Love: Week 2
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
(Feast of the Epiphany, The “Self-Manifestation” of God)
Today is called “The Twelfth Day of Christmas” perhaps because it took at least twelve days, and then some, for the self-disclosure of God to slam into our consciousness. Intimacy is another word for trustful, tender, and risky self-disclosure. None of us can go there without letting down our walls, manifesting our deeper self to another, and allowing the flow to happen. Often such vulnerability evokes and allows a similar vulnerability from the other side. Such was the divine hope in the humble revelation of God in the human body of Jesus. My mind and mouth stumble to even imagine it or dare to think it could be true. Yet Christians dare to claim this reality.
Such human intimacy is somewhat rare and very hard for all of us, but particularly for men and for all who deem themselves to be important people, that is, those who are trained to protect their boundaries, to take the offensive, and to be afraid of all weakness or neediness. God seems to have begun thawing this glacial barrier by coming precisely in male form as Jesus, who then exposes maleness itself as also naked, needy, and vulnerable. Most cultures would say that is mind-blowing, heart-exploding, and surely impossible. Thus, the transmission of the secret, the inner mystery of God, continues in space and time primarily through what Jesus calls again and again “the little ones” and “the poor in spirit,” which he himself became.
I think that many men, celibate men even more, are very afraid of intimacy, of baring their deepest identity to another human or even to God. Yet people who risk intimacy are invariably happier and much more real people. They feel like they have lots of “handles” that allow others to hold onto them and that allow them to hold onto themselves. People who avoid intimacy are imprisoned in a small and circumscribed world. Intimacy is the only gateway into the temple of human or divine love.
Healthy sexuality creates an obvious and ideal container for true intimacy, at least now and then. Unfortunately, the physical act of sex, which is meant to be a moment of embodied and experienced intimacy, is often not intimate at all. Both healthy celibacy and sexual encounter demand deep and true intimacy, yet celibacy and sex can also be the most effective avoidance of it.
I believe vulnerable intimacy is the entrance into and the lynchpin between all human and divine love. It does not matter which comes first; it is just important that we pass through this gate of fear and find what lives inside us—and on the other side of the gate.
Intimate love is the true temple that we all desire. This longing seems to be hardwired into our beings in spite of our survival instincts. You have to want to love and to be loved very badly or you will never go to this strange temple and will never find your True Self. So God obliges and creates you in just that way, with a bottomless and endless need to be loved and to love. Today, the Feast of Epiphany, is symbolized and enacted by three important men who fell to their knees, finding themselves seduced by the vulnerability of God—sleeping in straw among the animals.
Gateway to Silence:
“There is nothing better or more necessary than love.” —St. John of the Cross
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 168, 170, 171-174.