Dying Before You Die
Dying with Christ
Monday, April 1, 2019
My good friend and Franciscan colleague Sister Ilia Delio writes:
God is radically involved with the world, empowering the world toward fullness in love, but God is unable to bring about this fullness without the cooperation of humans. Human and divine cannot co-create unto the fullness of life without death as an integral part of life. Isolated, independent existence must be given up in order to enter into broader and potentially deeper levels of existence. Bonaventure [1217–1274] speaks of life in God as a “mystical death,” a dying into love: “Let us, then, die and enter into the darkness; let us impose silence upon our cares, our desires and our imaginings. With Christ Crucified let us pass out of this world to the Father.”  
Contemplative prayer is one way to practice imposing “silence upon our cares, our desires and our imaginings.” Contemplative practice might be five or twenty minutes of “dying,” of letting go of the small mind in order to experience the big mind, of letting go of the false self in order to experience the True Self, of letting go of the illusion of our separation from God in order to experience our inherent union. Prayer is quite simply a profound experience of our core—who we are, as Paul says, “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Only by dying into God can we become one with God, letting go of everything that hinders us from God. Clare of Assisi [1194–1253] spoke of “the mirror of the cross” in which she saw in the tragic death of Jesus our own human capacity for violence and, yet, our great capacity for love.  Empty in itself, the mirror simply absorbs an image and returns it to the one who gives it. Discovering ourselves in the mirror of the cross can empower us to love beyond the needs of the ego or the need for self-gratification. We love despite our fragile flaws when we see ourselves loved by One greater than ourselves. In the mirror of the cross we see what it means to share in divine power. To find oneself in the mirror of the cross is to see the world not from the foot of the cross but from the cross itself. How we see is how we love, and what we love is what we become. 
True life comes only through many, many journeys of loss and regeneration wherein we gradually learn who God is for us in a very experiential way. Letting go is the nature of all true spirituality and transformation, summed up in the mythic phrase: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Following Christ is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world, not a requirement for going to heaven in the next world.
 Bonaventure, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, 7.6. See Bonaventure: The Soul’s Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of St. Francis, trans. Ewert H. Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 16.
 Ilia Delio, Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness (Orbis Books: 2015), 82.
 Ilia Delio, Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love (Franciscan Press: 2007), 26-41.
 Delio, Making All Things New, 82-83.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999, 2003), 21, 178.