Saturday, August 6, 2016

Si vis potes me mundare

40 et venit ad eum leprosus deprecans eum et genu flexo dixit "si vis potes me mundare"
41 Iesus autem misertus eius extendit manum suam et tangens eum ait illi "volo, mundare"
 42 et cum dixisset statim discessit ab eo lepra et mundatus est.   Mark 1: 40-42
I've resumed reading from the Vulgate since it helps me slow down and pay attention to the words.   This passage is about the healing of the leper, as you can see if you follow the link above.   The leper says:  if you will, you can cleanse me" and Jesus touches him and says "I will; be cleansed".  

My father was a physician; he was very interested in the "pathology" of the Bible, the details of the diseases mentioned, often in a context of healing.   He mentioned once that some of the ancient cases of leprosy recorded may actually be psoriasis (Namaan) or eczema (the poor man Lazarus).   Be that as it may, there is a kind of symbolism in the idea that skin problems are associated with uncleanliness both to the sufferers themselves and to those who shunned them.

My experiences with eczema and skin allergies have given me sympathy for those whose skin attacks their system.   It's a horrible feeling, because it starts on the outside and works its way in.   Psoriasis and eczema are associated with burning, itching and pain, bad enough, but leprosy causes numbness and degradation of the limbs themselves.  Furthermore, these illnesses interfere with one's relation to the outside world in at least a couple of ways.  One, they make it difficult to interact without discomfort.   The environment becomes potentially uncomfortable and dangerous in a much more intense way than it normally would.   (think of even a mild sunburn and how it makes you very careful of how you move).

For another thing, many skin diseases are immediately visible to others.   Unlike other ailments, they blazon themselves on the patient.  They are almost literally stigmatic.

Another thing I notice about skin ailments, that may be somewhat hard to describe, is that they seem exterior in a way even though they affect your whole self.   When I caught the norovirus a few weeks ago (also known as stomach flu or GI virus) the illness seem to come from inside (my gut, basically) and involve me from the core outwards.   In a way it became me.   With skin ailments it is the opposite, it works from outside in, and there is a kind of clarity.   The inner self seems sound in some ways, except that it is being invaded by this outer thing.  It is sort of like St Paul saying that the flesh is warring with the mind.

This is why I think leprosy and the other conditions possibly associated with it throughout history have been an analogy to sin.    Lepers are in a state of realism because unlike Pharisees, who hid their corruption on the inside and presented a "whited" exterior, lepers knew exactly what state they were in and so were in an analogous state to those sinners who were aware of their uncleanliness and anxious to be whole, but also aware of their inability to change themselves.    They also had kind of a clarity about their condition; at least the ones that were looking for help.

For there was one more prerequisite for the miracle of healing; that the sinner or sick person realized that Jesus had the power to cleanse, if He willed it.    And they had hope that He would do so.  

Of those who wouldn't acknowledge their problem or ask for help, Jesus said ironically that they had no need of a healer.  

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