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Center for Action and Contemplation
Edge of the Inside
Edge of the Inside

The True Center 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

We begin this week’s meditations with a foundational teaching from Richard Rohr on what it means to be “on the edge of the inside”: 

The biblical prophets, by definition, were seers and seekers of Eternal Mystery, which always seems dangerously new and heretical to old eyes and any current preoccupations with status and security. The Hebrew prophets lived on the edge of the inside of Judaism. John the Baptist later does the same with Temple Judaism, and Paul then sharply disagrees with Peter and the new Christian establishment in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1–14). Francis and Clare continued this classic pattern in their own hometown of Assisi as they physically moved from upper Assisi among the majores to the lower side of town and the minores. There they had nothing to prove or defend. It offered the most opportunities to have fresh and honest experience, and to find their True Center. [1]  

The starting point for the biblical prophet is an amazing positive experience of theophany (as we see in Isaiah 6, for example) that fills their heart, not with cynicism, not with sarcasm, not with negativity, not with opposition, but with ecstasy that has to be shared. That one experience of the absolute is so absolutizing that it has the effect of relativizing everything else. It even relativizes the institutions of religion, which receive the prophets’ most constant and continuous criticism.  

We see this almost perfectly replicated in Jesus. Jesus is constantly critiquing religion and being fought by religion. The prophets come out of religious experience, and yet they find themselves fought most by religion itself. Often, like Jesus, they are killed by the religious establishment. Why is that true? [2]  

People hiding inside of belonging systems are very threatened by those who are not within that group. They are threatened by anyone who has found their citizenship in places they cannot control. Christians call this place “the Reign of God.” When one has found one’s treasure elsewhere and is utterly grounded in the passion and pathos of a transcendent God, they are both indestructible and uncontrollable by worldly systems.  

If we look at some who have served the prophetic role in modern times, like Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Pope John XXIII, Simone Weil, and Óscar Romero, we will notice that they all held this exact position. They tended to be, each in their own way, orthodox, conservative, traditional clergy, intellectuals, or believers; but that truly authentic inner experience and membership allowed them to critique utterly the exact systems of which they were a part. We might say that their enlightened actions clarify what our mere belief systems really mean. These prophets critiqued Christianity by the very values that they learned from Christianity. [4]  


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), xxi–xxii. 

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr and Joan Chittister, Prophets Then, Prophets Now (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2006). Available as MP3 download. 

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “On the Edge of the Inside: The Prophetic Position,” Radical Grace 25, no. 4 (Fall 2012): 26. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, momentary peace (detail), digital oil pastels. Taylor Wilson, Transfiguration (detail), cyanotype. Taylor Wilson, Madonna and Messiah, ink. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Transformation happens on the margins (the edge of the inside), and so, like this bird, we are freed. 

Story from Our Community:  

Since 2020, I have not physically been to church. But during that time I have walked over 2,000 miles in my local countryside. Many of those miles were spent walking in the early morning. They were blessed moments of serenity, peace, and beauty of nature. Now I am brave enough to say that the cathedral of the great outdoors has always been my spiritual home. My daily experience of spending time in nature, along with reading the Daily Meditations, have reconnected me to what I intuitively knew and felt about creation. —Mary C. 

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