Sea stormBy Simeon Dumdum Jr.
Cebu Daily News
I must have gone through countless typhoons, a number of which packed such a wallop as to make me apprehensive that at any time, with roofs flying off and trees bending double, the walls of existence itself might collapse. At one time, our family just knelt down to pray the Rosary, all but shouting the Hail Marys so we could hear each other above the outside crash and roar.
If storms can be quite frightening on land, they must be unimaginably so at sea, which, instead of providing one with a stable and secure footing, feeds one to the turbulence of the winds and the waves, violently and constantly throwing one sideways and upwards and pulling apart and scuttling one’s vessel and all that it stands for.
Brueghel the Elder eloquently portrays this in his ” Storm at Sea,” an oil painting now displayed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna.
The scene depicts Nature venting its rage on people, who appear as tiny objects spilling out of ships that seem no more than tiny toys. To stop a huge fish coming after them with gaping mouth, those still on board throw a barrel towards the leviathan—a last, feeble, desperate act to save themselves from the sea monster. Coincidentally, on a rock that juts out of the sea, a castaway who has managed to get there kneels and clasps his hands in prayer.
The scene is reminiscent of a squall about which Mark writes. Evening was drawing on and Jesus told his disciples that he wanted them to cross to the other side of the lake. They took a boat (there were other boats). While they were traveling, a violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. They woke Jesus up who was in the stern, asleep on a cushion, and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Jesus turned to them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
This passage tells me that the struggle is less between man and the occasionally destructive natural forces, for which man is no match, than between doubt and faith, which last, if strong enough, can give man the edge, since it allows him to enlist on his side the very power whom even the wind and the sea obey.
More furious than the outside weather is the weather within us. Terrifying though they are—the winds and the waves and the sea monster—and capable of destroying, they cannot defeat the spirit of him who has made his peace with God, who entrusts himself to Him and in faith expects His protection, as a child expects protection from its father.
I find a hint of Bruegel’s sentiments about man’s helplessness before the fury of Nature in the castaway who kneels in prayer and the sky that is beginning to clear in the far left. They say that Bruegel did not finish this painting, his last. Just as well, because one cannot really paint a storm and consider it finished, without hinting at an improvement in, first the inner, then the outer, weather.
Tags: bible teachings