There is nothing you know that can’t be known. Eternity has invaded and fulfilled creation with its fullness. Everything we learn is only that which has been passed on from some masters who found intimate and profound connection to the source of knowledge. And this lesson is at the core of what Master Yoda has been trying to pass on to us younglings and padawans since 1980 or so. Never stop educating yourself. Never stop going to the source of goodness and growth and finding the lessons found in that long sought after place, for they are the beginning of eternal life.
It is the function of being a human to climb to ever greater levels of knowledge and self-understanding; to grow to be a more vital and contributing member to the community in which you find yourself. And as outward looking as that is, it begins by withdrawing. We must withdraw from the world, if only for a little while, in order to be trained up for the way in which we are called. In this majestic Christmas season, we are actually being called to pull away from the hubbub and search our hearts for what is true, eternal, meaningful and salvific. We must go to a place of education – but education on a grander scale than any mere university can offer. We are called and invited to the source of that knowledge, to the prime mover who is all things.
Here is your spoiler alert. Do not read any further if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi. Seriously, if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi, you shouldn’t be doing anything else right now anyway. Bookmark my ramblings, pull up Fandango and run to the next available screening. I did, and I’m about to talk about it a little.
All lessons reside with the source of knowledge. Well, more on that in the real world is coming. For now, though, we know that is why Luke Skywalker ended up on the island of Ahch-To. He was searching for the root of the knowledge of the Jedi, the place where it was in its purest form. He disappeared from the Galaxy so that he could return to the roots of his religion. He was returning to the ways of the living Force. And he found an ancient cave there that contained what he was looking for – the ancient Jedi texts. These several texts are apparently so dear to Luke that they are kept in a safe place, a living cave. Did he find what he was looking for? I don’t know. Was he able to incorporate those lessons into his spiritual understanding of the Galaxy? I don’t know, and I think those answers are elusive to we the viewers. And I am fine with that mystery. I do not know what happened in that cave for Luke, and it is none of my concern. It is his journey, not mine. He must cultivate that quest and thirst for the promised land.
But it all begins in the cave. His Jedi training began in a cave on Dagobah. What lies in that cave? Only that which he brought with him. He descended some slick and shadowy steps into a depth of organic decay, bugs, and ultimately a battle. He drew his laser sword, attacked the enemy, unmasked it. He found that the combatant was himself. Beneath that Sith visage was his own countenance. He had died – only to be reborn to greater strength and power, emboldened and empowered to a greater position within the eternal fight between good and evil. He died in that cave, but was resuscitated to a higher, yet more humble, authority in the universe.
Everyone ever created can also achieve this sort of knowledge and truth; no one is barred from the totality of knowledge that is offered to we human beings, if we endure the test of the cave. The maturity and growth is also not simply handed over on request. That would devalue the might of the power of true knowledge. It must be sought by whatever means are available to each person. This hopeful mystery is available in a place even closer than is imagined – in the heart. Yes, pilgrimages and external journeys are necessary for the faithful ones, but that journey begins by delving into the heart and finding that God, Christ himself, is already enthroned there, waiting to give us a loving welcome. Christ says “When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray…that they may be seen of men…[W]hen thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly,” (Matthew 6.5-6 KJV). In this closet, a portable cave, we meet the source of knowledge, the fountain of wisdom. The eternal who is greater than the paltry limit of the most exalted of all creatures. I like the verse worded this way because of the vivid imagery of the closet. We all have one, hardly ever think of it. It is kind of in the corner of our rooms and holds our stuff – with a part further back that is probably a bit forgotten and frightening! But if we were to withdraw from the daily grind of the home and work, in a moment where we lay aside all earthly cares, the eternal and mysterious would have a chance to be opened up to us. And the place of the opening is just a few steps away.
The icon of the Nativity of Christ has clear connections to the caves and closets as mentioned. From ancient times, it has been understood that Christ was born in a manger in a stable, and that stable was in a cave. In fact, there is a very early Christian text that makes this clear. It is called the Protoevangelium of St James, and the author was an eyewitness to the divine birth.
[Joseph] found a cave there and brought her into it, and set his sons by her: and he went forth and sought for a midwife of the Hebrews in the country of Bethlehem…And they stood in the place of the cave: and behold a bright cloud overshadowing the cave. And the midwife said: My soul is magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen marvellous things: for salvation is born unto Israel. And immediately the cloud withdrew itself out of the cave, and a great light appeared in the cave so that our eyes could not endure it. And by little and little that light withdrew itself until the young child appeared: and it went and took the breast of its mother Mary. (Protoevangelium XVIII.1, XIX.2)
All were, and have always been, invited to the cave where Christ was born. The shepherds, the wisemen, the angels, the little drummer boy. It is that private closet for each of us, where the one who is Wisdom became human so that we humans might be more and more like God. As with all wondrous stories, our lives are not a series of disconnected events. Rather, if they are revealed through the lens of eternity, the human’s complete life is one whole. It is a continuous singular event revealing something greater than the sum of moments.
For Rey and Luke, we will leave that speculation for another time. For Christ, it is more apparent. Each of the touchstones in his life – his birth in a cave, childhood, ministry, crucifixion, entombment in a cave and resurrection – must be understood as one whole. Each block builds a mansion of incomprehensible glory. Shall we leave the story at a baby in a hay trough? No! It is part of one whole lifestory, right? Jesus was born in a cave. He ended his earthly life in a cave – and yet brought it up to something more than a tomb. It became the place of resurrection, fulfillment, wholeness, life triumphing over death, light outshining the darkness; and all of this is available to those who simply, meekly and humbly enter into their caves to seek the source of knowledge and the locus of hope. Happy Christmas. The war is over.
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Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it. You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at jamesw@CoffeeWithKenobi.com, occasionally at TheForceandFaith.blogspot.com as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the Coffee With Kenobi podcast!Powered by Sidelines