Paschal Mystery – Pathway of Transformation
The Paschal Mystery is a pathway of transformation that is shown to us through the story of Easter. I would like to share about this path of transformation as a metaphorical journey (not a theological one) through the lens of the Easter story. There are three movements to the journey that can be helpful to ponder and reflect upon as we experience this in our lives through many different ways. We may have thought the story of resurrection was only the story of Christ. I believe we too, are invited to know the paschal mystery, the journey of death, unknown and resurrection. This is the paradoxical journey of transformation.
In our culture, if we want to attain growth or change, we usually approach it by means of acquiring something or pushing forwards to master a goal. The paschal mystery of transformation invites us to another way, the journey in and down; the pathway of trust into the unknown. The following is some reflections on this inner journey of the soul.
We will begin with entering the day of Good Friday as symbolic of the beginning of the journey of transformation. How is this day symbolic in our own spiritual soul journey? There are many ‘deaths’ we may experience, but one of the inner deaths that may present itself in our lives is the letting go of how we thought our lives would be. An injury, a tragedy, a faith crisis, a divorce … anything that catapults our lives into a place where we were not expecting, is an opportunity to enter a death of sorts. Our culture tends to run from death. We often hide elements of the reality of death around us. However, if we look to nature, we see that death is a part of the whole. It is a natural and rich element of the tapestry and well-being of the ebb and flow of life. An inner death is surrender into the life-cycle and this process invites us to trust a greater story than the egoic mind can imagine.
Surrender? That can be a difficult word. What does surrender mean in this context? Giving up? Losing hope? Abandoning an ideal? I believe that surrender in the story of Christ on Good Friday was about trust. “Into Your hands”, he prayed. It wasn’t a giving up, it was a letting go of control; an intimacy of the heart between Christ and the Divine; allowing a surrender into the unknown. To surrender into the unknown is to allow mystery into one’s life. One lets go of how the story will end. It can be deeply frightening to let go of control but it is the invitation over and over as we move through our lives. I remember hearing the whisper of the Divine over my shoulder as I was driving down the road one day: “Cathy, do you trust me now?” As I was growing in honesty and truth-telling in my dialogue with the Divine, I replied, “No! No, I don’t.” I wanted to trust. But in all honesty, I didn’t. I was afraid. I was afraid to trust. I was afraid to let go.
Allowing ourselves to be honest with our lack of trust is the place of truth-telling and authenticity. We can’t fake it. We can’t push ourselves to trust. We can’t wear masks with the Divine. All is known and seen anyways. We might as well lay it on the table. This place of truth-telling becomes the ground for real conversation, with one’s own self with the mystery of Love. As I allowed my lack of trust to be exposed, I experienced something that surprised me. I found there was no judgement, only grace. In a paradoxical way, this grace became the very catalyst for me to take the step to trust. Grace wasn’t forcing my trust. I was always given the freedom. And it was this very freedom that invited me to leap into trust; trust that I could die to how I thought things should be and surrender into the unknown.
Your freedom is at the centre of how Love loves. This is the essence of Love and I believe this freedom is at the heart of Good Friday; demonstrated through the trust that Christ embodied. If we desire transformation, the paschal mystery doesn’t start with a rosy story or an easy path. It is an invitation to trust, the deepest invitation you will ever know. Many of us have been betrayed by another, an institution, and/or our concepts of the Divine. So how can we trust now? This becomes a place of inner wrestling, struggle and profound searching of the heart. No one can force another to trust. That is the tender gift of it all. When trust is given from one to another, it is the most precious offering that a soul can offer. When, in our past, that trust has been abused, we can be afraid to offer it again. This invitation to trust is our Good Friday, the entry into the stillness and shadowlands of Holy Saturday.
Holy Saturday has become a day of deep meaning in my life. When I began to ponder the significance of this day, I realized how symbolic it was in the path of transformation. In the story of Easter, the friends of Jesus entered a time of profound disorientation and not-knowing. Do you know disorientation? Do you know confusion? Do you know waiting? Do you know suffering? Are things not as you thought they would be? Have you entered a landscape you have never been in before? This place is holy ground. Did you know that disorientation is part of the soul journey? Did you know that times of obscurity and not-knowing are the very places of formation and growth? Did you know that waiting isn’t passive? Did you know waiting holds the possibility of something new? Holy Saturday is symbolic of a very uncomfortable place that most of us avoid at all costs. We run from discomfort. We run from disorientation. We run from waiting. And in doing so, we run from the greatest opportunities of growth in our lives.
The invitation of Holy Saturday is to stay in the discomfort; to stay at the tomb and not flee. The invitation of Holy Saturday is to allow ourselves to feel loss, pain, confusion and disorientation. If we imagine a tree dying in the forest, it goes through a time of disintegration and crumbling into the earth. This takes time, a long time. Disorientation can take time in us. We simply can’t flip from Good Friday to Easter Sunday in an hour. There is a slow inner process at work that can’t be rushed. For a tree to rot into the ground, it must go through seasons of dying, seasons of alchemy, where it yields into the soil to enter a new life form. I love walking through old growth forests and witnessing this process of yielding to death by nature. Nature yields and trusts. We fight and hold on. Nature can teach us that yielding and surrendering to death leads us into a time of waiting, formation, unknown. Holy Saturday invites us to welcome disorientation as a friend, a friend on the path of formation. If we stop resisting our discomfort, I wonder what might we become aware of? I wonder what might we notice? I wonder if we will be present when Easter Sunday brings a promise of a new story?
Easter comes as a surprise. I think many of us forget this. We think it is our right. But new life is always a surprise. If one has truly yielded to the unknown, then one truly doesn’t know how or when an Easter moment will come. One just has to remain in the tomb for as long as it takes. When one surrenders to Good Friday and Holy Saturday, a deep rest occurs. A rest of the soul. This rest emerges out of the trust that the soul has in Love. It is no longer in the ego’s hands to manage any outcome. In fact, one lets go of outcome. It no longer matters. One finds a union here in the dark. A union with Love that is deeper than any outer appearance. This union is hidden and full of mystery. But this union, when discovered in the dark, brings one home to the true
st essence of what it means to be human. Our soul remembers our Source, our soul remembers our true self, resting in Love. There is no longer any need to accomplish or acquire. One is already home. And so, the whole need for Easter disappears in the rest one finds deep in the darkness, the rest of being in union with Eternal Love. There is a mystery here that is so difficult to put into words but it is the mystery we are all invited to know.
When a new shoot springs from the rotted trunk of the dead red cedar in the deep woods close to my home, my eyes swim with tears. Another moment of grace. New life springing from a yielded form. The reality that nature teaches us is that our very surrender, in a paradoxical way, leads to new life. This is the opposite flow of our culture. The flow of the paschal mystery is of in, down, and surrender with trust. When the new shoot lifts up from the depths of this surrender, there is a sense of laughter, joy, wonder and glory. In our own lives, the wonder of new life isn’t something we can manage, control, produce, or acquire. It is a grace. It is a mystery that is a gift of wonder and beauty. It is a place that we no longer needed, but now can receive as a gift.
I wonder where you see the paschal mystery in your own life? I wonder if you can learn to embrace the journey and see it as a grace? I wonder if you can celebrate the moments of Easter that swell like the sun rising out of the dark night? I wonder if we together, can learn to walk with one another through the paschal mystery and honour the places of unknown. May we be people of transformation. May we be people who live into the mystery of grace.