Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. -Matthew 16:13-20
Throughout the span of our lives, you and I might traverse the breadth of the world looking for traces of the Divine. All this activity, effort, and time is necessary, somehow, even though you know how futile the quest is, right from the outset. But here is the core of every story, myth, and fairy tale : the journey that takes you home.
One day, in the most mundane way, the question comes from beyond bone and marrow from the depth of the soul: Who do you say that I am? You … are the Christ! When this moment of consciousness comes, this utterly surprising breakthrough, you are given the keys to the kingdom.
This week's retreat draws you from your head to your heart (meditation one) and into pure love of God (meditation two). Turning around and facing the world again, you yourself carry the Christ into the matters at hand (meditation three).
Meditation One (introit) descend into your heart
You must descend from your head into your heart. At present your thoughts of God are in your head. And God Himself is, as it were, outside you, and so your prayer and other spiritual excercises remain exterior. Whilst you are still in your head, thoughts will not easily be subdued but will always be whirling about, like snow in winter or clouds of mosquitoes in summer.
-Theopan the Recluse 1815-1894 quoted from For Lovers of God Everywhere, Roger Housden
The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long. I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet. It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simpilicity of a tune.
The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said "Here art thou!" The question and the cry "Oh, where?" melt into tears of a thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance "I am!"
-Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941 Gitanjali
O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you. Lord, if you are not here but absent, where shall I seek you? But you are everywhere, so you must be here, why then do I not seek you?...
Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height, for my understanding is in no way equal to that, but I do desire to understand a little of your truth which my heart already believes and loves. I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but I believe so that I may understand; and what is more, I believe that unless I do believe I shall not understand.
-Anselm of Canterbury c.1033-1109
Christ Gives Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, Lorenzo Monaco, Antiphonary, 1395
Meditation Two (insight) love you for yourself alone
O Lord, whatever share of this world You could give to me, Give it to your enemies: Whatever share of the next world You want to give to me- Give it to your friends.
You are enough for me.
O God, my whole concern and desire in this world, Is that I should always remember you Above all the things of this world, And that in the next I should meet with you alone. That is why I always pray:”Your will be done.”
O my Lord, if I worship you from fear of hell, burn me in hell.
If I worship you from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.
But if I worship you for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of you Face.
-Rabi'a 717-801 quoted from The Essential Mystics, Andrew Harvey
Meditation Three (integration) hands, feet, eyes
Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ's compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless...
-Teresa of Avila 1515-1582
The Last Word
He alone can make himself known as he really is. But we go on searching in philosophy and science, preferring, it seems, a poor copy to the original that God himself paints in the depths of our souls.
-Brother Lawrence c.1614-1691
I raged. I paced. I muttered under my breath and aloud. I sat in the back pew of church with a dark cloud over my head. I left. I came back. I muttered some more.
What kind of a Christian can't fit Christ into the landscape? I had no problem with Jesus the rabbi, walking “the dusty roads of Galilee.” But after the crucifixion? Resurrection appearances? Ascension? The Christ of the Church? The Cosmic Christ? No. I don't think so.
And yet. And yet. Something drew me to Christianity. To church. To community. To prayer, now getting quite intense. To study - already closing in on a masters degree in spirituality after two M. Div programs I didn't finish because of moving and motherhood.
I met the Divine Presence in solitude and silence. In dark, loving, holy nothingness. Without words, images, agenda.
I stole those moments. I used to pray after dropping the children off at day care and the church nursery school. I had, say, twenty minutes to meditate in silence in the sanctuary before taking off to the north side of San Antonio to go to class.
But once, a set of words floated up from deep inside.