The death of ·one that belongs to the Lord [his loyal ones/saints]Psalm 116:15, Expanded Bible
is precious in his ·sight [L eyes].
Dearest Rachel –
You’d probably think, based on the title of this letter, that this is going to be another one of those essays where I go on and on about how much I miss this or that aspect of our erotic life. And while I’ll not deny that I do – more than I feel that I can say in a public forum such as this (it’s one thing to tease a squeamish friend with details, but a world full of strangers? Probably not necessarily the best of ideas) – that isn’t so much of what this is about. Come on, do you really think I merely endured that part of our life together, or thought that you did for my sake (although I suppose that, from time to time, that may well have been true – timing two people’s moods can be a tricky thing, even after so many years together)? Hardly.
No, the topic I’m discussing has more to do with the original nature of the word, because it seems odd to see the word ‘passion’ – which these days, we use almost exclusively to describe a sensual attraction bordering on out-and-out lust – used in a religious sense, such as in the phrase ‘the passion of the Christ.’ And it’s not exclusive to Him, either – the sufferings to death of various martyrs are often referred as ‘the passion of Saint So-and-So.’ So what’s going on there? The juxtaposition of erotic frenzy doesn’t generally mesh with the idea of suffering and dying for one’s faith. Yes, I know there are those who enjoy suffering as a sexual thrill, and of course, there are that many more who are equally happy to dish that suffering out to them (assuming each can find the other, as the general populace still seems… uncomfortable… with either kink, especially when taken to those extremes. Which, come to think of it, is probably the point). And there are those for whom religion is something of a substitute for any earthly physical relationship – after all, nuns will describe themselves as ‘brides of Christ,’ and it’s remarkable how much Christian music could be converted to secular love songs by swapping out, for instance, ‘Jesus’ with ‘baby’ (and, I suppose, the reverse could be equally feasible in many cases – I haven’t actually tried, but it would make sense).
Well, upon digging a little further (isn’t the internet something?), it turns out that we English speakers have simply taken a Latin word and hyperspecialized it. A millennium ago, the word – or its Latin root, patior – simply meant ‘to suffer’ (oh, and by the way, that’s why we used to be told to never split an infinitive – because those who made ‘the rules’ were applying the rules of Latin grammar to English. The thing is, the ‘to’ is essentially built into the root word in Latin; you literally can’t split an infinitive when it’s a single word. However, in English, you can shovel all the worlds you want between the ‘to’ and the actual verb without too much consequence. So take that, grammar mavens!). It added the connotation that the suffering wasn’t an internal matter; there was an external force that caused an individual to do something that would ultimately cause them to suffer. So, this was a perfectly logical term to use for describing the punishment inflicted upon one by those opposing one and one’s faith.
This is the suffering and death of the saints that I would imagine the psalmist is referring to. It’s the sort of thing that certain denominations celebrate in commemorating certain saint’s feast days, generally on the anniversary of their deaths; the idea being that the true test of their faith came not at their point of conversion (so neither their physical nor spiritual birthdays would be considered of any consequence), but when they reached that point of no return, the commitment to follow Jesus even if it killed them, and that was what was worth celebrating and honoring.
Of course, your death had no such moment of ultimate decision; just a single moment of impact, and (I would like to imagine) lights out. No lengthy period of suffering – in fact, you might not have been aware of it at all. Which is fine; not all of the canonized saints were martyrs, after all – indeed, as we understand it, most of us saints will not be (whether recognized by an organized church or not – as if any man-made organization had the right to determine that in any case). So whatever ‘passion,’ in its original meaning, you might have experienced, was rather slight and unrelated to your beliefs – apart, perhaps, from the belief that the ride down the hill was perfectly safe.
Anyway, over time, however, it would seem that the force causing the suffering stopped being other people punishing one unjustly (perhaps because those of us in civilized society did such a magnificent job of convincing ourselves that we did no such thing anymore), and started being a case of one’s own desires moving one to actions that would cause suffering. And what desire has led to more suffering than any other? Well, while it’s true that Paul spoke of the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil, one of the original means to acquire money (the ‘oldest profession,’ it’s called) has to do with satisfying a different sort of desire, one that the Proverbs spent what might seem an inordinate amount of time on, were it not for the fact that it illustrated – and warned of – the unfaithfulness (on both an individual and national level) of the Israelite(s) toward their God, and how He felt about that – and how, like a jilted husband, he will mete out punishment to whoever pulls anything with his wife.
Jealousy makes a husband very angry,Proverbs 6:34-35, Expanded Bible
and he will ·have no pity [not forgive] when he gets revenge.
He will accept no payment for the wrong;
he will ·take no amount of money [not take a bribe no matter how large].
So yeah, as the ad says, there are some things money can’t buy.
With that being said, I guess this is starting to come around to a little bit of self-pity, which is most unbecoming. To claim that I’m suffering because you’re no longer here, while true, overstates things. Yes, I miss you. Yes, I miss those kind of things from our relationship. But to call it suffering, in comparison to those who endured true ‘passions’? No, that cheapens their experiences, and overplays mine.
At least I know there will be a day when we will be restored. Until then, well, keep an eye out for me.
I’ll talk to you later, honey. Love you.