The Mass as Metaphor

This morning I want to talk about metaphor.  A metaphor is a way of describing a lesser known thing by equating it to something more familiar.  For example if we want to describe a swiftly running man child we could say “the boy runs like a deer”, or we could say. “the boy is a deer”. If we say the boy IS a deer we are using metaphor.

 The Mass of the Sacred Marriage is a metaphor for a spiritual concept the joining of the unique fully integrated human soul with All That Is.

 Gnosis may be described as  revelation that takes place when the conscious soul or self comes face to face with the god.  Already we are inundated with metaphors – consciousness, self, soul and god are all words which cannot be refined down to a specific meaning- they can only be approximated, likened to, guessed at…

 A ritual may be defined as a re-encatment of an act of creation.  In the ritual of the Gnostic mass we reenact a meeting between god and the conscious self or soul. In this ritual, the priest becomes the stand-in- the metaphor, for the conscious self or soul and all the work of the mass is to call the ineffable thing we name Spirit or Goddess or God into the room for this meeting in order that all the actual conscious selves or souls in the room including the priest’s can participate in the encounter.

 If the priest stands for the human element in this story, who or what stands for god?  In this mass the bride and bridegroom stand for god.  Because Spirit is beyond naming and beyond description we fall back on metaphors and say God is two energies – feminine and masculine, then we use another metaphor to name those energies calling them bride and bridegroom, then the bride and bridegroom go even further and compare themselves to bread and wine.  With each metaphor, with each shift  in form, with each change of shape we come a little farther from the original entity but a little closer to what we can grasp, intuit or KNOW.

At first glance this may appear to be an amazing tissues of lies.  However, the only way metaphor works is if it contains within itself a true similarity and resonance with the object being described.  Bread and wine work as a metaphor for union, mingling, coming together because our bodies do in fact change and incorporate the food that enters our mouths into flesh and blood.  Two separate things do indeed come together to make a new third; just as the sperm and ovum of the male and female come together to make a new human being; just as the coming together of  the human self with the larger entity of Spirit results in new thoughts,  ideas, art, devices etc.

 The metaphor rings true because only the shape, the form, the image changes – the spirit or god at the core of the story remains as it is. This particular Gnostic mass is composed of metaphorical building blocks – each in itself comes with a long history of extrapolation which can be traced to an original common human experience.  Breaking bread, for example symbolizes hospitality, which symbolizes the meeting of strangers which includes the idea of sharing abundance as a way to forestall hostility.  But that is only one strand of the story of bread.  By putting bread on the table everything  that bread symbolizes in a hundred thousand years of human history is represented. Every other element here- the table, the blue cloth, the chalice the flame – everything has it own lineage of meaning.

 The story goes on and on weaving and reweaving itself as the mass progresses. and for each of you the story shifts and changes with each word, each time you attend, each time I say the words.  The ceremony comes to life in the moment, it lives in the moment, we create it together as a sacred meeting ground on which we may or may not come into contact with the ineffable. Whether we do or don’t make contact depends in great part on  both our willingness and our ability to think feel and see through the lens of metaphor.  The mass is a story, a magic carpet, a threshold, an opportunity – a metaphor which has the power to carry you beyond what you believe into gnosis.

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