The Three Boxes

Everything Belongs: Week 2

The Three Boxes
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God. —Julian of Norwich [1]

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it is letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful at some level. But part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small, false self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space.

The role of the prophet is to lead us into sacred space by deconstructing the old space; the role of the priest is to teach us how to live fruitfully in sacred space. The prophet disconnects us from the false, and the priest reconnects us to the real at ever larger levels. If “priests” have been largely unsuccessful, it is because there are so few prophets. And to be honest, most ministers confuse the maintaining of order with re-order! This is a huge issue. Such “priests” might talk of new realms but never lead us out of the old realm where we are still largely trapped and addicted; they have little personal knowledge of the further journey. Thus our Western spirituality is so lopsided.

Let’s think in terms of what I call “the three boxes”:  order > disorder > reorder.

The first order, where we all begin, is a necessary first “containment.” But this structure is dangerous if we stay there too long. It is too small and self-serving, and it must be deconstructed by the trials and vagaries of life (“the cross” or disorder). Initial “order” doesn’t really know the full picture, but it thinks it does.

Only in the final “reorder” stage can darkness and light coexist, can paradox be okay. We are finally at home in the only world that ever existed. This is true and contemplative knowing. Here death is a part of life, failure is a part of victory, and imperfection is included in perfection. Opposites collide and unite; everything belongs.

We dare not get rid of our pain before we have learned what it has to teach us. Most of religion gives answers too quickly, dismisses pain too easily, and seeks to be distracted—to maintain some ideal order. So we must resist the instant fix and acknowledge ourselves as beginners to be open to true transformation. In the great spiritual traditions, the wounds to our ego are our teachers to be welcomed. They should be paid attention to, not litigated or even perfectly resolved. How can a Christian look at the Crucified One and not get this essential point?  The Resurrected Christ is the icon of the third box or reorder

Once we can learn to live in this third spacious place, neither fighting nor fleeing reality but holding the creative tension itself, we are in the spacious place of grace out of which all newness comes.

There is no direct flight from order to reorder, you must go through disorder, which is surely why Jesus dramatically and shockingly endured it on the cross.  He knew we would all want to deny disorder unless he made it clear. But we denied it anyway.

Gateway to Silence:
All things work together for good. —Romans 8:28

References:
[1] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, 61, ed. Grace Warrack, R. Rohr paraphrase (London: Methuen & Company, 1901), 153.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, How Do We Get Everything to Belong? disc 2 (CAC: 2004), CD, MP3 download; and
Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 43-44, 101, 158-159, 171.

Image credit: Photograph by Domenico Salvagnin, Springtime II (detail), taken near Padua, Italy, Wikimedia.org.
Numbers only; no punctuation

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