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Luminous Darkness, Deepening Love: Weekly Summary

Sunday
On the inner journey of the soul we meet a God who interacts with our deepest selves, who grows the person, allowing and forgiving mistakes. It is precisely this give-and-take, and knowing there will be give-and-take, that makes God so real as a Lover.
—Richard Rohr

Monday
You know only unbearable yearning. You have forgotten that the longing itself is the answer to the longing, that in the very crying out for the Holy One, the Holy One is pouring herself into you. —Mirabai Starr

Tuesday
Contemplation is nothing other than a secret, peaceful, loving inflow of God. If given room, it will fire the soul in the spirit of love.
—John of the Cross

Wednesday
I would not sacrifice my soul / for all the beauty of this world. / There is only one thing / for which I would risk everything: / an I-don’t-know-what / that lies hidden / in the heart of the Mystery. —John of the Cross

Thursday
Mystics experience a full-bodied embrace of Divine Love and acceptance, and then spend their lives trying to verbalize and embody that. They invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship, but it’s never earning the love—it’s always returning the love. —Richard Rohr

Friday
If we stay the course and go through this [dark night], we find our way deeper, deeper, deeper, and then we can see that at any given moment in these ways, through marital love, through parenting, through solitude, through oneness with the world, through silence, through service to community, through art, in any given moment, there can come flashing forth our unexpected proximity to this mystical dimension of union. —James Finley

Noche Oscura

In season three of CAC’s podcast Turning to the Mystics, James Finley and Mirabai Starr read “Song of the Soul” or “Noche Oscura” by John of the Cross. We invite you to follow the link below to listen to or read this poem shared in both English and Spanish by two modern day mystics and students of John’s teachings.

Listen or read the first time and allow the sound and images of the poem wash over you.

Listen or read a second time and allow your attention to be drawn to a word or phrase. Let it speak to you. Pray to God or journal about what it might mean to you.

Listen or read a third time. Sit in silence with God for as long as you feel drawn.

Click here to read the poem in the podcast episode’s transcript.

Reference:
James Finley and Mirabai Starr with Kirsten Oates, “Turning to St. John of the Cross,” March 8, 2021, in Turning to the Mystics, season 3 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), podcast, MP3 audio.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

Transformed by the Dark Night

If something does not give birth to humility, and love, and dying to self, and godly simplicity, and silence—what can it be?
—John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, chapter 29

Although the dark night of the soul is a deeply personal experience, it has far-reaching implications for how we show up in our lives and interact with others with whom we live, work and pray. In the CAC podcast Turning to the Mystics, James Finley speaks of John of the Cross as a model for how the union of our souls with God in the dark night transforms our humanity.

When we look at the Spiritual Canticle and the light that shines out of the darkness and being married to God, mystical marriage and so on, [John] was really known for a sensitivity to the poor, his sensitivity to the sick. He was also known for his compassion. One of the friars writes in their journal, “When we go off on our little Sunday groups and small groups for our walk, we always hope John of the Cross will join us because he always makes us laugh.” The deep love he had for Teresa [of Ávila], this deep mystical friendship bond that they had, he was fully alive. At his death, the monastery that he went to, he deliberately chose one of the superiors who didn’t like him. On his death bed, he called the superior, “So whatever I did to contribute to the conflict between us, I want to apologize.” That’s how he died and it [was] said the superior came out crying. It changed his life.

So that’s the evidence of this [dark night]. It radicalizes, which I think is Christ consciousness in the world. It’s beyond the darkness of this world in a way that paradoxically radicalizes our presence in it to the holiness of life on life’s terms. . . . Sometimes I say to myself a little prayer in my advancing years, “God, help me to be the kind of old person young people want old people to be. Help me not just to talk like this, but help me to walk around like this and answer the phone like this and talk to my grandchildren like this.” We’re all trying to do our best here to walk the walk. [1]

Finley speaks of the fruit of our fidelity to the experience of the dark night:

If we stay the course and go through this, we find our way deeper, deeper, deeper, and then we can see that at any given moment in these ways, through marital love, through parenting, through solitude, through oneness with the world, through silence, through service to community, through art, in any given moment, there can come flashing forth our unexpected proximity to this mystical dimension of union. [2]

References:
[1] James Finley with Kirsten Oates, “Dialogue 1: The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” March 22, 2021, in Turning to the Mystics, season 3 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), podcast, MP3 audio.

