“But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”
I love the Bible story of Jesus sleeping on a boat in the midst of a storm. In the story, the disciples – experienced fishermen mind you, are afraid for their lives and wake Him with urgency. Awakened, Jesus calms the storm with a word and peace is restored.
The disciples were stunned, but this was nothing new.
The first chapter of John says this of Jesus –
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
– and the very first chapter of the Bible describes the first beautiful transformation:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Where there was a sea of chaos and an empty void, God created beauty. Genesis says
Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
The disciples thought the chaos of that storm was overwhelming, but Jesus simply saw it as part of His creation, to which He brings restoration and life. That’s what He does.
It is no different with the storm in your heart.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633
Once in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, Massachusetts, United States, prior to being stolen in 1990. The painting depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, as depicted in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is Rembrandt’s only seascape.
On the morning of March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum and stole The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and 12 other works. It is considered the biggest art theft in US history and remains unsolved. The museum still displays the paintings’ empty frames in their original locations.
On March 18, 2013, the FBI announced they knew who was responsible for the crime. Criminal analysis has suggested that the heist was committed by an organized crime group. There have been no conclusions made public as the investigation is ongoing.
Literature & Liturgy: Kate Chopin and Chaos
Katherine O’Flaherty was born on Feb. 8, 1851, in St. Louis, Mo., into a fairly wealthy family. Her father, an Irish immigrant, had moved from place to place until making his fortune as a businessman and settling in St. Louis. A curious and imaginative child, Kate was schooled in the Sacred Heart Academy convent school. She developed a love for the freedom of the outdoors, and her natural inquisitiveness and exploratory nature often got her into trouble, usually because she had somehow behaved in a manner that was considered inappropriate for a young girl.
With tales of passionate, disconnected women trying to free themselves from the constraints of society, Kate Chopin became one of the late 19th century’s best-known and most controversial writers. Interest in Chopin was rekindled in the late 20th century because her work foreshadowed that era’s feminist literary themes.
Ruf offers interesting insight into the history of ideas about chaos. It is an orientation with roots going back to Job and beyond, with one branch in Pascal, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Barth, and another in Blade, Schleiermacher, and Mark C. Taylor. Ruf touches on a number of further figures from Ovid through Milton, Hobbes, and Shakespeare to Tom Jones, Henry Adams, Wallace Stevens, and Kate Chopin. A brief, readable book, useful for students and teachers of James, this book also offers fruitful insights in literary theory, the relation between religion and culture, the phenomenology of orientation, and the playfulness of deconstructionism, and even the limitations of narrative theology.
Jerome A. Stone, “Review of The Creation of Chaos: William James and the Stylistic Making of a Disorderly World by J. Ruf,” Critical Review of Books in Religion (1993): 470.
Drawing on prior work by Boris Uspensky, Resseguie uses the four point-of-view planes as the basis of his analysis in chapter 5: phraseological; spatial-temporal; psychological; and ideological. He argues that point of view can refer either to the angle of vision from which the narrator tells the story or to the conceptual worldview of the narrator. To introduce the concept of point of view, Resseguie includes the short story “Ripe Figs” by Kate Chopin and an interpretive commentary on point of view within it. He concludes the chapter with a close reading—from the perspective of point of view—of the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37.
Patrick E. Spencer, “Review of Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction by Resseguie, James L.,” Review of Biblical Literature: 2006 (2006).
Pioneering in seeking extra-canonical sources is Carol Christ, whose Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (1980, 1986) was warmly received by feminist scholars but largely ignored by the religion and literature establishment. Christ takes for granted the unpalatable traditional images of women in Jewish and Christian sources, and begins her work by proposing alternative texts for women, by women. Christ discovers a woman-defined model of spiritual quest in the writings of Kate Chopin, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, and Ntozake Shange. She is careful not to claim a new canon in these writers, but, based upon her understanding of the importance of narrative and story telling, uses them to suggest that each reader will want to identify for herself the women writers who offer resources for spiritual vision. Although Christ’s writing is sometimes pedestrian, the book is the first of its kind in religion and literature study, and remains a singular achievement in feminist religion and literature study.
Ann-Janine Morey, “Feminist Perspectives on Arts, Literature and Religion,” Critical Review of Books in Religion (1991): 46–47.