Love Is a Mirror

Conscious Love

Love Is a Mirror
Thursday, June 20, 2019

For true love is given to mirror and manifest God on earth, and not for self-realization and personal happiness. With the acceptance of those terms, the path comes into being. —Cynthia Bourgeault [1]

Love is the ultimate reality. We can probably see this only through the inner dialogue we call prayer. For love is first of all hidden. We don’t see it unless we learn how to see more deeply, unless we clean the lens. The Zen masters call it wiping the mirror. In a clear mirror, we can see exactly what’s there without distortion—not what we’re afraid of or wish were there. Wiping the mirror is the inner discipline of constantly observing my own patterns, what I pay attention to and what I don’t pay attention to, in order to get my own ego out of the way, until I can be held by a foundational goodness and acceptance.

St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) admonished: “For the most part all [our] trials and disturbances come from our not understanding ourselves.” [2] This is also the way St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897) practiced her “science of love.” She was always aware of how her own thoughts and feelings could get in the way of her “vocation” of love. We must learn to observe our own stream of consciousness and see how it blocks the natural response of love.

Actually, one could say that love is like a mirror. According to Zen masters, the mirror is without ego and mind. If a face comes in front of it, it reflects a face. If a table comes by, it reflects a table. It shows a crooked object to be crooked and a straight object to be straight. Everything is revealed as it really is, without self-consciousness on the part of the mirror. If something comes, the mirror reflects it; if the object moves on, the mirror lets it move on. The mirror is always empty of itself and therefore able to receive the other. The mirror has no preconditions for entry, no preconditions for acceptance. It receives and reflects back what is there, nothing more and nothing less. The mirror is the perfect lover and contemplative. It sees as God sees.

Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. I love simply because I am love. That is my deepest identity and what I am created in and for. To love someone “in God” is to love them for their own sake and not for what they do for me or because I am psychologically healed and capable.

Our transformed consciousness sees another person as another self, as one who is also loved by Christ with me, and not as an object separate from myself on which I generously bestow my favor. If I have not yet loved or if love wears me out, is it partly because other people are seen as tasks or threats instead of as extensions of my own suffering and loneliness? Are they not in truth extensions of the suffering and loneliness of God? And really of the whole world. There is only one love and only one suffering, as so many of the saints say. We are all participants, willingly or unwillingly.

References:
[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, Love Is Stronger than Death: The Mystical Union of Two Souls (Monkfish Book Publishing: 1997, 2014), 125.

[2] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, The Fourth Dwelling Places, chap. 1, section 9. See translation by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Paulist Press: 1979), 71.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, eds. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 134-135, 138, 189.

Image credit: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) (detail), Vincent Van Gogh, 1890. Kröller-Müller Museum, Hoge Veluwe National Park, Otterlo in the Netherlands.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: When we’re conscious, we will always do the loving thing, the connecting thing, the intimate thing, the communion thing, the aware thing. —Richard Rohr
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