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Center for Action and Contemplation

Transmitting Love

Monday, December 19, 2016

Love Summary for the Year: Week 1

Transmitting Love
Monday, December 19, 2016

Love is not love until you stop expecting something back. The moment you want something in return for your giving, love is weakened and prostituted. This is the nature of the divine energy that transforms: love is always flowing outward, it is inherently contagious, and it is holiness itself.

The contemplative, non-dual mind inherently creates a great “communion of saints,” which is so scattered, hidden, and amorphous that no one can say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” but instead it is always “among you” (Luke 17:21)—invisible and uninteresting to most, but obvious and ecstatic to the few who seek (Matthew 22:14).

From the Trinity to Jesus, the energetic movement begins; from Jesus this communion continues visibly in time through people like Francis and Clare, Bonaventure and Scotus, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Pope Francis. But the vast majority of unified souls are unknown to history books. We ourselves are part of this one great parade, “partners in God’s triumphal procession,” as Paul calls it, “spreading the knowledge of God like a sweet smell everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). It is much more a transmission of authentic life and love than of correct ideas or doctrines. This is my understanding of “apostolic succession,” much more than bishops laying their hands on one another.

I think the genius of the Dalai Lama and Buddhism is that they do not get lost in metaphysics and argumentation about dogmas and doctrines. As the Dalai Lama writes, “The essence of all religions is love, compassion, and tolerance. Kindness is my true religion.” [1] We could dismiss that as mere lightweight thinking, until we remember that Jesus said the same: “This is my commandment: You must love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12). It is our religion, too, or at least it should have been.

The Dalai Lama is not saying anything we do not already know on some level. Mother Teresa offered simple wisdom; people would go away quoting her, adding that their lives had been changed. Contemplation leads you to have simple, clear eyes, common-sense faith, and loving energy that makes whatever you say quite compelling. Ironically, it also allows you to deal with complex issues with the same simplicity and forthrightness, as we now see in Pope Francis.

It seems we all need to encounter people who are able to operate as an example, a model. The East has always recognized that transmission of spirituality takes place through living models, whom they call gurus, sanyasis, pandits, or avatars. This is why the Catholic and Orthodox traditions honor saints. Love is caught more than it is taught. You cannot learn how to love through concepts, ideas, and commandments. You need to see and feel a living, loving incarnation. “She is doing it. He exemplifies it. It is therefore possible for me, too.” It is almost more a taste, a smell, or a touch than an idea. Recent Christianity has relied far too much on ideas instead of living models. Sincere believers can smell holiness, even when the words might seem unorthodox. They can also smell unholiness from people who seem to do religion perfectly.

Gateway to Silence:
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.

[1] His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, “Love, Compassion, and Tolerance” in Handbook for the Spirit, eds. Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2008, ©1997), 3.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 204-205; and
Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014), 67-68.

Image credit: Fatzael Springs and ancient and modern water system in Fatzael Valley in the west side of Jordan Valley (detail). Photograph by Hanay.
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