Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Christ of the Abyss

Christ of the Abyss

“If I dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there….” (Psalm 139)

“Christ of the Abyss” is an underwater statue in 50 feet of Mediterranean water near Portofino Italy.  It marks the place where a diver died in 1947, the first Italian diver to use SCUBA.  His friends placed it there a few years later, and it is still often visited.  You can see how it has been  well anointed by ocean sponges and corals.  Il Cristo degli Abissi.

There’s a replica in Florida waters, caste from the same bronze, that’s easier to see - you need only snorkel, not dive, in just 10 feet of water near Key Largo.  Divers placed this one as well in honor of another beloved friend.  That plaque reads:

“If I take the wings of the mornings and swell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast.  In memoriam.”

Love the typo!  Swell, not dwell.  All these things happen in the deep, the abyss.  Dwelling, Swelling, Upwelling.  Even there we will find God, even there we will be held fast.

“Abyss” is Greek for “deep.”  In some Bible translations abyss means the chaos waters of creation, the waters under the earth whence all rivers flow, the Hebrew word tehom (surging water-deep). The word has come to have a scary or negative meaning, abysmal.  But it’s just that deep source of all creation, all water, all life.

I’ve seen the same quotation from Psalm 139 carved on a lovely memorial bench at Pt. Lobos.  I sometimes get a little nervous about Bible quotes on state and federal property (eg Grand Canyon).  And of course in my need to be CORRECT I must point out that the Hebrew psalmist, writing long before Jesus, imagined a wet and wonderful Yahweh God in the uttermost parts of the sea, and would not have recognized this Christ figure in the depths.

But even with my nervousness and quibbles, I am still so moved by this statue.  (Google “Christ of the Abyss” to see more images.)  My sense of God is so often intellectual – My head confirms that of course God is everywhere.

But this statue takes me to a new deep place. Here is God/Christ submerged and covered with sponges!!  The raised arms, the calm presence, God breathing under water – such comfort.

Even here God holds fast and holds me fast.  Dive deep.

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