[2] James Finley, “St. John of the Cross: Session 1,” March 15, 2021, in Turning to the Mystics, season 3 (Albuquerque, NM; Center for Action and Contemplation, 2021), podcast, MP3 audio.  

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Story from Our Community:

Dealing with a severe mental illness (OCD) and trying to make my way through the fog has been excruciating at times. However, the realization that Christ is in me, in my mess, and holding all things together has been healing. Knowing that I have always been held in the Trinity is a source of immeasurable comfort.
—Gary A.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Love

The mystic is not somebody who says, “Look what I’ve experienced. Look what I’ve achieved.” The mystic is the one who says, “Look what love has done to me.” . . .  There’s nothing left, but the being of love itself giving itself away as . . . the concreteness of who you simply are. —James Finley, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate

Father Richard affirms love as the heart of all mystical experience:

It seems to me Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. Yet the mystics consistently describe an overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In their writings, God is the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. Then we certainly want to love back the way we have been loved. As Franciscan Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306) would say, weeping, “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” [1] I want to love back the way I have been loved. But it’s not like I’ve got to prove my love for God by doing things. My job is simply to complete the circuit!

Mystics experience a full-bodied embrace and acceptance by Divine Love, and then spend their lives trying to verbalize and embody it. They invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship, but it’s never earning the love—it’s always returning the love. Can you feel the difference? Returning God’s love is almost a different language. It’s not based in fear, but in ecstasy.

God is always given, incarnate in every moment and present to those who know how to be present themselves. It is that simple and that difficult. To be present in prayer can be an experience of being loved at a deep level. I hope you have felt such intimacy alone with God; I promise it is available to you. Maybe we just need to be told that this divine intimacy is what we should expect. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek it. It feels presumptuous. We don’t trust that such a love exists—and for us. But it does.

Mystics often use erotic language to describe the deep human-divine relationship found in contemplation. I have often wondered why God would give us such a strong and constant fascination with one another’s image, form, and face. I think it’s because all human loves are an increasingly demanding school preparing us for an infinite divine love.

Today we recognize this school of love as the only real training ground for “all the saints,” and it can never be limited to those who have fully graduated. As the entire New Testament does, we must apply the word “saints” to all of us who are in kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or graduate programs. Love is one shared reality, and our common name for that one shared reality is “God” (see 1 John 4:7–21).

References:
[1] Frederick Ozanam, The Franciscan Poets in Italy of the Thirteenth Century, trans. A. E. Nellen and N. C. Craig (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1914), 202.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 61–62.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Story from Our Community:

Dealing with a severe mental illness (OCD) and trying to make my way through the fog has been excruciating at times. However, the realization that Christ is in me, in my mess, and holding all things together has been healing. Knowing that I have always been held in the Trinity is a source of immeasurable comfort.
—Gary A.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Unknowing

In his poem “Glosa á lo Divino,” John of the Cross reveals his deep trust in the mystery of “not knowing,” confident that it will lead him into greater intimacy with God. We share with you Mirabai Starr’s translation:

I would not sacrifice my soul
for all the beauty of this world.

There is only one thing
for which I would risk everything:
an I-don’t-know-what
that lies hidden
in the heart of the Mystery.

The taste of finite pleasure
leads nowhere.
All it does is exhaust the appetite
and ravage the palate.
And so, I would not sacrifice my soul
for all the sweetness of this world.

But I would risk everything
for an I-don’t-know-what
that lies hidden
in the heart of the Mystery.

The generous heart
does not collapse into the easy things,
but rises up in adversity.
It settles for nothing.
Faith lifts it higher and higher.

Such a heart savors
an I-don’t-know-what
found only in the heart of the Mystery.

The soul that God has touched
burns with love-longing.
Her tastes have been transfigured.
Ordinary pleasures sicken her.
She is like a person with a fever;
nothing tastes good anymore.

All she wants
is an I-don’t-know-what
locked in the heart of
the Mystery. . . .

I will never lose myself
for anything the senses can taste,
nor for anything the mind can grasp,
no matter how sublime,
            how delicious.
I will not pause for beauty,
I will not linger over grace.
I am bound for
an I-don’t-know-what
deep within the heart of the Mystery.

