A Holy Week Reflection: La nube negra

By: Rev. Michael Bartley


O es que una nube negra de los cielos

ese negror le dió a tu cabellera

de nazareno, cual de mustio sauce

de una noche sin luna sobre el río?

¿Es la sombra del ala sin perfiles

del ángel de la nada negadora,

de Luzbel, que en su caída inacabable

—fondo no puede dar—

su eterna cuita

clava en tu frente, en tu razón? ¿Se vela,

el claro Verbo en Ti con esa nube,

negra cual de Luzbel las negras alas,

mientras brilla el Amor, todo desnudo,

con tu desnudo pecho por cendal?

-Miguel De Unamuno


BLACK CLOUD (English translation)

Or was it then that a black cloud from heaven

Such blackness gave to your Nazarene’s hair,

As of a languid willow o’er the river

Brooding in moonless night?Is it the shadow

Of the profileless wing of Luzbel, the Angel

Of denying nothingness, endlessly falling—

Bottom he ne’er can touch— whose grief eternal

He nails on to Thy forehead, to Thy reason?

Is the clear Word in Thee with that cloud veiled

—A cloud as black as the black wings of Luzbel—

While Love shines naked within Thy naked breast?

As a child I always wondered what it would be like to walk alongside Jesus.  My interest was not really religious, that is, I was not romanticizing the idea of knowing Jesus or being close to the actions that surrounded Jesus.  I simply was curious what it would have been like to be framed within his experiences and what it is that those who were around him must have experienced.

As I have grown older, I have began to understand that such questions are something that has plagued biblical studies and religious minds for millennia.  That is to say, scholar, and religious alike have always attempted to reconstruct or pretend as if they have access to the narrative life of Jesus.  However, I have to admit, the further away from childhood I grow the more I realize that our access, that is our knowledge, on how to access Jesus is at best limited and maybe best embodied not so much in claims to knowledge as it is in the graphic arts, in poetry or in dance (if you would like).

Above I quoted from the famed Spanish Philosopher Miguel De Unamuno who wrote “The Tragic Sense of Life”.  What many scholars of Spanish philosophy overlook is that Unamuno was not first and foremost a philosopher or theologian.  Unamuno was a poet.

La nube negra is Unamuno’s attempt to wrestle with Jesus’ redemptive act offered in Jesus Christ.  Black cloud is the realization that humanity thrust upon her savior what God was willing to forgive, but what humanity was not willing to relinquish without suffering, blood-lust and death.  Black cloud is the shadow that hangs over a savior crucified and a set of disciples, followers, believers who continue to want to hold onto suffering, blood-lust and death.

As I move toward this Easter 2016, I am very grateful for the philosopher Miguel De Unamuno.  I am grateful for a tradition that doesn’t read the crucifixion as a vengeful act or a vengeful God needing blood to forgive.  I am grateful for an atonement that truly is rooted in bringing us at one with our creator and our creation.  I am grateful for an understanding that in the resurrection of Christ the black cloud that we as human often hold on to and demand is not what lays on the naked breast of the Redeemer who was crucified by our demand.  I am grateful that what lays on his breast is the feeding of the body through his very death and resurrection.

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