Image: Crossing of the Red Sea, Cornelis de Wael [public domain]
The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” is so wonderfully descriptive. It thoroughly expresses the doom and gloom modality of a no-win situation. It also effectively epitomizes the suffocating feeling associated with an inability to change things. It so perfectly captures the powerlessness, the hopelessness of many situations! Ah, the wonderful dark Goth beauty of it all!
And the phrase is so wonderfully Catholic!!!
Wait, what?! Okay, okay—the phrase as it comes to us in modernity is, admittedly, rather bleak. But a quick Google study of the history of this phrase reveals a much more positive outlook. The original phase, it seems, is “betwixt the devil and the deep blue sea,” and this is a wonderfully Catholic sentiment. What is the difference?
To anyone who knows the story of the Exodus, the difference is profound. Sure, Moses finds himself camped out right between two terrible deaths. He could turn his people to face slaughter by Pharaoh (who plays the unenviable role of the devil), or Moses could rush headlong into the waters of the Red Sea and effectively commit suicide. Hmm… death by the sword of the devil or death by drowning—neither option is too appealing.
Circumstance would seem to suggest that God has abandoned Moses. Moses knows better, however: he knows God is. Moses knows that the Great I AM is present and that He is faithful. So, Moses seeks a third option. He cries out to God. The beloved shouts out to the Lover for deliverance, and the Lover responds in fantastic fashion. God reaches down out of the throne room and dramatically saves his people, doing the impossible. How utterly romantic!
This “God Present” and this “Divine Romance” is what makes all the difference in the world. Though Catholics suffer the same rains that fall on the just and the unjust alike, we know and understand that God never abandons his people. In fact, in the Eucharist He is closer to his people than even the great Moses was privileged to experience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1374 teaches that
the Eucharist is “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” in this most blessed Sacrament (emphasis added).
In other words, Jesus is in every tabernacle of the world, present to us, waiting for us to cry out to Him in a fashion after the trapped Moses. He knows we need deliverance and He is happy to grant it. This is the beauty of having God with us.
It is a safe bet, however, that many of you knew this already.
But what of the Divine Romance? Where does the devout Catholic go to bask in that? That too is to be found in the Eucharist. Divine Romance is found, however, not so much between a rock and a hard place, but between a pledge and a promise. Tune in next time to read about the Eucharist as Pledge and Promise and see this Divine Romance unfold.