Sunday, March 31, 2013
Monks and caves
The Love of Christ sets an impossibly high standard — a standard that I can't reach. Yet He called us all to it, in the loving confidence that we are able.
If I labor under the delusion that I am loving, I will never try to change. And I find, indeed, that I, like everyone else, labor under the delusion that my actions and attitudes are loving, and that what I believe in is the good.
Yet this morning, sitting in contemplation, it occurred to me that the essential action of Christianity is not an effort to be loving. Instead, it is the effort to see that I am not loving. It's only in understanding the immense difference between what I call "love" and the divine force of Love that emanates from the Lord that anything real can begin to grow in me; and it grows not because of what I do to help it, but from an emotional seed that is sown when I see how insufficient I am.
So it is this seeing of my essential lack of love that might provide a premise for change; not seeing it theoretically, in a philosophical sense which I hold in front of me as a principal or an idea, but seeing it physically, organically, within the moment.
This means that I have to inhabit my lack of love, live within it, and consciously confront it.
If there is an action of mindfulness, it begins with inhabiting what is true — not inhabiting what I wish were true. So over and over again, throughout life, the action of love is the action of seeing that I am not loving, and having the courage to come back and confront this over and over again. There's a saying that Jeanne de Sazlmann frequently put in front of her students: "I must stay in front of my lack." This can be construed to mean many things, but the action of coming back over and over again to see how I am — in this way, that I do not act out of Love — is, to me, the most critical one; it relates to the question of how feeling needs to influence the inner experience.
The image of Christ on the cross is the ultimate image of sacrifice to Love, of offering to a greater Love. It actually means to die to what I am as a human being. That is, absolutely everything that I am made of must be surrendered in order to inhabit any greater conception of Love. The image of Christ on the cross is a symbolic one to us, today, yet it actually represents an inner and organic action of surrender in which the ego undergoes a metaphysical transformation which amounts to death.
The action of remorse of conscience is part of the inner feeling-experience which leads to this metaphysical transformation. It is only the repeated conscious confrontation with my lack of loving action that can lead to this transformation; and it is only mindfulness, conscious action, putting myself in front of what I actually am, that can lead to the intentional suffering that transforms.
Christ's image represents intentional suffering. It represents it in so many ways that only a deeply invested practice of contemplation of the cross, taking this into one's Being, can begin to illuminate the question.
To contemplate the cross does not, moreover, meaning to sit there thinking about the image. Contemplation of the cross is a constant and discriminating examination of the intersection within my own being of higher and lower forces.
This examination has the potential to take place in every moment. but it must take place in this moment; not in some abstracted metasphere. It's only in the intersection with life itself, in this moment, that Christianity can be practiced. It was not meant, in the end, for monks or caves; it was meant for these real moments between us, as human beings.
And every parable Christ taught was just such a moment.
In the end, the Loving action of Christianity cannot be contained, even in a tomb. Even the assumption of death as a certainty dissolves; the rock is rolled away, and Love re-enters real life, contact with what is true, and the call to relationship between human beings.
May your soul be filled with light.