Monday, October 8, 2007

Jesus the Healer.

Jesus the folk healer. Oil on Canvas. Part of a dyptich of the Dalit Jesus. Collection of the Missions Prokura sj. Nuerenberg.

The search for cosmic integration in India was most forcefully expressed in the vision of the whole universe as forming the body of God. Many ancient texts refer to it, but it was the 11th century theologian Ramanuja (born 1017CE) who made this theme central to his (Vedantic) belief-system. God is the inner Self of all, and all else forms the ‘inseparably related’ body of God. Theologically, culturally, spiritually, this vision of things has wonderfully inclusive implications. It is a recurring theme explicit in many of the writings of Eric Lott, and is certainly implicit in much of the art of Jyoti Sahi.

Compelling as may be this vision of wholeness, the realities of both human and earth’s brokenness press hard on us. The longed-for state of cosmic shanta still seems little more than a distant dream. In India, it is the brokenness of the Dalit (and in different ways ‘Tribal’) people that most painfully strikes the heart of those who have seen both this vision of wholeness and the pain of God in the face of fellow-humans. Having seen the ‘face of God’ in the tortured yet glory-tinged face of Jesus, we have also seen that face in the oppression and pain of the ‘Broken People’. Their brokenness is part of the brokenness of Christ’s body. Jesus is a Dalit as much as he is Cosmic Lord.

Lest we become lost in dreams of ultimate togetherness, then, ‘God-in-Christ’ also becomes embodied in the particular face of those broken by life. Followers of Christ can never forget the world’s pain, and the very particular, very problematic ways in which that pain is manifest.

In Christian faith, therefore, the Cross is integral to understanding cosmos, the broken Body of Christ is integral to our vision of the healing of the whole body - personal, social, cosmic. The faithful - praying and living out their vision - look for signs of hope. Potent ‘signs’ leading up to that great Cross-sign, are the healing acts of Jesus - though no one should exclude ways of healing and hope opened up in other faith-traditions too. In sometimes very different ways we have been given a vision of the great community of creation, the family of creation, bound together into the all-inclusive body of God. This remains a compelling vision, whatever the seemingly insuperable obstacles to such togetherness.

As a potent sign of that longed-for cosmic harmony, acts of healing are central to the Gospel story. As Healer, Jesus sometimes seems akin to the Shaman healing-figure in traditional cultures. There is a struggle with ‘evil powers’, there are times when he sighs, groans, weeps, when he feels power being drawn out of him. Jesus becomes a wounded healer, one ‘by whose wounds we are healed’, as prophecy puts it.

Thus, the healing acts prefigure both the passion and the resurrection life of Jesus. In the act of healing, as well as the dis-stress Jesus experiences, there is the higher level of experience, an ec-stasis in the Spirit, into which he moves. This is the ‘shamanic’ mode through which divine healing takes place. Each healing act then becomes a ‘sign’ of the new life of God’s kingdom to come. God’s promised rule of peace and wholeness, is already breaking in.

The feeling of need for a channelling of divine power in the face of sickness and disease is still very strong in India. The burial-place of Muslim and Hindu saints, ‘God-men’ like Sai Baba, tribal shaman-figures, Christian pilgrimage-centres: all are seen as potential channels of healing. There are strong contextual co pulsions, as well as theological reasons, why the healing acts of Jesus are of such great importance in Jyoti’s perception and portrayal of the Gospel-story. They are, too, of a piece with that cosmic harmony anticipated in the image of everything bound up in the great body of God.
a. Dalit brokenness
b. Drum/Drummer
c. Healer (Shaman)
d. Bird (Hamsa)

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