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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lent / Tarot / Rest: The Four of Swords

Lent / Tarot / Rest: The Four of Swords

The four of swords depicts a knight in armor carved atop a tomb. One sword is beneath the knight. Three swords hang on the wall. Light floods through a stained-glass window.

One immediately thinks of the Sabbath, a Christian inheritance from Judaism.

As far as I know, the Jewish Sabbath is unique among world religions. I lived Hinduism and Buddhism in Asia and I never heard or saw anyone mention anything like a weekly, sacred day of rest and reflection. I live among Muslim friends and neighbors now. I know Wiccans and Pagans. I don't see any comparison.

Think about that – we Christians and Jews worship a God who orders us regularly to devote time to not working, to contemplation and prayer.

The medieval church interior on the four of swords calls to mind the concept of Christian churches as sanctuaries. Back in the day, you could retreat from a pursuer who wanted to kill you by hiding out in a church. There you were legally safe.

This concept of the church as sanctuary has limited power; at least three bishops have been martyred on the altar. Stanisław Szczepanowski was murdered while he was saying mass by King Boleslaw in 1079. His body was then chopped up into pieces and the pieces were scattered. Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 in Cantebury Cathedral by four knights acting on behalf of King Henry II. A sculpture there depicts the knights' four bloody swords. Oscar Romero was murdered, probably by state-sponsored assassins, while saying mass in 1980.

The four of swords advises us to ponder these things. The light in this card is not pure, white light. Rather, it is tinted with the colors of a stained-glass window. That window depicts our history and our past heroes. We are to remember them, and take inspiration from them.

It's common for old people to tell the young that those young people don't know what they are missing.

I'm old now and I want to tell young people that they don't know what they are missing because they have no idea what a real Sunday is. When I was a kid, stores were closed on Sundays. People went to mass. We wore different, stiffer, cleaner, better clothes. We ate different, better, more delicious foods. We were nicer to each other. Once a week, on schedule, the world slowed down, became quieter, kinder and more intimate.

At the time, I often found Sundays boring. Now I look back and I realize that I was luxuriating in the time-out-of time sense that Sunday observation created. Time-out-of-time offers us many riches we can never discover if we are always in the midst of noise, haste, and selfish competition. 

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