Honoring the Dark

In Owning Your Own Shadow Robert A. Johnson examines the Jungian concept of how shadow exists in all of us, and that there is a balance we need to maintain between the light and the dark, creation and destruction, up and down, female parts of ourselves (anima) and male parts of ourselves (animus) and all the polarities of existence. The point of honoring the shadow is to keep it from erupting and destroying our lives. In so explaining this balance Johnson makes a most interesting observation about the incorporation of this concept in the Catholic Mass: "The Catholic Mass is a masterpiece of balancing our cultural life. If one has the courage to see, the Mass is full of the darkest things: there is incest, betrayal, rejection, torture, death - and worse. All this leads to revelation but not until the dark side has been portrayed as vividly as possible. If one went to Mass in high consciousness one would tremble at the awfulness of it - and be redeemed by its balancing effect. The Mass lost much of its effectiveness when it was modernized and made to serve the cultural process. One ought to be pale with terror at the Mass."

I admit that I am a modern. A kneeling Rite IIer. But as a journalism major turned lawyer I have spent a lifetime trying to get clearly and concisely from point A to point B and have made a career out of eliminating legaleze (legal disease). To that end I am somewhat uncomfortable humbly beseeching and am downright offended at saying that I am not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. I don't mind if you like that language; I just don't. I admit that I have gotten myself in hot water with a number of Rite Iers who want me to observe the beauty of the language and learn some humility.

Still, Johnson's point is well taken. I think that we gloss over so much of our shadows at church, we have to honor our shadows elsewhere. I think that Sam Shoemaker, the Episcopal priest instrumental in the creation of AA said it best in What the Church has to Learn from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Johnson indicates that after the balancing effect of the Mass was eliminated "we rely on less effective ways of balancing today. Horror movies, gangster epics, violence, the fashion of something garish or shocking in our headlines, the popularity of murder mysteries - all of these compensate for our high productivity and creativity. But these are clumsy elements compared to the fine works of art of earlier cultures."

The photograph above honors the dark and oddly served to examine my shadow's fascination with this image of what looks like a monster - actually a cicada - perched on the head of the blessed Mother Mary statue who stands guard at the entrance of my garden. Read about the symbolism of the cicada, to include its Christian symbolism and enjoy the irony of this image captured by my shadow at The Sacred and the Profane.

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