Friday, March 29, 2013

The Joy of the Lord is everlasting

The crucifixion of Christ can hardly be seen, from a visual point of view, as a joyful event.

Yet indubitably, the event of Christ's passion is meant to be joyful. Symbolically, it depicts the fact that there is a higher principle we surrender to; and that higher principle does lead to a Joy that is everlasting. But the only way to that Joy is through suffering; and above all, it is a path that leads through suffering what I am.

Because I am programmed by thousands of mechanical and habitual ideas about this level and how things ought to be—because, biologically, I'm a pleasure seeking organism, and the physical machine that drives life on this level is built that way — I want bliss. I want joy. I want an easy life in which God gives me what I want — not what I need. So I attempt to arrogate to myself the good things that come from higher levels. I want enlightenment; I want wisdom. I want this, that, and the other thing, and in some place or another inside myself, I think, maybe, that I deserve those things. I don't see my ego and how it functions, and I generally don't see my own negativity. Above all, I don't see how helpless I am in the face of forces larger than myself.

This life is a place of confusion in which, if we are trying to become available to higher influences, we attempt to sort such things out. Even Christ himself was confused; yet he understood, in the end, that he had to submit to God, and the forces of this level. This is actually an incredibly high level of understanding. Ordinary men and women generally don't reach it. If I'm fortunate, and I work hard enough, pray hard enough, to submit, I may begin to see how far short I fall of any intelligible understanding of this nature. But I'm a long, long way from it, and the only path I know that leads toward it is prayer.

I increasingly see, as I grow older, that life arranges itself to deliver a lesson. The lesson is systematic, and it keeps trying to teach me that I'm not in charge. It consists of balanced measures of joy and suffering. Grace, to remind me of how blessed life is; suffering, to teach me humility. I repeatedly see through this generous path that there are parts of me that absolutely refuse to surrender, categorically insist on clinging to every selfish impulse they can dream up. I don't find myself in any way capable of becoming free of these forces. And I am increasingly confronted by that kernel of Being, influenced by the subjective effects of blending with external factors, that comprises what Gurdjieff called "sins of the body of the soul."

 All this stands in stark contrast to the material world and the general consistency of life, which is a glue one has to slog through, spiritually speaking. As one does so, one sees how incredibly arrogant and absolutely shameless we all are. Confronted with the vision of Christ on the cross, which conclusively demonstrates just how much suffering and humility is necessary, I am dismissive. It's an old picture; it's an old story. The newness of life which ought to come in every moment, reminding me of my place, is a theory, not a practice.

 All of these probably seem like odd thoughts to follow on the statement that the Joy of the Lord is everlasting. Yet the statement itself is absolutely true. The fact that I don't properly correspond to this Joy or understand it in any sense does not take away the truth of the Joy itself. There are times when a taste of this is given, in order to remind me of my place. The experience is, to be sure, miraculous; and every day, such reminders come. But in the end, each one of them leaves me seeing where I am, and how far short I fall.

I'm reminded once again of the prayer:

Lord, I call to Thee from the depths of my iniquity. 
I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto Thee. 
I know not how.

 May your soul be filled with light.

2 comments:

  1. "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."
    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    It is not just that we are allowed to live amongst only our friends in a happy and joyous circle. No, quite on the contrary, we are meant to live amongst our foes, as Jesus did – a careful read of the New Testament will show you a MAN, who was not afraid to walk through a murderous crowd that wished nothing but ill upon him.

    I have a wonderful little book from long time ago called "The Stature of Waiting" by W.H. Vanstone. Very likely long out of print. But I held on to it through thick and thin, because of it's message. It talks greatly about the role of Judas in a measured and intelligent way and delineates the Action of Jesus's ministry ceasing, and his life becoming the Passion, in the instant that he is "handed over".

    He also describes with great vividness the rapidity of the activities that occurred on holy week. Not the Jews as a tribe or race, but it was the Sanhedrin, who were the power body situated between the Jewish people and the Roman occupation and who held the positions of High Priest and of those who sold the sacrificial animals and who changed the Roman coinage of the day into shekels, and who of a matter of course, cheated every single person who came to them during the Passover.

    The only act of violence in Jesus teaching career occurred on Wednesday of holy week, during the afternoon when he took a cat of nine tails whip and, declaring loudly that "You Have Made This House of Prayer into a Den of Thieves!" He then overturned all the money changers tables and you can imagine the scene of every person in the area diving to get some of the money that was now scattered all over the floor, and with his whip in hand he forced those who sold the sacrificial animals to free them.

    This took place on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday evening he was arrested and by Friday morning he was dead – crucified.

    What happened after that is not crucial to my testimony.

    What IS crucial is that there comes a time when each of us is "handed over", and the book talks about the Passion that awaits each and every person when they get too frail or too ill and come to that point where their activities cease and other people become responsible for their care. They have passed over from the actions of life into the hospice of death.

    Many flail at this turn of events, declaring it unfair or too early, or perhaps even seeing that it is too late to attend to the chores and duties that came along with their fate and destinies.
    How horrible it must it be for such a person, who has not "paid in advance" for a happy death. A "happy death" must be one of our main objectives in discharging ourselves from the debt of our existence itself.

    Our parents may have engaged in coitus, which led to conception, but we – the weight of life fell upon us and not upon the unborn. And when we left the womb, the wheels of destiny, fate and accident began to turn irrevocably according to the law of Time/Kali/Heropass.

    Each of these terms stands for an irrevocable movement of change which causes our growth and ultimately causes our dissolution. And at some point that we do not know of, we will be "handed over". Then each of us will have our own passion; not the passion of the Savior but that of our own person.

    How many of us have practiced imagining the loss of the entire world and everything in it?

    How many of us have allowed things to leave our sphere of influence and thus die to us?

    Are we like the rich man, whose riches became a barrier to following Christ? Certainly each of us think of ourselves as rich in some manner or other. Whether it is physical goods and money or power or any other thing of the world, we forget that this is all taken away when we move from the action of our life into the passion of our death.

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  2. ...In my breathing I can see this. As I inhale I am drawn into the future, and when I exhale, my breath pushes the past behind me. Our tradition has a formula, which is to Awaken, to Really See Ourselves without any makeup – devoid of imagination. That which imagines us as perfect is Idolotry in the central sense of the word. It is our "Self-Love and Vanity" which then must die in order to form the seed of a new being within ourselves – a being which has all of the attributes of the infant Puer Aeternus – the permanent child who wonders at everything and takes nothing for granted.

    This, then, is the road to a happy death. We pay before hand, because we will leave impoverished, no matter who we are.

    I began by quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who insisted upon returning to Germany on the last boat leaving and against all of the advice of his friends because he was the head of something called the Confessing Church, which actively strove against Nazism, which led to Bonhoeffer's arrest in 1942. He was shuttled between nine different prisons and concentration camps and was a man of such sincerity that his Nazi guards kept his papers – those that became posthumously published, as he was hung to his death two days before the arrival of the Allies, and his hanging came by direct order of a certain Heinrich Himmler.

    He is almost an invisible man excepting for the facts that even his Nazi guards found his writing worthy of saving. As we enter this weekend which culminates on Sunday with Easter, let us meditate upon our own handing over, when our activity will cease and we will find our own "stature of waiting."

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