Friendship and Grace
Love and Friendship
Sunday, April 11, 2021
When you looked at me
your eyes imprinted your grace in me;
for this you loved me ardently;
and thus my eyes deserved
to adore what they beheld in you. . . .
Let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty.
—John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle,” stanzas 32, 36
When we read poetry as beautiful and profound as this verse, we can see why John of the Cross (1542–1591) was far ahead of his time in the spiritual and psychological understanding of how love works and how true love changes us at a deep level. He consistently speaks of divine love as the template and model for all human love, and human love as the necessary school and preparation for any transcendent encounter. Authentic friendship with another person is one way to experience this type of love and will be the focus of this week’s meditations. If you have never experienced such human love or friendship, it will be very hard for you to access God as Love. If you have never let God love you, you will not know how to love humanly in the deepest way. Of course, grace can overcome both of these limitations.
Here is my paraphrase of this beautiful passage from John of the Cross:
You give a piece of yourself to the other.
You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously).
This allows the other to do the same in return.
You do not need or demand anything back from them,
Because you know that you are both participating
In a single, Bigger Gazing and Loving—
One that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness.
(Simply to love is its own reward.)
You accept being accepted—for no reason and by no criteria whatsoever!
This is the key that unlocks everything in me, for others,
and toward God.
So much so that we call it “salvation”!
To put it another way, what I let God see and accept in me also becomes what I can then see and accept in myself, in my friends, and in everything else. This is “radical grace.” This is why it is crucial to allow God, and at least one other trusted person to see us in our imperfection and even our nakedness, as we are—rather than as we would ideally wish to be. It is also why we must give others this same experience of being looked upon in their imperfection; otherwise, they will never know the essential and transformative mystery of grace.
Such utterly free and gratuitous love is the only love that validates, transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. It is what we all desire and what we were created for. Once we allow it for ourselves, we will almost naturally become a conduit of the same for others. In fact, nothing else will attract us anymore or even make much sense.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (Crossroad: 2009), 140–141.
Story from Our Community:
I learned from Richard Rohr, and mystics like John of the Cross, that growing in humanity is a choice to grow in that great energy of love we call by many names, including God. I can learn something all the way to my last breath—even if it is learning to take the last breath. Life is awesome and deeply challenging when we fall into love’s connectedness. —Sarah L.