said that as many as 760 MILLION people are quarantined in their homes. This accounts from more than half of the citizens of mainland China.
Of course I feel tremendous compassion for the pain and suffering of individuals who have contracted the disease themselves or have seen their loved ones suffer. When the disease becomes acute in a person, it attacks first the lungs and then can lead to pneumonia. In severe cases, it continues to create massive organ failure and possibly death.
How is it then for the millions of people who are quarantined in their homes, unable to socialize, unable to reach out beyond their own four walls except possibly through the internet? And so, as much as I regret the interruption in our work, and even as care deeply for those who are afflicted, I have also been so curious about those others whose lives have been curtailed so radically.
To find out more, I called some people last week to hear their stories.
As far as I could tell, all—or nearly all—the major cities in China are shut down. Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, has been described as a “ghost town.” The streets are empty: the only vehicles one might see are the patrolling military, the ubiquitous delivery trucks, and the medical cars. The silence is stunning: only the occasional barking of a dog or the wail of a distant ambulance punctuate it.
Even in other cities, in which the virus is perceived more as a distant threat, the streets are largely empty. The majority of businesses are still closed: people work from home when possible. A family I know of there that owns a restaurant has no idea when it might be allowed to open again. Schools are shuttered: it is likely that when they are allowed to reopen, summer vacations will be cancelled to resume teaching as vigorously as possible.
Those who are quarantined are virtually confined to their homes. If they want to go out, they have to have a permit. Even then, they know that when they walk on the streets they will be subjected to frequent stops by security forces who are mandated to check everyone’s temperature.
I confess that all this sounds very difficult.
And then, as always, I look deeper. I wonder: is there anywhere some redemption, some blessing in all of this?
Yesterday I called two of my friends who live in two different cities to ask them how they are doing. And both of them, independently of one another, aid “I actually think that this will be good for our country.”
“Please,” I urged, “tell me what you are seeing.”
“This can bring us back to our roots. Here in China, we are living such a crazily busy lifestyle. We are always rushing, buying, desiring things. We are so restless. We have lost our center. We have lost our way. Now we are forced to become quiet. We have to find a new way of being.”
One friend, a master teacher of NVC (non-violent conversation) imagines how people have received the challenge and the gift of having to look for new depths of connection and relationship with the people they live with. How easy it is, she said, for us to live a distracted life! How easy to turn our attention away from our families or those with whom we live, and lose ourselves in the drive and stimulation of daily urban life. How different it is in these days, when people must sit together, must re-learn and re-discover how to share life.
My friend in Shanghai told me of another woman, a spiritual teacher there, who, focusing on the nature of the disease which aggressively attacks the lungs, proposed this picture. She says that in the chaos of life, the Chinese people have lost their center, their middle, their breath. They need to learn to breathe again. To that end, she proposes that people should cultivate practices of quiet breathing during the day. They should strengthen their heart, their lungs, their sense of rhythm.
This is a reality that is also at the heart of anthroposophical medicine, which affirms that “all true healing comes from the balancing of the Rhythmic system, the heart-lung center.”
I have heard that many people in their homes are turning to Art. Those who have studied to become Waldorf teachers have been instructed in many practices of painting and music-making. Now, in these long hours of confinement, they finally are finding the time to turn to their inner journeys of self-transformation and renewal through the arts. In that way, the hours and days and weeks of confinement can lead to a new-found sense of the meaning of life.
And those who have worked with me are telling me that they now know in a new way how to turn to eurythmy. Now they can understand on new levels how to practice it, so it can bring them into contact with the true sources of their humanity.
It heartens me to hear this news. I understand well, how easy it is to forget. Now they now, vividly, how much health and well-being, so much spiritual reality flows to us through the personal practice of eurythmy.
And so I invite us all to ask ourselves: what would I do, if I were confined to the small world of my house and home? In all earnestness, I know I would take up my study of spirituality, of anthroposophy, of meditation, and of eurythmy. That is where we can find true healing. That is where we can find our true selves, born out of the love of the creator and learning, slowly but surely, to become truly Human.