Given the mutable t-square, along with the entry of Mars into Sagittarius and the solar eclipse, let’s talk for a moment today about the subject of passion.
The word passion comes from the latin word “passio” which means “suffering and enduring.” There is also a tie to the word “hurt” and to the Greek word “pathos,” which also means “suffering” or “to arouse emotions of pity, empathy, or sorrow.”
Sometimes we mistake the word passion for the word anger. The word anger has some similar etymological connections to “suffering, anguish, or agony,” and yet there are clear differences. Anger also has connections to “ill spirits, strangulation, squeezing, and throttling,” and may “excite to wrath.”
In a sense the difference between passion and anger is the difference between a well placed or ill placed Mars. Throughout the history of astrology Mars is sometimes related to martyrs and other times to wrathful murderers. Sometimes Mars is a planet that reflects the burning, the literal suffering we feel, that engulfs us but also propels us toward union with God, with our lovers, with our work, or with the simplest of everyday actions. If we aren’t suffering as we love, if suffering doesn’t inform the very fibers of our being, then for some of us it doesn’t feel like we’re really living. Instead we feel like passive agents, too numb, dumb, or dense to let the flames of passion offer their vision and direction.
Passion isn’t just an “above normal amount of emotional excitement.” It’s not just something for artists or activists or people we safely call manic, charismatic, or crazy. It’s also not the same as anger. It’s something that has the power to direct us when lost, to awaken us when dead in spirit, to open entries where there is closure, and to renew the body and mind. Passion requires a certain amount of suffering. It requires effort, and it demands we are burned by what we burn for….these are the inedible fruits of the spirit. And when we live with this kind of passion, carefully on guard against the throttling, strangling, squeezing, and vexing spirits of anger, as well as passivity and inertia, we become the well lit lovers of something so much bigger than ourselves. Life becomes a procession of passion, a passion flower, and the soul is crowned by its beloved.
This morning I found myself re-reading the story about the Sun worshiping queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon. The 2nd century theologian Origen speculated that Sheba was the voice of the bride from the Song of Songs, and many biblical scholars have commented on the erotic interaction between the pagan sun worshiping Queen and the King of Israel. In the biblical account, Sheba goes to the court of Solomon bringing him the richest collection of spices ever known, and she puts him to the test with a host of philosophical or theological riddles. Solomon answers them to her satisfaction and they exchange many gifts afterward. Beyond this there is a host of speculation as to whether or not he converted her or if they made love or fell in love or married, or what…
Regardless, this morning I jumped from here to the last pages of the Song of Solomon, where the voice of the exotic (likely black) Bride warns against the consuming powers of love. She compares love to both death and to the place of Sheol (which was similar to Hades). Love is therefore relentless and insatiable, and it is also like death insofar as when we are outside of it’s power we feel as though we are “dead, idle, still, and without personality or strength.”So to love is to also know about idleness, boredom, and lack of strength, life, or personality. To love is also to walk very closely to the unquenchable mouthings of Hades.
For many people boredom and lack of personality are safer than passion. For many people idleness and passivity are less dangerous that letting passion potentially devolve into anger or the teeth of desire. Understandably people are afraid of passion. Fire is close to fear. And yet we can’t forget that traditional images of Hades include both passive and inert souls, lifeless and without personality, frozen or stuck in the icy shades, as well as those being burned alive.
When I step back and look at my social media news feed these days, or the world headlines, when I look at my own life, when I consider the planets, I see a crisis of faith. We are looking for passion because we feel dead. We are tired of the tyranny of passivity, and yet we are teetering on the open mouths of wolves…creatures that are always ready to eat the sickliest of the herd.
What a task we are charged with. To awaken the dead without using force or anger. To convert without the orgiastic aim of conversion. To riddle together like Solomon and Sheba…until we are held one by the other in the full nudity of our convictions.
As Mars enters the sign of the Centaur, and the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon, and Jupiter and Neptune and Saturn create a cross in the sky, passion is returning. The fire of spring is coming. And we are each charged with the tantric and the knightly alike, with the saintly, the sensual, and the brave. If our life is lacking passion, if we are dull and bored and without personality, stubbornly passive to the coming and going of days and nights, and days and nights, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we are awoken as if by a loud trumpet. If on the other hand our anger and desire is eating us alive, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves wounded by our own intensity or lack of discernment. We shouldn’t be surprised if the bridges we’ve built are suddenly gone and we are left with nothing but a bitter taste in our mouths.
Prayer: Teach us the wisdom of enduring passion, keep us from anger, and protect us from passivity