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Center for Action and Contemplation

Self-Emptying: Weekly Summary

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Summary: Sunday, December 10-Friday, December 15, 2017

Every created thing is the self-emptying of God into multitudinous physical and visible forms. (Sunday)

“In sum, we are not called to love God or the world. Rather, we are called to love God in the world. We love God by loving the world. We love God through and with the world. But this turns out to be a kenotic, a sacrificial love.” —Sallie McFague (Monday)

The spiritual path is not about getting more or getting ahead, which only panders to the ego. Authentic spirituality is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need, although we don’t know that at first. (Tuesday)

“How can my life be a reflection of divine love in this time and place? The classic Christian phrase for discipleship—the imitation of Christ—means that we were made by God to become like God, loving all others, loving universally.” —Sallie McFague (Wednesday)

To avoid all loss, to avoid all letting go, is to avoid transformation into God, into union, into something more. (Thursday)

“[I]f one understands God to be not a ‘substance’ but the active, creative love at work in the entire universe, then ‘loving God’ is not something in addition to loving the world, but is rather the acknowledgement that in loving the world, one is participating in the planetary process (which some identify as ‘God’) of self-emptying love at all levels.” —Sallie McFague (Friday)


Practice: Fall into Love

We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. —The Earth Charter, Preamble [1]

Letting go is basically making space for more—and for all otherness—inside of my small self. Jesus made this point in his very opening line in his first sermon: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (see Matthew 5:3). We do not live in a culture that appreciates letting go or “poverty of spirit.” We are consumers and capitalists by training and by habit. Yet, just as in the Trinity, all infilling must be preceded by a necessary self-emptying—or there is never room in the inn!

To be truly conscious, we must step back from our compulsive identification with our unques­tioned attachment to our isolated selves—the pri­mary illusion. Pure consciousness is never just me, trapped inside my self. Rather, it is an observing of “me” from a distance—from the viewing platform kindly offered by God (see Romans 8:16), which we call the Indwelling Spirit. Then we see with eyes much larger and other than our own.

Most of us do not understand this awareness because we are totally identified with our own pass­ing thoughts, feelings, and compulsive patterns of per­ception. We have no proper distance from ourselves, which ironically would allow us to see our radical connectedness with everything else. Such radical connectedness is holiness. Some degree of detachment is absolutely necessary to get started spiritually. “Detachment, detachment, detachment,” taught Meister Eckhart. [2]

To many, surrender and letting go sound like losing, but they are actually about accessing a deeper, broader sense of the self, which is already whole, already content, already filled with abundant life. This new identity is the part within that has always loved and is Love. All each of us has to do is let go and fall into it.

[1] “The Challenges Ahead,” The Earth Charter,
[2] Meister Eckhart, On Detachment. This treatise can be found in The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, trans. and ed., Maurice O’C. Walshe (Crossroad Publishing: 2009), 566-575.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 53-54, 87-88.

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—a New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008)

Sallie McFague, Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (Fortress Press: 2013)

Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 1 (Sounds True: 2010), CD

Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016)

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