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The Fool's Bag:
Provisions for the Sacred Plunge
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2003-4


"I never cross a bridge at night. It's the result of a vow. Suppose, after all, that someone should jump in the water. One of two things - either you do likewise to fish him out and, in cold weather, you run a great risk! Or you forsake him there and suppressed dives sometimes leave one strangely aching."
Jean-Baptiste Clemance, Judge Penitent
Albert Camus "The Fall"

"The wand over the youth's shoulder is a symbol of the will, and tied to it is a wallet that is thought to carry universal memory and instinct."
Eden Gray, "The Complete Guide to the Tarot"

"Over his shoulder he carries the Wand of Will, from which hangs a wallet containing the four elements Fire, Water, Air and Earth, which he will use on his journey."
Eden Gray, "Mastering the Tarot"

"'Free-diving' is a simple aquatic sport with simple rules and just two routines i) dive as deep as you can on just one breath, and ii) hold your breath for as long as possible whilst under water."
Dr. Paul Gabbott

"The figure on this card predicts that life is drawing to an end; it is at the point where the individual soul is about to perish and be reabsorbed into divine oneness. Each of us, at an appointed time in life, turns away from the world, no longer concerned with its problems and disappointments."
The Fool: The Crocodile
Edmonde Belline, Le Grand Tarot Belline

"God has made me a new kind of fool in this world."
St. Francis of Assissi

Plunge boldly into the Beyond, then be free wherever you are. -Shoitsu

If anyone has seen the movie "Trainspotting" one of the most memorable scenes is the protaganist free diving into a filthy toilet bowl. He dove into a stinking shithole and literally became a sacred plunger - pun intended. Most sacred plunges are like that - sometimes you just have to see shit for what it is and plunge away.

One of the most extreme of extreme sports is called free diving and it is gaining in popularity world wide. The purpose is to dive as far as you can underwater with one breath. The world record is 131 metres and the longest recorded time under water is 7 minutes. At these depths the lungs are compressed to the size of oranges and a mistake can be fatal.

The greatest danger facing divers - besides sharks - is called shallow water blackout. This can occur during the final part of the ascent within five to 10 metres of the surface. The blackout occurs because the diver runs out of oxygen and they could easily drown without proper assistance. People who undertake this sport have to be extremely fit, competitive, excellent at concentration and relaxed - or just plain crazy. They often practice yoga to enhance their breathing performance, improve their relaxation and increase their lung capacity. Scientists are expressing much interest in studying these people in hopes of discovering which parts of the brain are being utilized to enhance the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems that take these elite athletes to the breaking point of breathe or die, and hope that it may enlighten us on philosophical concepts such as free will and consciousness.

We have all been to those places in our lives where we reached a jumping off place, a point of no return, a place of complete uncertainty. This is a place of nowhere to run, a place of forgiveness and forbearance, a place where the tide of our life or the life of someone dear to us is turning. We find ourselves in a place between life and death or in a place between suicide and murder. We have all been to that place where we knew our time was up there or we had no power to change the situation, the place where our only choice was to hold our nose and step forward into the unknown and trust that we would keep on going even when we weren't sure where we were going. We took a leap of faith, free dove and made the sacred plunge, fools that we are - or maybe just plain crazy - and felt our soul breath compressed until our lungs surely were the size of oranges. In this place we knew we had to breathe or die by drowning in a teaspoon of our own bittersweet tears. The only thing left to do was to take a deep breath, hold our nose, free dive and hope for the best or at least hope that the worst had already been. A person of grace always knows when it is time to leave or leap - you could call it the dancers' edge.

What do you pack for a sacred plunge? It was a custom of the ancient Greeks to prepare a special supper for those about to depart on a journey. This dinner and the provisions for the journey, such as food, money, utensils and clothing, was called viaticum - literally provisions for the journey of life. The term Viaticum was applied to the Eucharist or Holy Communion and was once used in all the liturgical sacraments but became a metaphor for the provision of sacred food for the journey out of this life and into the next and the sacrament associated with giving spiritual comfort and strength to the dying. Confession, viaticum and anointing of the sick are called the Last Rites. In the Catechism of the Council of Trent it is described as follows, "Sacred writers call it the Viaticum as well because it is the spiritual food by which we are supported in our mortal pilgrimage, as also because it prepares for us a passage to eternal glory and happiness".

In order to bring the Last Rites to a sick person some essential items are required. The Priest should have a pyx and a purificator in small burse which they should hang around their neck until they reach the home of the ill person , a small corporal, a white stole, and the Ritual. The word pyx means literally box-wood receptacle and was applied to all vessels used to contain the Blessed Eucharist. It was a term commonly applied to the cup in which the Blessed Sacrament actually rested when it was suspended above the altar during the Middle Ages. The term pyx is now more commonly used to describe a smaller vessel of gold or silver in which the Eucharist is carried to the sick.

The purificator is a piece of pure white linen or hemp used for cleansing the chalice. A corporal is a square white linen cloth which the Sacred Host and chalice are placed upon during the celebration of Mass. The burse is a receptacle in which the folded corporal is carried to and from the altar. It is usually made up of two pieces of cardboard about ten inches square, bound at three edges, with the fourth open to fit the corporal in. The outer side of the burse is made of the same material and is the same colour as the vestments it is to be used with. The interior is lined with linen or silk. A stole is a liturgical vestment made of a strip of material from two to four inches wide and about eighty inches long. A small cross is sewn or embroidered at both ends and in the middle; the priest kisses the stole on the middle cross before putting it on.

A table is prepared in sight of the sick person containing a crucifix, two lit candles, a wineglass containing water for the priest to purify his fingers, a clean napkin for the sick person, a vase containing holy water and a sprinkler made of box or some other type of wood. The altar would have two lit candles, the key of the tabernacle (many churches lock up the Blessed Eucharist in the tabernacle) and a burse with a large corporal. Usually the priest will carry with him two wax candles, holy water, and a small communion cloth in case the sick room cannot be properly set up for the Ritual.

The Ritual itself is made up of the Penitential Rite which is a confession if a Priest is there to hear it or an act of contrition and a promise to confess; repetition of the baptismal promise or the Apostle's Creed; recitation of the Lord's Prayer; the giving of Holy Communion; a prayer and a blessing. Everyone is entitled to receive the Last Rites.

"The celebration of the eucharist as viaticum, food for the passage through death to eternal life, is the sacrament proper to the dying Christian. It is the completion and crown of the Christian life on this earth, signifying that the Christian follows the Lord to eternal glory and the banquet of the heavenly kingdom."
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops "Communion of the Sick"

So our little Fool, standing poised on a cliff, has a burse hanging from his Wand of Will - his sacred plunger. His burse contains the viaticum for his free dive into manifestation - bread, water, fire, utensils and wood - everything he requires for his journey. He is becoming the Magician with the sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist laid out upon his altar - one hand reaching upward to heaven and the other hand reaching downward to earth - like God had held his hand and in a gentle pirouette, placed him in this spot and will return and take him home the same way.

On the other hand, God could have set him down in a Tim Horton's. Communion is a sacrament that can be given and received anywhere, anyplace and anytime if the need is real - no one owns the sacraments. Spiritual food and sincere celebrants make for a peaceful journey. Peace be your journey. Don't forget to dance.

 



This page was created April 4, 2003.