Daily Meditations

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations explore the contemplative foundations of Christianity “From the Bottom Up.” Each topic builds on the previous one, but you can join at any time! Watch a short intro (8-minute video) and explore past reflections. Scroll down to read the most recent post.

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Most Recent Post

Self-Emptying

Paschal Mystery
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Given our twin planetary crises of climate change and unjust financial distribution, what is needed is not more information but the will to move from belief to action, from denial to profound change at both personal and public levels. The religions of the world, countercultural in their assumption that “to find one’s life, one must lose it,” are key players in understanding and promoting a movement from a model of God, the world, and the self focused on individualistic, market-oriented accumulation by a few, to a model that sees self and planetary flourishing as interdependent. We live within our models and make decisions on the basis of them. . . . The interdependent model demands self-emptying (Christian kenosis) or “great compassion” (Buddhism) on the part of the well-to-do, so that all human beings and other life-forms may live just, sustainable lives. —Sallie McFague [1]

From evolution and the lifecycle of stars to our own lives, transformation and change appear to happen through periods of loss, crisis, stress, and even death. Physicists today would say that loss of energy or matter is not real. There is only transformation. Think of the changes water goes through in its journey from cloud (vapor) to liquid (rain) or solid (ice) and back to vapor. What may look like loss or death is in fact a becoming.

Spiritual teachers in all the great traditions have said the same thing in different ways. In Christianity, it was called the paschal mystery. Jesus became the living image of that pattern; his crucified body was transmuted, transformed into the risen Christ. Jesus taught and showed us that “unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

We might say that creativity and new life have a cost. The cost looks like death but really isn’t. We perceive death and loss as enemies and afflictions because they appear to be the opposite of life. Spiritually speaking, to somehow embrace loss is to find eternal life. Death allows us to be united with what is really real. To avoid all loss, to avoid all letting go, is to avoid transformation into God, into union, into something more. Wisdom teachers say that if you spend your whole life avoiding dying, you’ll lose your real life.

This is about as counterintuitive as it gets. There is no rational explanation or proof. We have to experience it to know that it is in fact true—just as true for us humans as throughout the natural world. As Jesus said, “You must lose your life to find your life” (Matthew 10:39; 16:25).

How can we embrace the losses that are happening due to “climate change and unjust financial distribution,” as Sally McFague writes, and move through them into the higher states of consciousness, freedom, and love so urgently needed today?

Gateway to Silence:
Let it go; let it be.

References:
[1] Sallie McFague, Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (Fortress Press: 2013), xii.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 3 (Sounds True: 2010), CD.

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