—John of the Cross, Glosa á lo Divino, trans. Mirabai Starr

Reference: 
Mirabai Starr, Saint John of the Cross: Luminous Darkness (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2022), 73–75. The phrase “glosa á lo divino” refers to a spiritual commentary.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Story from Our Community:

Many years ago I had a near-death experience around the birth of one of my children. I was filled with the profound Love of the One that could not be contained in my physical body. Even now, writing this, tears flow. John of the Cross said there are no words to describe this Holy One—he was left speechless and so am I. This Holy Love is so utterly and profoundly exquisite that my mind is too small to understand—only my heart can.
—Lynn C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Silence

What we need most
in order to make progress
is to be silent
before this great God
with our appetite
and with our tongue,
for the language
he best hears
is silent love.

John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, trans. Mirabai Starr

John of the Cross describes the doubt that disrupts a soul in the dark night, when all sense of knowing God is absent. Mirabai Starr translates from John’s classic work Dark Night of the Soul:

The deep suffering of the soul in the night of sense comes not so much from the aridity she must endure but from this growing suspicion that she has lost her way. She thinks that all spiritual blessing is over and that God has abandoned her. She finds neither support nor delight in holy things. Growing weary, she struggles in vain to practice the tricks [prayer practices] that used to yield results.

John of the Cross encourages those experiencing this dark night to trust the silence that comes when we surrender our need to speak to God using our own words:

This is no time for discursive meditation. Instead, the soul must surrender into peace and quietude, even if she is convinced she is doing nothing and wasting time. She might assume that this lack of desire to think about anything is a sure sign of her laziness. But simple patience and perseverance in a state of formless prayerfulness, while doing nothing, accomplishes great things.

All that is required here is to set her soul free, unencumbered, to let her take a break from ideas and knowledge, to quit troubling herself about thinking and meditating. The soul must content herself with a loving attentiveness toward God, without agitation, without effort, without the desire to taste or feel him. These urges only disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quietude and sweet ease inherent in the gift of contemplation being offered.

The soul might continue to have qualms about wasting time. She may wonder if it would not be better to be doing something else, since she cannot think or activate anything in prayer. Let her bear these doubts calmly. There is no other way to go to prayer now than to surrender to this sweet ease and breadth of spirit. If the soul tries to engage her interior faculties to accomplish something, she will squander the goodness God is instilling in her through the peace in which she is simply resting. . . .

The best thing for the soul to do is to pay no attention to the fact that the actions of her faculties are slipping away. . . . She needs to get out of the way. In peaceful plentitude, let her now say “yes” to the infused contemplation God is bestowing upon her. . . . Contemplation is nothing other than a secret, peaceful, loving inflow of God. If given room, it will fire the soul in the spirit of love.

Reference:
John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, trans. Mirabai Starr (New York: Riverhead Books, 2002), 67, 68–69, 70.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Story from Our Community:

Many years ago I had a near-death experience around the birth of one of my children. I was filled with the profound Love of the One that could not be contained in my physical body. Even now, writing this, tears flow. John of the Cross said there are no words to describe this Holy One—he was left speechless and so am I. This Holy Love is so utterly and profoundly exquisite that my mind is too small to understand—only my heart can.
—Lynn C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Longing

One of the primary themes that emerges in the work of John of the Cross is the soul’s longing for God. Mirabai Starr describes this state:

It feels as if the most beautiful lover in the world had come into your life, wooed you with perfect poetry and electric kisses, promised you were the one, the one and only, and then disappeared in the middle of the night without a word. But this is a lover who will never leave you. . . . You know only unbearable yearning. You have forgotten that the longing itself is the answer to the longing, that in the very crying out for the Holy One, the Holy One is pouring herself into you. [1]

Through his poetry, John’s soul cries out to God:

Where have you hidden away,
[Beloved], and left me grieving, care on care?
Hurt me and wouldn’t stay
but off like a deer from there?
I hurried forth imploring the empty air.

