Abyssus abyssum invocat (Dennis Aubrey)


Les jugements de Dieu sont des abîmes. Les abîmes de la sagesse, de la miséricorde de Dieu.

This phrase “Abyssus abyssum invocat” is full of obscurity, of mysteries impenetrable to reason. The abyss calls to the abyss, the deep calls to the deep. For some, one hell calls for another. But in French, “L’abîme appelle l’abîme;” the judgments of God are the Deep. The deep of the wisdom, the mercy of God.

The sound of it alone whispers to me, I hear it in the night. “L’abîme appelle l’abîme“, like a chant, trying to reach through my subconscious into my soul. “L’abîme appelle l’abîme” “L’abîme appelle l’abîme”. Lying in the dark, unable to fathom the message, other questions arise. Why do we need to build churches? Why do we need God? What are we trying to express when we talk about God, or religion, or faith? Is this a need inside of us, as if we fear the abyss, fear the emptiness, fear the darkness of an eternal night?

Église Saint-Hilaire, Semur-en-Brionnais (Saône-et-Loire) Photo by PJ McKey

Gods lend a design to a nature that otherwise seems violent, random and destructive. How can we insignificant humans hope to understand such a force? How can we formulate thoughts too complex for our minds and spirits? For those things we need gods and mysteries. We need those gods in the long dark nights, in the shelter against a storm, and in the shattering loss of sudden death. We need to know there is something that watches over us and can give structure to the chaos. That particular something needn’t be true, only needs to be plausible, powerful, and profound. That something explains the world and orders the society around us at the same time.

Basilique Saint Sernin, Toulouse (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

These churches are monumental significations of this great design. They are literal interpretations of the religion; often constructed in the form of the cross that represents the sacrifice upon which the religion itself is based. The church is a book in which one reads all of the deep mysteries of the faith. Its harmonies of design are intended to represent those of heaven itself. Plainchant harmonies of the nuns and monks echo the choirs of angels. As humans, we have a firm belief; if significations of this great design are available to us – visible – we might better choose the right course of action, live a worthy life. For while the gods are powerful, tempestuous and capricious, like humans themselves, there is an order to the world they rule. Because they exist, we have a way to understand the mystery surrounding us.

Cathédrale Saint Etienne. Cahors (Lot) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

In the long middle of the night, alone, I feel my life speeding by, tumbling and roiling into some unknown future. At the same precise time, I feel the buffetings of the moment’s wind, each clear and distinct from the next. The sensation is like falling at terminal velocity but in slow motion. I only wait to know, to understand, as the abyss slowly opens beneath me. And a voice says, in my dream, “You have been washed.”

A rose from the Prieuré de Saint-Cosmé, Tours (Indre-et-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

12 thoughts on “Abyssus abyssum invocat (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. All major religions were formulated when people believed the Earth was flat, that the Sun revolved around the Earth, that humans on Earth were the only game in town. People thought that all stars were the same distance away. They invented gods because they couldn’t accept that death was the end. They wanted to believe that existence would go on, eternally. Over time, they thought that if they built great structures as tributes to their gods (i.e. the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, churches and Great Cathedrals, stone monuments, and earthen mounds, and Temples honoring their ideas of god, they were making god a reality. They believed that dreams were messages from gods. Momentum of Faith was a powerful force, and remains so today. People couldn’t accept that life was in THEIR hands. They had to entrust their lives to something bigger, more powerful, and more eternal, then themselves. Therefore, GOD.

    1. Vann, I believe also that there is something inside of us that needs fulfilling. I think we need mysteries as much as we need answers and I am not sure that fear of death is that mystery. As much as we may fear death, we all know it. Every living thing dies and every one of us knows this. It is the mystery after death that works in our soul, and not necessarily that we go on living in this form.

  2. Paul the Apostle to the Greeks:
    Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
    The god who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as If he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
    Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
    Acts 17:22-31

    1. Thank you, Graham. I have to admit that I don’t understand the where the commandment to repent comes in from Paul. The need to establish contact with God, that I do understand, to understand His Will. But a blanket order to repent is more difficult.

  3. You poetic soul is so powerful and inspiring Dennis…

    John Donne:

    “No man is an island,
    entire of itself;
    every man is a piece of the continent,
    a part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less,
    as well as if a promontory were,
    as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
    or of thine own were:
    any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind,
    and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
    it tolls for thee.”

    1. Thank you, Joel. We all need to be reminded of the tolling bell. It seems like the last two years were that reminder for me. It is so good to be back amid our friends on Via Lucis.

  4. The notion of the abyss with those gorgeous (trance-like) photos reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem:

    There is a pain – so utter –
    It swallows substance up –
    Then covers the Abyss with Trance –
    So Memory can step
    Around – across – opon it –
    As One within a Swoon –
    Goes safely – where an open eye –
    Would drop Him – Bone by Bone –

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