Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Earth Offers A Cave

THE GEOGRAPHY SURROUNDING BETHLEHEM is filled with caves such as this one. Often the cave entrance is small or shallow, but then opens to a deep, high and wide interior, making caves excellent places to hunker down against bad weather or escape the notice of an enemy or predator. A cave is an earth-womb. Eastern Christians have thoughtfully preserved the earliest tradition that Jesus was born in a cave. The symbolism is spiritually significant.

What shall we present unto Thee, O Christ
For Thy coming to earth for us humankind?
Each of Thy creatures brings
Thee a thank-offering.
The angels; singing -
The heavens; a star - 
The Wise Men; treasures -
The shepherds; devotion -
The earth; a cave -
The desert; a manger -
But we offer Thee the Virgin Mother.
O Eternal God, have mercy on us.

(Eastern Christian Christmas Sticherion morning/evening hymn)

Caves are the earliest home of human beings. Now in Christ, God is making himself at home with us in our most basic or elemental place. Caves are also burial places. The cave of Christ's birth is a foreshadowing of his Good Friday burial and his Easter morning Resurrection. A cave is an entrance to the underworld to which Christ descended, pulling humankind up and out of death and darkness to his new life and light.

Are Christians spiritually mature enough to allow for this symbolism: that caves are hidden shelters for lovers: that in Christ's birth, God is loving the world with the intensity of a lover! 

But a cave is also an image of the unconscious human mind and heart. That is to say, the human mind is filled with secret chambers, niches, tunnels, disorienting twists and turns, dead ends that seem to entrap or corner us. We bump around in the enveloping darkness of a deep cave. Navigating that darkness is difficult and frightening hard work. We can imagine ourselves standing cautiously outside the cave pictured above and saying, "I'm not going in there." But only through this interior journey do we come to transformation - our growth in putting on the mind of Christ - which is the full development of my own God-gifted mind in freedom, authenticity, compassion, creativity and love. 

And what might I come upon in my own inner cave?
  • the realization of how dependent I am,
  • the tricks I play to manage the day,
  • the anxieties and fears that preoccupy and tire me,
  • my defenses and habit of blaming,
  • the masks I wear,
  • the untreated resentments I carry still,
  • the lies I tell myself,
  • how I calculate and justify my choices,
  • my dread of  confronting my own inadequacy,
  • my struggle to believe I am loved by God,
  • the niggling question that I am not good enough...
  • that God holds a grudge against me,
  • why can't I just believe that God has allowed each part of my journey for my own good?
  • What is buried deep down inside that I really want for myself?
There was a film years ago, Come to the Stable. I'd say, this Christmas, Come to the Cave - the cave in the icon shown here, bringing all of these concerns, questions and desires. And like Mary, after the shepherds departed, ponder the meaning and perhaps, what might I do next?

pay attention to the inner cave


  1. This is an incredibly intense use of symbolism. Humans are afraid to enter caves unless forced to or in dire need to seek shelter or maybe even on a dare. Animals have no such fear. They freely enter the dark space and exit unharmed. Our consciousness which creates these dark inner spaces also tells us that we don't want to enter these unlit and twisted recesses. Thank you for putting this test to us. Will I enter my inner cave? One step at a time.

  2. We might begin by taking even a peek. What matters is that I begin.

  3. There are questions that hit very close to my heart. There are times when I do think that when I do wrong or make bad choices that God does hold a grudge and that when something bad happens, I have brought it upon myself. I know this is wrong of me, but it is inherently in my thoughts. Pray for me Father that I might find more light in my cave.

  4. When God loves - God loves by forgiving. It's more like a mother who stands by and swoops in to lift up her child who is learning to walk. That tender. Some people want it to be much harder than that - or severe - but it isn't like that at all.

  5. You always have great insight. If, we can just "begin" to look. Kind of makes the 1st step a little easier. Thanks for all those helpful thoughts.