Love: Week 2
What You Seek Is What You Are
Sunday, January 3, 2016
Any authentic spirituality will emphasize a real equivalence and mutuality between the one who sees and what can be seen. There is a symbiosis between the heart/mind of the seer and what they will pay attention to. All being can rightly be spoken of with “one voice” as John Duns Scotus put it. What I am you also are, and so is the world. Creation is one giant symphony of mutual sympathy. Or, as Augustine loved to say, “In the end there will only be Christ loving himself.”
To understand this, I must know that I am, at least in part, the very thing I am seeking. In fact that is what makes me seek it! But most do not know this good news yet. God cannot be found “out there” until God is first found “in here,” within ourselves, as Augustine profoundly expressed in his Confessions in many ways. Then we can almost naturally see God in others and in all of creation too. What you seek is what you are. The search for God and the search for our True Self are finally the same search. Francis’ all-night prayer, “Who are you, O God, and who am I?” is probably a perfect prayer, because it is the most honest prayer we can offer.
A heart transformed by this realization of oneness knows that only love “in here,” in me, can spot and enjoy love “out there.” Fear, constriction, and resentment are seen by spiritual teachers to be an inherent blindness that must be overcome. Those emotions cannot get you anywhere, certainly not anywhere good. Thus all mystics are positive people—or they are not mystics! Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognizing and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God. The great paradox here is that such a victory is total gift from God and yet somehow you must want it very much (Philippians 2: 12-13).
The central practice in Franciscan mysticism, therefore, is that we must remain in love (John 15:9). Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves all religion out of any esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has for too long been lost. There is no secret moral command for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then you will see what you need to see.
Gateway to Silence:
“There is nothing better or more necessary than love.” —St. John of the Cross
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 7-10.
Pomegranates, Majorca (detail) by John Singer Sargent, 1908. Private Collection.