You shepherds, you that rove
over the range where mountains touch the sky,
if you should meet my love
—my one love—tell him why
I’m faint, and in a fever, and may die. [2]

CAC teacher James Finley clarifies that not all longings for the divine will be experienced in such a dramatic or clear way. We can also pay attention to our own dissatisfaction with “the way things are.” Jim writes:

The longings that form the visceral energy of prayer are not necessarily felt and expressed in concrete and tangible ways that are easy to recognize. Sometimes—often, in fact—the longings of prayer are diffused and muted longings that one barely feels at all. What we notice is that we tend to be entirely too indifferent and uncommitted to the spiritual path. But in looking more closely, we can discern a sense of discontent with our apparent lack of zeal. The discontent belies a subtle desire hidden beneath the surface of an ongoing apparent lack of desire. . . . We pretend we do not care about what we, at some deep level that is hard to access, actually care about very much. There is, it seems, a deal that the heart makes with itself not to admit that it harbors a desire so deep it could not go on without that desire being fulfilled.

Whenever someone on the spiritual path shares with me their concerns about their lack of desire for and commitment to their path, I often sense the tender sadness in all that they share. The tenderness lies in the sincerity in which they obviously do care. For if they did not care, their perceived lack of caring would be of no concern to them. And the sadness lies in their inability to see how God loves them so in the midst of their real and imagined lack of commitment to God. [3]

References:
[1] Mirabai Starr, Saint John of the Cross: Luminous Darkness (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2022), 37–38.

[2] John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle,” in The Poems of St. John of the Cross, trans. John Frederick Nims, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979, 1989), 3.

[3] James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco: 2005), 94–95.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Story from Our Community:

Having helped others step from our life into the next, I thought I could handle anything. Then the night came that I stayed with my dying father. It seemed the unshakeable bond was broken. I now have a bond with those who stood helpless at the foot of the cross, with all the suffering in our world. Love never stops.
—Br. John

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Mystical Allurement

In Mirabai Starr’s new book Saint John of the Cross: Luminous Darkness, she highlights four major themes found in the writings of John of the Cross (1542­–1591): longing, silence, unknowing, and love. This week’s meditations focus on these four enduring mystical themes. We begin with a reflection from Father Richard on his own experience of God:

The divine-human love affair really is a reciprocal dance. Sometimes, in order for us to step forward, the other partner must step away a bit. The withdrawal is only for a moment, and its purpose is to pull us toward him or her—but it doesn’t feel like that in the moment. It feels like our partner is retreating. Or it just feels like suffering.

God creates the pullback too, “hiding his face,” as it was called by so many mystics and scriptures. God creates a vacuum that God alone can fill. Then God waits to see if we will trust our God partner to eventually fill the space in us, which now has grown even more spacious and receptive. This is the central theme of darkness, necessary doubt, or what the mystics called “God’s withdrawing of love.” They knew that what feels like suffering, depression, uselessness—moments when God has withdrawn—are often deep acts of trust and invitation to intimacy on God’s part. On the inner journey of the soul we meet a God who interacts with our deepest selves, who grows the person, allowing and forgiving mistakes. It is precisely this give-and-take, and knowing there will be give-and-take, that makes God so real as a Lover.

The experience of the twentieth-century mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin echoes that of John of the Cross four centuries earlier:

God does not offer Himself to our finite beings as a thing all complete and ready to be embraced. For us God is eternal discovery and eternal growth. The more we think we understand God, the more God reveals Himself as otherwise. The more we think we hold God, the further God withdraws, drawing us into the depths of Himself. [1]

Father Richard concludes:

I must be honest with you here about my own life. For the last ten years I have had little spiritual “feeling,” neither consolation nor desolation. Most days, I’ve had to simply choose to believe, to love, and to trust. In this, I know I stand in good company with Teilhard, John of the Cross, Mother Teresa, and countless other mystics and saints, and maybe some of you.

But God rewards me from letting God reward me:
This is the divine two-step that we call grace:
I am doing it, and yet I am not doing it;
It is being done unto me, and yet by me too.
Yet God always takes the lead in the dance, which we only recognize over time.

References:
[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), 119. Note: some changes made for inclusive language.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019, 2021), 78–79.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Dorothea Lange, Village Dwelling (detail), 1936, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The house in the center image is shut against the harsh sun. It is closed and dark inside. Yet darkness can hold deep beauty and its own kind of light, creating conditions for healing and illumination. After our dark night we may be invited to gently lift the blinds.

Story from Our Community:

Having helped others step from our life into the next, I thought I could handle anything. Then the night came that I stayed with my dying father. It seemed the unshakeable bond was broken. I now have a bond with those who stood helpless at the foot of the cross, with all the suffering in our world. Love never stops.
—Br. John

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

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Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.