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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lent / Tarot / The Fool

My Lent observance this year: drawing one tarot card at random each morning and blogging about it.

I promise you I did not plan this: the card I drew this morning was The Fool.

It was actually a couple of hours before I realized that I drew The Fool on April Fool's day.

A couple of Christian associations come to mind.

One is the tradition of being a fool for Christ. St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians includes many quotes that refer to folly.

"We are fools on Christ's account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute … For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness … For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

Some, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Church, took these verses as inspiration to be "fools for Christ." Being a fool for Christ often involved giving away all one's possessions and wearing no clothes or wearing rags.

I am not immediately attracted to this approach. I have been really poor and being really poor did not enlighten me. Hypothermia kills pretty quickly, as I learned in Nepal when I almost died of it.

And of course, women who walk around naked are treated differently than men who walk around naked. One is a fool for Christ; the other is "asking for it."

I live a pretty sparse existence and if I gave away all my possessions, first, chances are there would be no takers, and, second, I would immediately need something I had just given away.

Living close to the bone is good. Living on nothing is bad. When you really need a pencil, not having a pencil sucks up all your attention, leaving none for spirituality. When you've got a pencil, you can comfortably engage in theological reflection.

The Fool brings to mind another theme that I like better: the fortunate fall. The Fool in tarot depicts a man about to jump off a cliff. He seems blissfully unaware of the damage his body may sustain in such a fall. He is like Adam and Eve, leaving the garden of Eden, about to enter the world we now inhabit.

Some theologians, including Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, call this a "fortunate fall." It is through this fall into the material world that humanity becomes all it can.

St Augustine wrote, "For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist."

If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed, we would not be here. 

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