God morning all! (That was what we call a “divine typo!”) The other day I had just happened upon the Discover channel in time to catch a Theology Professor/Author discussing the history of religion. It was a fleeting moment of what I’m sure was a very lengthy program…but it was an incredibly potent moment. The host was telling the story of some famous Atheist philosopher who became a Christian after gazing in deep contemplation upon a famous painting of the body of Christ, laid out for burial after the crucifixion…captured powerfully by the artist. Gazing on the broken body, pierced deep with jagged wounds and torn flesh from the Roman whips and nails that anchored him to the cross…he realized pure and perfect love.
Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love. And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast. All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart. But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.- Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet
I could not recommend a more food for the soul book than The Prophet! I was extremely fortunate to have read it when I was very young and in my spiritually formative* years…I guess you’d say. Gibran does not devote the space for anger in his book. I wonder what he would have said about it. From my perspective, anger is almost everything that love is not. It is destructive where love is constructive…even and especially when it (love) hurts! I bring up anger only because one might say it seems to be on the rise (societally speaking), where love in the true sense of the word seems to be much harder to find. And this is exactly why I wanted to focus on love this morning. It is truly what the world needs now!
And just as the Atheist turned Christian realized, there is love…and then there is love! The Kabbalists map its qualities in two places on their Tree of Life. The Sephiroth’s Chesed (Universal Love) and Tiferet (Personal Love). Chesed sits up on the right side of the tree opposite Gevorah, and Tiferet is almost in the direct center in a straight line between Keter (Heaven) and Malkhut (Earth).
The most powerfully riveting scene for me in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, was the way in which the Director captured the essence of Mary’s complete and utterly heart-wrenching embodiment of Tiferet when her son had fallen before her during his torturous stations of the cross. We all know the mother’s love…but I had never felt it before that moment!
I particularly want to stay in Chesed this morning because our greatest Societal wound…and healing resides here. It is from this place that we will save ourselves. It is from here that we temper our response to the most vicious and hurtful attacks on our collective beings…with true compassion. It is from here we must find the love to forgive the very worst of them…without giving up the very best of us!
It is from this place that we must see, understand and forgive the Golem who stalks us…in its desperate lunge for the very power that consumes him. It is the very reflection of everything we are not! For his is the ultimate portrait of self-destruction that comes from forsaking the inner whisper for the outer “precious.”
I will leave you with a very powerful teaching the Buddhist nun Gen La imparted to me. She taught that because each of us have lived countless upon countless lives that each and every soul you meet was indeed your mother in a past life! Thinking for a moment on the pure and perfect love where Mary held Jesus…now gaze upon Golem.
*- “How does one form what has been all along?”, he asked himself.