Tag Archives: Paschal Mystery

The Problem of Pain

In “The Problem of Pain,” published in 1940, Lewis offered the reader this overly humble confession: “You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it.  You need not guess for I will tell you; I am a great coward.”  In a letter to his brother Warnie, written while working on the book, he claimed: “If you are writing a book about pain and then Quote March 30you get some actual pain […] it does not either, as the cynic would expect, blow the doctrine to bits, nor, as a Christian would hope, turn into practice, but remains quite unconnected and irrelevant, just as any other bit of actual life does when you are reading or writing.” Neither the confession nor the claim stood the test of time.  In 1961, Lewis wrote about pain again, this time about his own.  In “A Grief Observed” he inadvertently satisfied the alleged curiosity of his readers.  But he did not come across as a coward; nor did his firm grasp of “a theory of suffering” prove altogether irrelevant.  True, his faith in God was challenged; he uttered blasphemies; he doubted God’s existence; he went through the very objections to God’s goodness which he had refuted in “The Problem of Pain”  All of those complaints seemed valid in the midst of his hurt.  But then, as a good southerner would say – he thought better of himself: “Why do I make room in my mind for such filth and nonsense? Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?”

When feeling disguises itself as intellect, nonsense is possible.  Nowhere is it truer than in the problem of pain.  Yet, from the Christian perspective, anything that can reasonably be said about suffering is only a feeble glimpse of  Paschal Mystery.  Lewis’s solution to “the problem of pain” prepares the intellect for a ponder the Mystery.

Prayer

Lord we feel pain in so many ways in this life and we fail understand why you don’t protect us more. Today, we pray, that you will give us a deeper understanding of this journey through life. Help us to see the way that our pain has , and continues, to make us who we are and who we hope to be. May God give us the handles we need to navigate the sometimes very difficult path that is set before us.

Amen

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The Paschal Mystery

by Richard Rhor

By the grace of God, saints and holy ones of every century still got the point of the transforming power of the path of descent, but only if they were willing to go through those painful descents that Catholics called the “way of the cross,” which Jesus called “the sign of Jonah,” which Augustine called the “paschal mystery,” or the Apostles Creed called “the descent into hell.” Without these journeys, there’s something you simply don’t understand about the nature of God or the nature of the soul.

“Can you drink of the cup that I am going to drink?” Jesus said to James and John, who still wanted roles. “We can!” they responded, and he said, to paraphrase, “Indeed, you will and you must, but roles are not my concern” (see Matthew 20:22-23). Religion is largely populated by people afraid of hell; spirituality begins to make sense to those who have been through hell—that is, who have drunk deeply of life’s difficulties.

Christians speak of the “paschal mystery,” the process of loss and renewal that was lived and personified in the death and raising up of Jesus. We can affirm that belief in ritual and song, as we do in the Eucharist, but until people have lost their foundation and ground, and then experienced God upholding them so that they come out even more alive on the other side, the expression “paschal mystery” is little understood and not essentially transformative.

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Filed under Christian Journey, Lent, Richard Rhor