Monday, February 06, 2006
The Sacred Crutch
from the Quran
The ending to a story whose beginning is an angel of Allah granting to king Solomon power over basically all of creation, including the angelic (and "demonic") realms; at one point Solomon enlists the demons to laboriously build for him a Temple to Allah...
"'When shall the resurrection be?'
'That is known only to Allah; but assuredly not before the advent of Mohammed, the last of all prophets. Previously to it the prophet Isa (Christ), sprung from thy own family, shall preach the true faith, shall be lifted up by Allah, and be born again. The nations of Jadjudj and Madjudj shall burst the wall behind which Alexander hath confined them. The sun shall rise in the west, and many other signs and wonders shall precede.'
'Suffer me to live until the completion of my temple, for at my death the genii and demons will cease their labor.'
'Thy hour-glass has run out, and it is not in my power to prolong thy life another second.'
'Then follow me to my crystal hall!'
The Angel of Death accompanied Solomon unto the hall, whose walls were entirely of crystal. There Solomon prayed; and, leaning upon his staff, requested the angel to take his soul in that position. The angel consented; and his death was thus concealed from the demons a whole year, till the temple was finished. It was not until the staff, when destroyed by worms, broke down with him, that his death was observed by the spirits, who, in order to revenge themselves, concealed all kinds of magical books under his throne, so that many believers thought Solomon had been a sorcerer. But he was a pure and divine prophet, as it is written in the Koran, 'Solomon was no infidel, but the demons were unbelievers, and taught all manner of sorceries.' When the king was lying on the ground, the angels carried him, together with his signet ring, to a cave, where they shall guard him until the day of the resurrection."
From the mouth of Jesus Christ, risen savior who "is preparing a place for us" (it is Christ himself who is "preparing" this place", not a company of demons acting as our servants, as in the above story): "I will destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days". From here Christ's "body, the Church" is to be the new Shekhinah (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekinah), which had previusly been represented by the Temple, or Sanctuary. This Sanctuary, this place of purity and safety in which we can freely (now) seek the presence of God and be "at home" with ourselves and others (The Greek word 'skene' - dwelling - is thought to be derived from 'shekinah' and 'sakan'). This is something all humans desire; and when they find a likeness of it, they are drawn to it.But all re-memberances of Solomon's staff, his crutch upon which he was able to build his Temple, will ultimately fall; and the only Sanctuary that will last is the one built upon the cornerstone, which is the stubling block of men. "One lovely image that affected me...is of Christ's righteousness being like a glorious wedding dress that makes me utterly gorgeous to God...Knowing that I stand before God as his beloved, because of Christ, has freed me to explore some of the disturbing and dark aspects of who I am...Because Christ's righteousness is the foundation of my self-concept, I no longer have to 'keep up appearances' with myself, God, or anyone else" - from The Emotionally Healthy Church, p. 82-83. Let me repeat a portion of the opening story: "his death was thus concealed from the demons a whole year, till the temple was finished. It was not until the staff, when destroyed by worms, broke down with him, that his death was observed by the spirits..." Compared to "I no longer have to 'keep up appearances'..."
For all of us, our Death, like the Solomon's death that was concealed from the demons in the above story, is or contains these dark corners of our soul. "Do not eat from this tree, or you will die". And, like Solomon, the rest of us seek to conceal our Death so as to continue building our facade, using whatever crutches (or staffs) are necessary. This "freedom to explore some of the disturbing and dark aspects of who I am" is therefore something that spills out in all likenesses of God's Sanctuary. It is only appropriate because we all carry memory of our perfect purity, our original goodness in the eyes of God; and therefore long to be purged of our demons.
Let's go back to the quote from The Emotionally Healthy Church. It said, "Because Christ's righteousness is the foundation of my self-concept." Following is the crutch, an affirmation of the "righteousness" of Solomon, which hinges accross the light of Christ's perfect Beauty:
"He therefore mounted the rostrum, and, before the whole assembled people, pronounced a discourse, in which he described the pure and God-devoted life of all the prophets, from Adam until David. In passing to Solomon, he praised the wisdom and piety of the first years of his reign, but regretted that his later courses showed less of the true fear of God.
As soon as Solomon had learned the contents of this discourse, he summoned Assaf, and inquired of him whereby he had deserved to be thus censured before the whole people.
Assaf replied, 'Thou hast permitted thy passion to blind thee, and suffered idolatry in thy palace.'
Solomon hastened to the apartments of Djarada, whom he found prostrate in prayer before the image of her father, and exclaiming,
'We belong unto Allah, and shall one day return to Him!' he shivered the idol to pieces, and punished the princess. He then put on new robes, which none but pure virgins had touched, strewed ashes on his head, went into the desert, and implored Allah for forgiveness.
Allah pardoned his sin; but he was to atone for it during forty days."
The crutch, the staff, by which Solomon fools the demons into finishing the construction of the Temple, is the same as the crutches we all use to appear righteous "before the whole assembled people"! And they are both born out of the desire for the same safe Sanctuary of healing, love, forgiveness, and the simple presence of God - a desire for home. The same desire to remember the origins of our good creation in the Garden. No crutch but a cross, however sacred, will hold us up.
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