Thursday, 15 April 2010

And so it is ten days since I left Jerusalem...

It has slowly started to sink in - that I will not get to Damascus gate by turning around the corner, that I have to say Thank you in Norwegian, and that it is absolutely impossible to buy Tishbi French Riesling or Noah Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. The canteen food tastes dreadful, vegetables are next to inedible, but tap water is better than the bottled one and sunglasses seem unnecessary even at midday in bright sunlight.

I am back. An article in a newspaper today said that we are importing worldwide conspiracy theories from the hate-filled Middle East. Eurabia, the author - a political scientist - said, means that Muslims are going to reproduce themselves at geometric progression throughout Europe. Wow! It is indeed a good way to discredit a term - by formulating it as an unprecedented absurdity. We are here, they are there, the author said. I thought in Jerusalem I will be saying the same thing in 3 weeks. Will I?

Tears were streaming down my face as I sat in our chapel, the pain of love getting too much to bear. It seemed back there at times that God chose to let me close to his heart, where love is so strong that it hurts unbearably. Pain and love. Two sides of the same coin. Will I choose to forget how it feels? I didn't like this getting close to the heart of God, being united to Him in his suffering and His love. You can't, you can't, I whispered, you never would have forgotten the flesh of your flesh, the blood of your blood. All your harsh words, all your cruel prophecies - didn't precisely love motivate them? If I can feel so much pain, how much more must you... I thought I saw him weeping over Jerusalem, choking with tears, crouched in pain... 

As days went by a thought, or a prompting rather, grew stronger and stronger, a thought I did not want to share with anyone but God, fearing it would be - at best! - heretical. That you chose in some strange way to unite to your suffering those whom you meant to glorify. Those who cannot be united to you in a mystical way, because they are not your mystical body, they are not the Church. And yet they share your own flesh and blood. And the very fact that you would not leave your flesh and blood means that you would also identify with them in their suffering - and forever unite them to yours. 

The picture of Father Ratisbonne on the wall that I have passed by so many times without even noticing it was there, made me stop this last week. Thank you for praying for me, I felt compelled to say. I have been living in his room for 3 months. I can't say I was entirely happy with what came out of it - and I feared his own congregation wouldn't have been entirely happy with me, either. Theologically, yes, but politically... I came to the Western Wall on my first Friday night in Jerusalem and put up a long speech on Israel, the Church and replacement theology. I went to touch the magnetic stones of the Wall one last time just a couple of hours before leaving on the Sunday of the Resurrection - and took back every single word. Just three months. 

On coming back, the first two articles I read - one about our identity in Jesus, the other about Jewish Catholic identity - seemed to complete and clarify my thoughts, that weren't heretical after all. The strange thing was that the articles came out of the blue, unsolicited, one in a Cistercian publication, the other in an online magazine. Politics is a tougher case, though. 

They haven't learned anything from their history, an Argentinian girl told me in the cab to the airport. I must have used this phrase myself. Did I come up with it on my own or did I hear it from somebody? I think I repeated it uncritically. An American pastor did the same thing. He saw barbed wire and 10-meter fence, and he said he thought of ghettos. Did he think or did someone help him to think? Who knows... Maybe he did come to the conclusion on his own, as I would like to have thought I did. But why? Why didn't I think of the Shoah in Belfast? Why didn't I expect the Irish to learn anything from their history? Or from someone else's? They haven't learned anything from their history... And? Let's teach them again? Is that what it means? Didn't the Shoah happen, at least partly, because of Zionism? Wasn't the whole nation attempted to be killed precisely because they dared to raise their voices to build their own state? Zionism came before the Holocaust. They haven't learned anything from their history - How does this phrase sound now?

So I am left to ponder the new questions and new feelings, emptied of my old self-confidence in knowing God or people, emptied of preconceptions - and in a sense more free than ever. I miss it. I miss the times we had together, the energy, the supernatural feeling of being fully alive, fully present, the joy and the laughter (no, sister Jacqueline, I am not always THAT joyful!). But I miss it in a good and peaceful way, without any hint of sadness. That's how it should be...

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