This past weekend I attended the second of four workshops in the Soul of Christianity series with Atum O’Kane. Like the first workshop, this one was took me yet again deeper into the Christian story, this time through the symbolism of the cross. Although there were many highlights, I want to share one piece in particular that relates to this weeks topic.
Atum talked about the cross as a symbol for four directions (paths) of spiritual development:
The upper portion of the cross: The path of transcendence. This is associated with the virginal aspects of Mary, not in the piety sense of the word, but related to the unpolluted source of our soul. It is on this path that we cultivate the Witness which is a clear, unbiased lens through which to clearly observe our life.
The lower portion: The path of love. If the upper portion is the transcendent path, this one is the path of immenence. It is associated with Mary Magdelene and it is on this path that we willingly engage the realm of personal love (as Mary Magdelene endeavoured with Jesus). Heart break and exaltation, vulnerability and power. If the Witness is the impersonal aspect of the divine path, this is the deeply personal.
The left portion and right portions of the cross: represent a balance of tending to the inner and outer worlds and is associated with the sister duo of Mary and Martha (yet another Mary!). Biblically, Mary spent a great deal of time worshipping with Christ and tending to the inner world, while Martha was focussed on worldly duties. The symbol of the cross, interpreted this way, reminds us to maintain balance between these two poles. On the one hand digging into the every day, and on the other hand, steeping in the work of the soul.
Taken together each of these paths create a wholeness in spiritual development. We were urged to take “stock” of the ways that we are cultivating or neglecting any of these dimensions. For me, this interpretation created a new relationship to the cross that I’ve not enjoyed before. It is a living symbol that can be interpreted in many ways. This way in particular, was resonate for me, because it offers me a tool for checking in as I work toward balance in living a spiritual life.