Abyss: The depths in me call out to the depths in you.


Abyss by Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II) Translation by Jerzy Peterkiewicz
Abyssus abyssum invocat (*)
You always see it as space
filled with cascades of air
where glass splinters reflect and glitter
like seeds planted in distant stones.
Now observe the abyss that glitters
in the eye’s reflection.
We all bear it in us.
When men are gathered together
they shift the abyss like a boat
on their shoulders.
Nothing to bypass in this commotion.
Take a ray from the eye and write
your sign.
Though you see no abyss in the mind
don’t imagine that it’s not there.
Light may not reach your sight, but the boat
shifts on to your shoulders:
the abyss is clothed in flesh,
become fact
in all men.

(* This is part of Psalm 41:8 in the Vulgate, 42:7 in English. In one translation, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.”)

When I was very young, a teacher wrote on the chalkboard at the front of the classroom “Man is a gregarious animal.” I don’t remember why she wrote it, but there was a kind of solemnity about the moment that has stayed with me. We need one another. It is in our nature, part of the stuff of our being. And when there is no one there, we feel incomplete. There is a gaping hole at our center, an abyss, if you will.

The depths in me call out to the depths in you.

The psalmic verse that Wojtyla uses as a subtitle reflects the psalmist’s sense of detachment from God, of great loneliness, of painful awareness of his separation from the One he longs for above any other. We hear it from the very beginning of the psalm: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”

The depths in me call out to the depths in you.

“The abyss is clothed in flesh.” The abyss is within each of us, a part of us. We need one another. We complete one another. We fulfill one another.

The depths in me call out to the depths in you.

I am a solitary by choice as part of my religious and spiritual walk. I work a few hours a week with other people, but mostly alone. I spend six to eight hours a day in prayer and meditation. Several times a year I go away to live entirely alone for a week or more, and at least one weekend a month. Those are intense periods of being with my Creator in a special way.

The rest of the time I do my best to allow myself to be touched by the people around me, and to touch them. It might be with someone who comes to me for help, or with a coworker. It might be by writing this blog or by commenting on someone else’s blog. It might be by writing a letter or sending a photo. It might be in my prayer and meditation that I seek to remove the barriers that divide us; it might be by direct action and dialogue.

I do not have complete success all the time. I don’t expect it. I keep at it.

The depths in me call out to the depths in you.

2 thoughts on “Abyss: The depths in me call out to the depths in you.

  1. I am going to be so horrible, but while your post touched me deeply and made me smile and a little sad at the same time…

    I’m afraid your title initially made me burst into laughter. The Latin line is used by the pirate in Asterix and Cleopatra (the movie), when they’re sinking (as he does every time, with a different Latin saying/quote).

    He says Alea jacta est in the comic, which is not that funny, so maybe this one is better, from a different album?
    (it was this image I had in mind when I read “Abyssus abyssum invocat”)

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