CAC teacher emerita Cynthia Bourgeault suggests that the Divine attributes of love, mercy, and forgiveness are most clearly called forth in our earthly existence. She begins with the Sufi phrase “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known,” a mystical description of why God created the universe.
Notice that there is a subtle double meaning at work in this phrase. At one level “I loved to be known” is a synonym for “I longed to be known” (and the phrase is often translated that way). But you can read the words in another way—“I loved in order to be known”—and when you do, they reveal a deeper spiritual truth. In order to become known to another, we must take the risk of loving that person, and this includes the real possibility of rejection and the even more painful prospect of heartbreak if the beloved is lost to us. . . .
Could it be like this for God as well?
Could it be that this earthly realm, not in spite of but because of its very density and jagged edges, offers precisely the conditions for the expression of certain aspects of divine love that could become real in no other way? This world does indeed show forth what love is like in a particularly intense and costly way. But when we look at this process more deeply, we can see that those sharp edges we experience as constriction at the same time call forth some of the most exquisite dimensions of love . . . qualities such as steadfastness, tenderness, commitment, forbearance, fidelity, and forgiveness. These mature and subtle flavors of love have no real context in a realm where there are no edges and boundaries, where all just flows. But when you run up against the hard edge and have to stand true to love anyway, what emerges is a most precious taste of pure divine love. God has spoken [God’s] most intimate name.
Let me be very clear here. I am not saying that suffering exists in order for God to reveal himself. I am only saying that where suffering exists and is consciously accepted, there divine love shines forth brightly.
Bourgeault invites readers to examine this phenomenon in their own lives:
The principle can be tested. Pay attention to the quality of human character that emerges from constriction accepted with conscious forgiveness as compared to what emerges from rage and violence and draw your own conclusions.
At any rate, I have often suspected that the most profound product of this world is tears. . . . Tears express that vulnerability in which we can endure having our heart broken and go right on loving. In the tears flows a sweetness not of our own making, which has been known in our tradition as the Divine Mercy. Our jagged and hard-edged earth plane is the realm in which this mercy is the most deeply, excruciatingly, and beautifully released. That’s our business down here. That’s what we’re here for.
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—a New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2008), 99–100.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on the gift of tears.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 4, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Belinda Rain, Meadow (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 11, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Seeing what is. Acknowledging. Clearing the air. After the vines are ripped from the wall, allowing new growth.
Story from Our Community:
The Daily Meditations lift my spirits while I travel a very difficult journey of deliberate forgiveness. Sixteen years ago, I was raped by someone I grew up with and trusted. For many years I hated him, and I think that was appropriate at the time. Eventually, I was able to shift the energy I expended towards the person who violated me. I even gained the ability to pray for his wellbeing. I know that not everyone has the same experience, but it was very healing for me to begin to understand him as a human being and not simply as a rapist. Forgiveness of this caliber is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. —K.L.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.