Icon with the Virgin and Child, about A.D. 1175–1200, Kastoria, Greece;
It has been a very disconcerting time in the world these days. No corner on Earth is at peace. There is a website that lists all the conflict zones, aptly named "Wars in the World." http://www.warsintheworld.com/ According to the August updates, there are currently 62 nations on Earth involved in wars. The wars can be between nations or involve one or more of the 551 militias groups. The site is updated monthly. With social media, global exposure to ethnic and religious violence has multiplied exponentially, with major news networks often quoting facebook and twitter for insights on the ongoing tragedies.
Even in areas with no formal war or militia influence, violence is rampant. Violence within homes, in schools, malls and even movie theaters seems to be common place. Any attempt to address the issue is seen as infringing on someones rights. Apparently the right to kill is more important, and has a better lobby than the right to live.
This August marks the 100 year anniversary of World War One. In many ways, similar political and ethnic situations exist as they did in the Summer of 1914. That war unleashed a new kind of savagery upon the earth in terms of the mechanization of military actions. So severe and brutal was the experience of air and land machinery used to fight, so unique and horrifying was the war on soldiers and civilians alike, that humanity first started to experience post traumatic stress syndrome, and called the recurring nightmares and frayed nerves "shell shock."
As we witness modern brutality, a common thread of response is seen throughout the newspapers, web sites and internet comments. Somehow, according to popular opinion, certain groups deserve to be slaughtered and traumatized, while others do not. If one objects to or remarks on the violence towards one group, they must endure the ire of the opposing group. How are we to face this age of quickening of violence and strife? What is the answer to such suffering?
The Icon above is of a genre that is typical of the geography and age from which it was made. On the back of the Icon is a picture of the crucified Christ.
Icon with the Man of Sorrows, about A.D. 1175–1200, Kastoria, Greece
The Madonna's in the above genre, as well as the Black Madonna's in general are portrayed as very sad. The Madonna above seems to be clutching her child in anticipation of what is to come, as if she can see the future pictured on the back of the Icon.
Violence and suffering can be as distracting as pleasure and entertainment. In Anthroposophical Christology, we are told about the reappearance of the Christ in the Etheric Realm. We are told that as Christ initiated his penetration of the Etheric at the same time as World War One. His main appearance was to commence in 1933. During each corresponding time of human history when the Christ was becoming manifest in the Etheric realm, major strife and horror disrupting all of civilization occurred on a global scale. Instead of witnessing the Christ in the Etheric, humanities gaze was focused on the Nazi's rise to power. What are we being distracted from at this time in human evolution?
The Black Madonna's became prominent during the era of the Crusades. This was also a time of great violence, social upheaval and seemingly endless warfare and religious strife. Rudolf Steiner tells us that the Crusades were a preparation for the age of Consciousness Soul, the age we are currently experiencing. The age of Consciousness Soul is when we are to purify our Astral bodies, the collective Astral plane of humanity, to allow pure thoughts to come from the Spiritual World to penetrate our minds and souls. We are to learn to think independantly and to choose morality, to choose the Divine in full freedom and from our own effort, In essence we are to be fully conscious in order to choose to allow the Christ into our hearts, minds and souls. All of the Black Madonna's have narratives of endurance through incredible odds. The Madonna at the top of this post, has also endured through many wars, cultural upheavals. While she seems anxious and upset at the future of her child, we know of the triumph ahead.
Our task in this age of great suffering is to stay focused on the Divine. Not only the Divine for the sake of the Divine, but to be aware of the spark of the Divine in each human we encounter. We can be in solidarity with those who suffer, and recognize the worth of each human regardless of externals. We can pray for those who are crossing the threshold at this time that their life forces be used for the good. We can consciously forgive those who perpetrate evil, in order to free ourselves, to purify our thoughts as preparation for the Cosmic Christ.
One of our community members lost his daughter to an insane murderer. As our community reeled with the shock of the incident, my Priest talked about a truth we often overlook in our sadness and anger at injustice.
When a soul looks back on their death from an act of violence, it is remembered with great joy. Why? Because the death and resurrection which happens as a result of the violence is the ultimate triumph of life over death, of goodness over evil, of entering into communion with the Divine. We on this side of the threshold, grieve accordingly. But for those who have had their lives cut short by evil, they are released into the next phase of existence. We can work with them, pray with them and for them so that they can inspire the living to acts of love and brotherhood. We can celebrate their becoming part of the Mystic Body of Christ, the community of which we all are to become a treasured part.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. Romans 8:38
If you go to the prison in Rome where Paul wrote this verse, you will have a new appreciation for the transcendent joy that comes with the knowledge that there is more to life than what we can experience with our senses. While evil seems to swirl about, it is trying to distract us on a grand scale to the fact of our spiritual ascent to the Divine. We are preparing our hearts and souls for the Cosmic Christ, so that he can penetrate us and help us to be part of the Mystic Community of Light and Love. Nothing, not one thing in heaven and earth, not violence, not genocide, nothing can separate us from the power of the love of the Divine. The Divine understands betrayal, death through torture and violence and weeps for the pain of those who experience these traumas, but the Divine through the example of Christ shows us there is more, so much more.
I long for the days when the strife ends, but I welcome the transformation that is happening now, the great awakening of Humanity to her Divinity. Until then, I cling to the hope the Black Madonna inspires. Suffering, endurance, will, it is not all in vain. She has suffered, she has lost, she understands and she triumphed. Her son suffered injustice and a violent death, and overcame. So shall we, so shall we.
The Black Madonna of Montserrat, Spain