Monday, 13 March 2017

Jean Vanier: Peter's Possible Breakdown, in the Courtyard of Temple Official Annas

[I (= Toomas Karmo) am this Lent working through the Passion as narrated in the John's Gospel. One of the printed resources I am using in my small Lenten project is Jean Vanier's meditative, para-poetic, book, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John (Toronto and Mahwah, New Jersey: Novalis, 2004; further particulars on the author and his book may be had from and I would recommend this book to my readers. I hope that the copyright-law doctrine of Fair Use allows me here to quote a couple of brief extracts. In quoting, I have tried - subject to the possible vagaries of the blogger software on the side of the Web servers, and of browsers on the side of Web downloaders -  to retain Jean Vanier's typesetting. In his specialized typesetting, Jean Vanier uses line breaks akin to the line breaks of poetry, thererby seeking to establish and define a particular meditative rhythm.] 

[First, from chapter 23, headed "The King of Love in Chains", comes Jean Vanier's suggestion regarding Peter's state of mind in the courtyard of Annas, as Yeshua ben-Joesph undergoes an informal preliminary interrogation. Peter has just uttered the first of his three disavowals - mendaciously denying, in response to a question from one of Annas's servants, that he, Peter, is a disciple of Yeshua ben-Joseph. I underline the bits where Jean Vanier points to a central theme in pastoral theology, namely the intrusion of the "Me-me-me, the Great Me". As I presume is known to most spiritual directors in most faith traditions, intrusion of the me-me-me marks the onset of spiritual death. One might recall, in connection with that mode of dying, Walter de la Mare's poem on Napoleon's 1812 retreat from Moscow: What is the world, O soldiers?/ It is I:/  I, this incessant snow,/ This northern sky; / Soldiers, this solitude/ Through which we go/  Is I.

What has happened to Peter? 
Is he afraid of being arrested by the troops? 

Or is it something deeper than fear? 
Maybe he is going through a kind of breakdown. 
He has left everything to follow Jesus
and given his whole life to be with him. 
No doubt people in his village had warned him:
"Don't follow that man. 
You will see, it will all end badly as it has in so many other cases." 
And now, look at Jesus, weak and silent. 
He cannot be the Messiah! 

Peter believed that the Messiah he had been following
was a man of power who would liberate Israel,
force the Romans to withdraw
and renew the dignity of his people. 
Hadn't Jesus raised Lazarus from death?
Wasn't he the victorious King, the great One, 
the "One who was to come"?
That was Peter's idea of the Messiah, his ideology. 
That is what he wanted and expected for himself
since Jesus had chosen him to be with him
and share in this same wondrous power. 
Now Jesus has lost all power. 
He is bound in ropes, dragged away, to be tried like a criminal.
He accepts to be powerless. 
Silent, he refuses to speak or to defend himself!
Why doesn't he defend himself? 
Peter cannot stand it. 
How can the Messiah be weak?
Peter feels cheated, angry and upset. 
He is plunged into a terrible disappointment and feelings of despair. 
He could not accept Jesus, powerless, washing his feet. 
He does not want to be a disciple of this weak Jesus, a weak Messiah! 
He is not just denying Jesus
but denying also all that he has seen, heard and lived
during those years with him. 
He is denying his own self and his own experience! 
That is why he has lost his identity. 

[Just after this passage, Jean Vanier, having made a section-break, continues as follows:] 

Each of us risks not wanting the real, living Jesus, 
Son of God and Son of Man,
wanting only the Jesus of our own imagination 

[This is the end of the current blog posting.] 

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