Living Water 3: Symbolism

My stories about “living water” so far this week have been literal. But, water is deeply symbolic to me as well. Water is a part of my archetype, as Jung would call it: that unconscious link between who I am in my daily life, and how that connects with and influences the human condition.

Jungian psychology is based on these archetypes. Jung’s writings often focused on how what he termed the “collective unconscious” of these archetypes played out in our daily lives and interactions with each other. Jung often used the images of tarot cards, which themselves were derived from early Western mysticism including Jewish Kabbalah as well as Eastern European, Arabic, Egyptian, and Central European traditions. I bring this history to the table because to me, the rich images of water (and “cups”) that emerge from this tradition continue to be deeply important in the way I understand myself in relation to the world around me. I am a woman of cups, a holder of emotion, and a conveyor of these living waters.

For several years during my spiritual wandering, I spent large amounts of time using the tarot images of cups in my daily meditation. I was working as a counselor and therapist at that time, and I found these images richly symbolic of the emotion that flowed freely, was jointly contained during our sessions, then poured and presented back to my client(s) upon leaving. That very sequence of visualized images helped me be present in the raw outpouring of emotion, then jointly craft the vessel to contain that emotion, handing it back to my clients to take with them so that it would not flow over into my own life. The cups I visualized contained the living water of human emotion: free-flowing, shareable, but also able to be contained and carried. This work was essential to my self-care, and to my daily practice.

I continue to hold close this spiritual symbolism of water. My outpouring of tears, sometimes of joy and other times of sadness, are holy and living water for the journey. It used to be that I hid and stifled my tears. I still don’t love crying in front of others, but I have become accustomed to the outpouring of emotion that occurs genuinely as vital, living, soulful water. Life is difficult and painful sometimes. We lose people we love. We hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. We fall short of what we know we could be and it makes emotion pour from our soul. Sometimes, that living water can cleanse us. As has been pointed out to me, our tears can be the holy water that baptizes us in a new chapter, a new realization, a changed life experience.

I also hold close the symbolism of cups. The most powerful ministry for me, as a lay person, is my service as a Eucharistic minister. I have been moved to tears each and every time that I have served in this capacity, chalice bearing during Holy Eucharist. I have knelt low and close to young people of God who look filled with wonder and amazement at this ritual, and reflect holy innocence. I have held my hands on the hands of our parishioners with mental health challenges who need steadying to drink fully of this cup of divine love and grace, all the while hearing them thank God and experience even for a split second the peace and calmness of the Living Waters. I have whispered and spoken…and even spoken very loudly for those who could not otherwise hear…the words of the outpouring of divine love…the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. I am always honored and humbled to be a cup bearer in that holy communion.

The symbolism of living water, in all of these images, provides divine light for my journey tonight.

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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