En Una Noche Oscura, On A Dark Night

En Una Noche Oscura, On A Dark Night December 6, 2023

a dark night with the tracks of the stars moving in a circle
image via Pixabay

En una noche oscura,
con ansias en amores imflamada,

¡oh dichosa uentura!
salí sin ser notada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

A escuras y segura,
por la secreta escala disfrazada,
¡oh dichosa uentura!
a escuras y ençelada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

En la noche dichosa,
en secreto, que nadie me ueya,
ni yo miraua cosa,
sin otra luz ni guia
sino la que en el coraçon ardia.

Aquesta me guiaua
mas cierto que la luz del mediodia,
adonde me esperaua
quien yo bien me sabia,
en parte donde nadie parecia.

 

I didn’t go to Mass for the first Sunday of Advent.

I was still shaky after my severe flashback last week. But besides that, Serendipity had another round of car trouble, which I’ll tell you about before long. Jimmy is in the middle of fixing her. She’s in the front yard facing the wrong way on a one-way street, with the back tires held in place by bricks and one front tire up on a jack. And then the rain started, and then it turned to hard little bullets of hail.

There was a time in my life when this would have been no excuse. I’d have been forcing Adrienne out the door on a mile-long walk in the December wet so that I wouldn’t be guilty of the mortal sin of “missing my Sunday obligation.” But I don’t do that anymore. I decided enough was enough. We talked about the readings at home and lit one Advent candle by the Christmas tree. Adrienne went to bed early so as not to be late for school, and I went to bed late.

I couldn’t sleep.

I was scared because I hadn’t been to Mass. I was scared because the religious trauma has made it impossible to go to confession for quite a long time now, and I don’t know when I can go back if I ever can at all.

When I was Adrienne’s age I would panic at bedtime, for fear I’d die in the night with a mortal sin I’d forgotten I committed on my conscience. Now I am nearly forty. I can’t think of a dogma of the Catholic Faith I don’t believe. I love Catholic social teaching. I love saints. I love watching Catholic doctrines evolve to be more and more faithful to the truths we’ve been taught. I would like to be a practicing Catholic. But due to my childhood in the Charismatic Renewal in Columbus and my misadventures in Steubenville as an adult, and due to the horrific revelations about the abuses committed by Mike Scanlan and his proteges, my trauma is so severe that I can’t stand to receive the sacraments. I’ve been trying to plaster myself to the wall in the foyer at Sunday Mass, but this week I couldn’t even do that. So there I was, panicking at bedtime again, just as I did when I was a child.

Sometimes I envy the people who go through religious trauma and decided there’s no God at all. I still believe in God. I still believe in Christ, and I would like to follow this Christ. But I don’t know how to love Christ when I couldn’t do just what the Church ordered me to do.

I was afraid that Christ would be angry with me, that I couldn’t fulfill the simple instructions His church set out for me. Just walk into the funny box and whisper your sins to the rapist. Just stand in the echoing building with the loud music, listen to the sermon about the pains of hell, say “amen” and stick out your tongue when the rapist proffers the Host. Just claim that you love all these things. Just pretend you don’t know what you know. I tried for so many years, and now I am paralyzed.

I don’t know exactly how Christ feels, that the Church that claims to speak for Him is the one who caused all this damage.

The other day, on social media, a nameless troll account accused me of blasphemy for saying it’s possible for the Church to hurt people, but he’s wrong. He just is. The Church ruined my life. The Church has ruined countless lives. many far worse than mine. And the Church is also where I came to know Christ who is the only Person that makes my life worthwhile.

I wished I could talk to Christ, but I felt as if I couldn’t.

All I could feel was the whole Church looming up to condemn me: a barricade, a wall, a great big Gothic cathedral, a monastery set on a cliff, the giant Baroque nightmare that is Saint Peter’s Basilica, Franciscan University’s Finnegan Fieldhouse all decked out for a Festival of Praise, set as a barrier between me and Christ. It was like that song we had on a cassette tape of fun rambunctious hymns growing up. “So high, you can’t get over it! So low, you can’t get under it! So wide, you can’t get round it! You must go in at the door!” But the door was locked, and the Church was taunting me.

I remembered that, over the weekend, when sparring with the internet troll, I had exclaimed “the Church is Christ’s abusive boyfriend!”  and in some ways I meant it as a joke, but I also didn’t. Because the Church, which was meant to be the teacher and mother and hospital for healing and rescuing God’s children, was keeping Christ locked up inside when I wished He would come talk to me.

I remembered one of my favorite poems, “Noche Oscura,” by Juan de la Cruz.

Juan de la Cruz used to be one of my favorite saints, but recently I’ve been afraid to talk to him because I assume he doesn’t want me. Back in 2016 when the secular Carmelites of Steubenville told me not to come back because the Holy Spirit told them I didn’t fit, I thought that he and Teresa of Avila were rejecting me. Now that I know how corrupt the Catholic Church is around here, I’m not so sure.

Sometimes I think they were protecting me.

“Noche Oscura” is about a young woman sneaking away for a tryst with her lover– Saint John’s soul is the young woman, and the lover is Christ. I always thought that was so scandalously beautiful, to compare the spiritual life of a male monk to a girl sneaking away to make love to a lover she’s not supposed to meet. How sublime. How subversive. How very unlike the Catholicism I’ve seen practiced.

In my mind, just then, the imagery of the poem flipped around backwards.

I imagined Christ sneaking out of His terrible church– out of the cathedral, the monastery, the basilica, the university fieldhouse– and coming to be with me.

I imagined Him, vulnerable, crying, battered and bruised by that terrible abusive Church just as I was.

I imagined myself getting the first aid kit and trying to help.

Eventually we were holding each other, crying together– the same tears, the same trauma, the same helplessness.

Eventually, I fell asleep.

It didn’t hurt so badly when I woke up in the morning.

¡Oh noche que me guiaste!
¡oh noche amable mas que el aluorada!,
¡oh noche que juntaste
amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!

En mi pecho florido,
que entero para el solo se guardaua,
alli quedo dormido,
y yo le regalaua,
y el ventalle de cedros ayre daua.

El ayre de la almena,
cuando ya sus cabellos esparzia,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello heria,
y todos mis sentidos suspendia.

Quedeme y oluideme,
el rostro recline sobre el amado,
ceso todo, y dexeme,
dexando mi cuidado
entre las açucenas olvidado.

En mi pecho florido,
que entero para el solo se guardaua,
alli quedo dormido,
y yo le regalaua,
y el ventalle de cedros ayre daua.

El ayre de la almena,
cuando ya sus cabellos esparzia,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello heria,
y todos mis sentidos suspendia.

Quedeme y oluideme,
el rostro recline sobre el amado,
ceso todo, y dexeme,
dexando mi cuidado
entre las açucenas olvidado.

 

O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
Lover and loved one moved in unison.

And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.

And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.

I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.

 

 

 

The partial English translation of Noche Oscura in today’s post is taken from A. Z. Foreman’s translation, which can be read here and heard here

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

 

 

 

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