One Suffering

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

They will gaze on the one they have pierced. –Zachariah 12:10a, quoted in John 19:37

Let me use our classic Christian logo, the cross, to illustrate what Jung is trying to say about the transformative power of images. The cross is a deeply disturbing image of a naked bleeding man, with arms nailed open, dying on a crossbeam–a most unlikely logo for anything. It has probably been cheapened, and the shock taken away, by reason of too much familiarity. But perhaps this is because we do not gaze long enough or deep enough. Jung says the cross might be the most significant image in Western civilization. The very fact that we keep repainting and sculpting this now ubiquitous image tells us that the soul must need to see it. Those who never gaze upon the cross, allowing it to work its metamorphosis, miss out on a huge healing secret, a divine disclosure that most humans would never dare to imagine on their own.

One of my favorite lines from Jung is revealing here. He says, “The whole world is God’s suffering.” [1] This is not poetry but precisely the fruit of mystical seeing, or gazing until a deeper message comes through. Mystics see things in wholes. They connect smaller anecdotes and images to see bigger patterns. Jung saw every act of human suffering as a participation in what Christians would call the eternal crucifixion of the One Christ. There is only one suffering, as it were, and we are all participants in it. [2]

When the single image morphs into a universal image, you get its archetypal significance, and as the prophet Zechariah says, “You will weep for him as you would weep for your only child, you will mourn for him as if he is every child” (Zechariah 12:10b). That is how images can transform us, but only if we can move beyond the mere literal, specific image to the universal and always true image. Fundamentalists find this very hard to do; mystics and great poets seem to be able to do nothing else. Mystics wait for experiential knowledge of the Divine and are not satisfied with mere memorized answers.Read More »