On Emptiness, Advent and The Meditations on the Tarot

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Remember when I was told I had the flu? I ended up getting knocked down a week later with what felt and looked just like strep. After a few days in bed I finally started to feel better but still had this lingering exhaustion. I finally took myself to the doctor and found out it was mono, the whole darn month of it. I was relieved that I knew what it was and also happy that I hadn’t run in and gotten an antibiotic right away, since it would have done absolutely nothing anyway.
This place looked like a three ring circus had been living in my closets afterward and Ben did an amazing job of staying on top of the kitchen and groceries and the kids in addition to writing stories and whatnot. But there was quite naturally a mountain of laundry greeting me at the end of it all.

Oh and thanks garlic, for helping chase away vampires and mono.

Overall though, there has been a nice feeling of emptiness after being sick, as if all the bad stuff got burned out by the fever or torched with garlic in my throat. It was in a way nice to start Advent with this empty feeling. The first couple weeks of Advent are always a season of emptiness. It is hard to bring all that Christmas joy and good cheer into our hearts if they are emotionally cluttered. Advent is my favorite liturgical season, being rich in symbols and the remembrance of our world that waited for so long for the coming of a savior.

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In keeping with the interior silence of this season I started a book while sick that piqued my interest about a month ago when I discovered it online. The book, Meditations on the Tarot, a Journey to Chiristian Hermetcism is, as the title suggests,not light weekend reading. I have had to read about three pages a day and then digest it slowly.
Thus far, I have learned that the tarot actually predates it’s occultic reputation as a tool for divination. This apparently began around the eighteenth century in France. Previous to that it dates back to the Middle Ages in its use as a card game. While while not overtly Catholic, it is rich in catholic symbols and stories, since it arose from a culture that was so permeated by the faith.

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In this books, Von Tomberg, a Catholic convert,attempts to unpack the rich symbols of the tarot as a series of spiritual exercises and I have to say there are gems here. His theology is beautiful and at the same time very mystical, hardly suprising considering his Russian background. The book has an afterward by Von Balthazar. He admits that there are some problems with the work (among them Von Tomberg’s hazily friendly assessment of reincarnation–) but the good stuff far outweighs the bad. Von Balthazar assures us to be patient with the work and I am inclined thus far to agree, (though I feel like if someone could give it an overhaul and make it more accessible it could reach a broader range of readers, perhaps more people less familiar with obscure french esoteric writers, haha.)

There has for a long time been an unfair and at times unilateral focus on apologetics, the hard tacks moral theology and doctrine and Thomisitc syllogisms in American Catholic culture. I value these things deeply and am thankful for the formation they have given but at the same time for all their wonderful usefulness, this focus tends to neglect some of the more mysterious aspects of our faith . Certainly a solitary focus on these things, can, in time, make us forget how strange and beautiful the faith is. Also it tends to alienate us from what I feel is a potentially rich territory for evangelization, people who are open to beauty and mystery but perhaps searching for them in the wrong places, as well as perpetuating the church’s unfortunate public image as solely preoccupied with moral theology. ( Pope Francis I think would agree with this in his latest exhortation where he challenges us to be more missionary.)

Von Tomberg paints for me the faith afresh reminding me as he loves to that “that which is below is like which is above”. Of course that being said, this book is not for the faint of heart. It will probably inspire song in the Franciscan and give the Dominican a heart attack. There is also a bit of rambling to deal with from time to time and at times I will admit I got a bit lost, but it is well worth the occasional confusion or disagreement I have with the work for the immensely beautiful insights into myth, symbol, story, and faith that Tomberg reads in the cards. He reads not the future, but the living Christ, and the story of humanity and it’s pilgrim path toward redemption.

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