Loving the Corpse:
The Pieta Experience
In this Inner Easter post, I am going to suggest that behind all the Pieta sculptures and paintings is one of the great lessons or initiations or thresholds of inner development. It makes Easter live in your heart of hearts.
What I am about to share with you is esoteric, inner, mysterious and asks you to move beyond your senses, your stories, your emotional reactions and your traditions, not to dismiss them but to move through them to a “higher” experience of the Divine.
I imagine that, like me, the word, Pieta, conjures Michelangelo’s exquisite sculpture in the Vatican and his later versions found in Florence and Milan. https://www.laurajeannegrimes.com/blog/michelangelos-three-pietas
The young Michelangelo sculpted a tender polished grief in the Vatican Pieta but 50 years later the Pieta grief has the marks of his chisels and hammers and ten years later as he came upon his own death, grief moves to the mystery of the unfinished and unimagined. Grief takes on our souls like hammers and chisels take on marble and shapes a work of art of our souls, yet, it also takes us on a never-finished journey into an unimagined wilderness.
Pietas reveal profound grief and deep connection. They visualize great loss and great loving. The body of Jesus is empty of life, empty of the Christ and empty of future. The mother’s heart struggles to integrate anguish and surrender. What was is no longer, except as memory and painful absence. Yet, beyond these images lives resurrection.
What if we attend to these images and the feelings they evoke for a while, a moment in timeless time? What if we open our hearts to cherishing the Dead Corpse?
Pieta is Italian, but during the Middle Ages, images of the Madonna and the Corpse of her Son appeared in Germany and were called “vesperbild.” Vesper translates to “pause” or “break.” This pause to cherish the corpse truly can inspire our earthly souls and take us across an Easter-inspired threshold.
It helps to use the fourfold reality of the human being and earthly existence to understand the four realms of grief:
- Space: The grief of the loss of sharing a dynamic physical existence in space. My senses can no longer touch a warm hand, see a smile or a tear, hear a voice, or walk side-by-side. Stillness and rigidity have taken over.
- Time: The grief of the loss of sharing the shaping of memories, present moments, and hopes and plans for an unfolding future. You no longer feel the rhythmic dance of rising and falling energies and forces living in that body and soul.
- Relativity: The grief of the loss of witnessing and learning the mystery of the beloved other. No way to relate to new thoughts, resonate with deep feelings, and collaborate and fulfill shared intentions.
- The Absolute: The grief of no way to experience awe at the earthly embodiment of the individual Spirit, the glimmers of the incarnated I.
The corpse that was the temple of embodiment remains. It is dull, cold, fixed and heavy. Yet, we behold a strange beauty, unique and delicate in the dead form.
Can we let this Pieta awareness enter into our souls when we suffer any deep grief?
The totality of grief contracts in our souls. Loving the corpse, freeing it from the desires of senses, stories, and possibilities, expands our souls.
Just take a brief pause to tenderly and boldly cherish the physical corpse for all that once dwelt within. Wait with receptivity. Do not make this an effort. Open your heart and slowly experience the inner pieta or vesperbild. This loving is a gift from the Sophia or the Wisdom of the Madonna.
In this pause, when we patiently let our grief move away like a storm cloud or the darkness of the night, it is possible to see and know something like a resurrection. Separate from the earthly existence that has ended, we can see through the lifeless body to the eternal light of the Being, the I, that entered into space, time, and relationship to unfold a story, a becoming, with you and beside you.
Now your relationship with this Being tells you that beyond your senses, beyond your stories, beyond your desires, is a life that never ends. It is just the particular lifetime that ends.
Our senses may fail, our stories may distort, and our desires may be selfish, but pausing to love the corpse brings us to the threshold where the limits, sufferings, and joys of earthly existence begin to reveal a purposeful and meaningful incarnation.
The Resurrection on Easter morning is not the reanimation of the Corpse. There is no new embodiment. What resurrects and remains for the mysterious forty days is the Gathering into visible form of the Great Living Ethers filled with the Living Christ.
To feel this experience in all its Grace, we need to love the Corpse and say goodbye with calm reverence. In a heart that no longer longs for the senses, the stories, or the possibilities, something miraculous resurrects.
Personal thoughts of mine
I woke this morning wishing I could go back to spend time with the corpses of my parents and with the father of my children. I only had a few moments with my father’s corpse. I was not present at my mother’s death or at the death of my former husband.
Yet, because I have spent many hours over the last number of days contemplating and writing about loving the corpse, I feel a true Pieta imagination of each one. I deeply sense their Beingness and the connection I have with them beyond our complicated, shadowy stories. I’ve never had this feeling before, a conscious Pieta experience.
I have no need to wish anything about our relationships had been different, no need to rewrite the story, no sentimental attachment. Something new, surprising, and alive has appeared.
Please give yourself time with Pieta images. Look at them with wonder and equanimity then think of the corpses of those you have been close to and see what resurrects in your heart.