Judas in two reflections
The "Judas Cup" ceremony at Durham Cathedral, and reading through John Buchanan's "The Ballad of Judas Iscariot" (with the assistance of Lafcadio Hearn)
Regardless of the tradition, practicing meditation or contemplative prayer will eventually force us to face the most unpleasant and unsettling aspects of our selves. This is the part of practice that must be handled with care, both by the one whose meditation/contemplation is dredging up his or her ugliest memories, self-revelations, and anxieties, but also by those who are teaching meditation or are spiritual directors. The skill of the latter lies in guiding disturbed meditators between the Scylla and Charybdis of succumbing to depression or despairing dread on the one hand (the ancient Christian monastics warned of this danger constantly) and the self-protective tendency to refuse such a purgative encounter on the other. Most of us don’t desire to see our positive self-images demolished, although many of us need it. Some of us suffer from the opposite problem: our self-image has long been trampled by others and, consequently, by ourselves as well, and these persons need an interior resurrection. That said, the contemplative life should strike a balance for us, one which encourages us to learn step by step how to see our selves as they really are, without delusion and without condemnation. For those of us who engage in liturgies (the more objective the liturgy and elevating of the psyche the better), these should ground our contemplation in the cycle of death and rebirth on a regular basis. And this, during this Holy Week, puts me in mind of the role of the model of Judas Iscariot for us. To this end, I offer the following reflections, two in number: the first on the “Judas Cup” ceremony unique to Durham Cathedral in England; the second is a reading and commentary of Robert Buchanan’s strange but affecting poem, The Ballad of Judas Iscariot.
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