I realised recently that people who live on small islands have a low rating on punctuality. I think this is due to the fact that given the short distances involved they don’t think they will be late as long as they set out before the time of their appointment. This philosophy of time doesn’t work so well in the big world.
Then there are personalities who can never keep a deadline and live in a time dimension of ever-melting horizons.
If the spiritual dimension of life has been awakened and if we are exploring its life-enhancing depths then the balance between waiting and acting becomes regulated. This is no doubt why meditation reduces stress and promotes creativity.
To learn to say the mantra and, as John Main said ‘to be content to say it, is to see that all time exists in the present moment. The gift of seeing that that moment is the moment of Christ adds the icing to the cake. – Fr Laurence Freeman
The Christian message, born of an insight deeper than words and transmitted through the full silence of the Spirit, is embarrassing. “God became human so that human beings might be come God.”
This refrain of the early theologians sounds more daring than many theologians would risk today and it strongly resisted the attempts of gnostical dualism to dilute it. What it means, of course, can only be understood through the experience of our lives when we try, weakly most of the time, to live as if it were the central truth, the real thing in all circumstances.
It suggests that Incarnation is God concentrating into a singular human being so that God can indeed ‘become fully human”. How else can one be human without being a human being in a particular time and place? The classical theologians thought this was necessary but that the suffering this individual underwent was inevitable. God needed to be human. Jesus, the fulfilling of this divine need, didn’t want to suffer any more than any human wants to suffer. (Father if it is your will let this cup pass me by).
This doctrine might sound abstract and parochial to many today. In fact it changes the way we ourselves become incarnate in our own unique life-stories through all the phases of our development. It helps us not to get stick in infantile mentality or adolescent behaviour as we see happening in most violent conflicts and indeed in many of our own personal problems.
It also teaches us the authentic way of handling suffering. As Leonard Cohen says we must learn to lament within the strict limits of dignity and beauty. The ego’s tendency to self-pity risks making us isolated and bitter. But to know what our destiny is, what suffering taking us towards, gives both compassion and dignity to our approach to suffering, disappointment and loss.
This is why Lent is a Christian season. And why meditation is Christian prayer Not to be punitive towards ourselves because of our failings or to seek enlightenment merely as an escape from suffering. But to be fully human, wholly awake, in order that we can indeed ‘become God’ as we are programmed to do.
“Christus se hemelvaart beteken nie dat Hy afwesig is nie. Dit is ek wat nie teenwoordig is nie.” Wat wou Broer Rodger van Taizé hiermee sê? Ek vermoed hy wou aan ons verduidelik dat die “afwesige” Christus ŉ aanklag teenoor die afwesige Christene is. Ons leef soos mense wat Christus verloor het en nie regtig deur Hom geraak en verander is nie. Terwyl ons as die dissipels van Jesus Hom moes verteenwoordig en sigbaar maak, leef ons soos mense wat Hom nog nooit ontmoet het nie en nou ook na Hom op soek is.
Ons soektog kan ons hier in lydingstyd op ŉ dwaalweg neem indien ons byvoorbeeld meen ons sal Hom ontdek wanneer ons vas of weer Paasnaweek in die kerk kom. Al hierdie aktiwiteite kan dalk ŉ tydelike belewenis bring, maar verdwyn net weer so vinnig soos my nuwe voorneme.
Wat van ŉ nuwe benadering hier in lydingstyd?
Jesus woon deur sy Gees in ons. Hierdie inwoning behels ŉ eenheid met Christus. Rom 6:11 Julle moet dus altyd onthou dat ook júlle vir die sonde dood is, maar vir God lewe, omdat julle een is met Christus Jesus. Om vanuit die eenheid te lewe beteken Christus is ŉ realiteit binne my. Indien ek Hom wil gaan soek, behels dit ŉ inkeer na binne.
Ons woon in God. Hierdie eenheid het die verdere mistieke kenmerk dat ons ook binne God is. Nee, ons is nie God nie. God bly God en ons bly mens. 1 Joh 4:15-16 Wie bely dat Jesus die Seun van God is—God bly in hom en hy in God. En ons ken die liefde wat God vir ons het, en ons glo daarin. God is liefde; wie in die liefde bly, bly in God en God bly in hom. Indien ek Christus wil gaan soek, wel, Hy het my reeds gevind want ek is in Hom.
Lydingstyd is dus ŉ tyd om die intimiteit tussen my en God te voed en te vertroetel. Om intimiteit te koester vra tyd. Die tyd om op te offer is nie in die eerste plek om ŉ klop goed te doen nie, dis om minder te doen en meer tyd met God te spandeer.
Maak dus tyd vir die soektog hier binne jou. Keer in jouself in waar Christus reeds is. Ontmoet Hom daar en gaan stel Hom dan aan die wêreld voor deur die manier hoe jy met liefde lewe.
Iemand het eenkeer gesê hy staan elke dag as ŉ ongelowige op. Hiermee bedoel die persoon dat Christus Homself elke dag nuut aan hom kom voorstel. Staan elke dag op met die wete dat jy die Beminde nuut in jouself gaan ontdek en leef dan so dat ander die Beminde in jou kan sien.
You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
With such a challenge how did Christianity ever dwindle, as it often does, to being a mere morality or another ideology competing for world domination or even worse, a refuge for those fearful of the revolution of the spirit?
It is not just that ‘perfection’ is off-putting. In context the word refers to God’s boundless, non-judgmental love that is tested in human affairs by our capacity to love those who do us harm or reject us. Perfectionism is a refuge for religion that does not want to understand this and that prefers the ego-satisfaction of making rules it takes pleasure in keeping and a perverse pleasure in breaking.
If God were as easy to understand as that we’d have an easier lot in life. There wouldn’t be the insatiable thirst that is at the core of human existence. But how can we endure an invitation to divinization from a stranger who won’t take no for an answer and comes back without shame for yet another rejection?
Jesus often got impatient with his disciples – ‘so slow to understand’. We see the same resistance in the time it takes many of us to understand meditation. There are many books and teachings that say meditation is good, of course, as a preparation for hearing what God has to say. This is a pious way of missing the point – not so different from saying that, yes, meditation is good because it makes us sleep better at night and reduces our cholesterol.
To get the point that God is the silence, that’s the point. Our mystical tradition teaches that. But it seems easier to go the more complicated route.
And why keep bringing meditation into it? Isn’t it worth repeating that there is a simpler and more direct way home?
By Fr Laurence