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Center for Action and Contemplation

Beginning Again

Monday, January 1, 2018

Introduction: Image and Likeness

Beginning Again
Monday, January 1, 2018
World Day of Peace

Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing. —Saint Francis of Assisi near the end of his life [1]

My goal in the coming year of meditations is to offer new perspectives and applications of the foundational, mystical truth that we—and all of creation—are made in the image and likeness of God. There are always new vocabularies, fresh symbols, new frames and styles, but as my spiritual father St. Francis knew, there is only one enduring spiritual insight and everything else follows from it: The visible world is an active doorway to the invisible world, and the invisible world is much larger than the visible. This is “the mystery of incarnation,” the essential union of the material and the spiritual worlds, or simply “Christ.”

Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness—and holiness. The result is deep joy and a sense of coherent beauty. The Incarnation of Jesus manifested this one universal truth: Matter is, and always has been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew. Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7).

In the beginning, we knew this. The archetypal Creation story shows Adam and Eve walking in the garden, intimate with God. After “the eyes of both of them were opened” through the deception by the serpent, Adam and Eve saw a split universe of suspicion, subterfuge, doubt, and alienation (Genesis 3:7). “They realized that they were naked” and separate from the Source of their being. This is the delusion, the lie, and the “fall” from original grace and innocence.

By the age of seven, most of us have “left the garden” and have begun to live largely in our minds—looking over at the garden. Before that time, we exist in unitive consciousness, when “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30), or my mother and I are one, as we enjoy in the first months of life. Soon we see ourselves as separate from God, creation, others, and even our own bodies, standing apart and analytical. We no longer know by affinity, likeness, or natural connection (love), but we merely know things as objects out there and apart from us.

And so we spend our lives searching for the garden and, hopefully, learning to live from this place of union, not just once in a while, but as our primary way of being in the world. We must practice “beginner’s mind” to rediscover the reality of our union that is so simple and obvious that our dualistic, rational minds are blind to it.

[1] Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis: The Second Book, chapter 6. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1999), 273.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2016), xiv; and
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 40-41.

Image credit: White Sands National Monument, New Mexico by Nicholas Kramer, CAC staff – representing the spaciousness and freedom within us that is a reflection of the imago Dei.
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