Posted 30 April 2008 - 02:54 PM
The storm is the inner turmoil that we experience, especially once Christ falls asleep. Yet He reminds us that He is still with us, and calms us on our passage to the other shore -- which is a typology or allegorical representation for our glorification -- our passage into the next life.
I won't say that the event did not happen the way described. In fact, this would be the way I would expect God to reveal his true power and purposes to us, and in our daily lives isn't this how it works? Storms on boat rides happen all the time. Do they mean anything at all or not? I am reminded of the scene in Forrest Gump when he is on the shrimp boat in a storm with Lt. Dan (one of the lost tribes of Israel?) Up to that point, Lt. Dan is angry, resentful and cynical because he lost his legs in Vietnam. The storm is his baptism and after that he is a totally new, changed person. Did the author intend all of that when he wrote the book? Ask him. I don't know. But does that matter? Now, of course, Forrest Gump is a fictional character, but we are not therefore forced to say that Jesus and his disciples are fictional characters. Why would that logically follow? But Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan are typologies. They work, because we know them in us, or have seen them in other people, and, moreover, these are universal types and figures.
A little controversy, one might say, exists regarding the author of "The Way of the Pilgrim." The author portrays himself as a rustic. Obviously this is ridiculous. It is a highly literate account (simple but that is often the trademark of the highly literate, to convey complex, multi-layered reality simply, beautifully). But more importantly, how are you going to represent a life time of ascetic struggle, praying in your cell? You represent it by going on a physical journey. Whether that physical journey actually took place or not is, frankly irrelevant, because if you focus on that, you have entirely missed the point. You will think that, gee, the whole point of the book is that I have to go on a physical journey to Jerusalem. But the whole point of Christianity is that Jerusalem is no longer just a geographic spot on the map. Our true spiritual awareness depends entirely on making this shift.
One obviously has to avoid interpreting any Biblical passage in what we today might call a purely "existential" sense. I about flew out of my pew when my priest on Pascha used the term "deep existential significance." Not that the questions of existence are not of paramount concern. But it can also be a form of reductionism. And so, by the method of existentialist interpretation therefore, Moses never actually ascended Sinai, and never actually was confronted by God dramatically, but had some kind of aha! experience while meditating in his tent, and then gathered together some stone masons to collate what he already knew onto some stone tablets.
On the other hand, concrete physical representations are the classical/ancient way of representing inner spiritual experiences, and there is a problem in over literalizing them, because, just to pose one problem, it would seem that, frankly, that's not really how God works any more. Did God change?
By teaching us in parables, rather than in propositions, Christ opens our eyes to that which is already there and happening all around us. The Fathers use allegory and typology for the same reason. Not as proof texts, although there is that, but so that we can see that the Exodus of the Jews, 3,000 years ago now, is also our Exodus. And the storm on the boat is our storm that is raging, now that Jesus has reposed. Why did he have to go to sleep? Why isn't he here, awake, guiding the boat through the storm? Gee, all of a sudden, I have forgotten everything He taught me, and I am at sea, in a storm, lost -- terrified of dying!!!!!
Now, it seems to me that all of these kinds of factors are also in play in Genesis. Why wouldn't they be?