Unitive Seeing

Union

Unitive Seeing
Monday, December 12, 2016
(Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

It comes down to this: When we see things in a unitive way, in conscious union with the eyes of God, what we see is qualitatively different. Our seeing is no longer self-referential but expansive. This changes our entire frame and perspective. Unitive consciousness is what the true contemplative is seeking, and thus seeing, day after day.

I want to say very clearly that “foundational holiness” or ontological union with God is our first nature and is enjoyed by people who are psychologically or intellectually immature. In fact, God has always—and only—been in union with an obviously imperfect humanity. That is the essential character of divine mercy. Salvation is always pure and total gift from God. Living and thinking autonomously, separately, or cut off from the Vine (John 15:1-5) or Source is what Paul means by being foolish and unspiritual (1 Corinthians 1:20-2:16). Living in union is what I like to call “knowing by participation.” Spiritual things can only be known from the inside, never as an object outside ourselves, or we utterly distort the perception. We must know subject to subject (I-Thou), not subject to object (I-it).

Separateness and objectification is unfortunately the chosen stance of the small self. From this place we have a hard time thinking paradoxically or living in unity. Instead, we more readily take one side or the other in order to feel secure. The ego frames everything in a binary, dualistic way: for me or against me, totally right or totally wrong. That is the best the small egotistical self can do, but it is not anywhere close to adequate for God’s purposes. It might be an early level of dualistic comparison or intelligence, but it is never wisdom or spiritual intelligence, which is invariably nondual.

The small self is always objectively in union with God, it just does not know it, enjoy it, or draw upon it. “Is it not written in your own law, ‘You are gods’?” (John 10:34). Don’t accuse me of heresy; Jesus apparently quoted his own Scriptures in this regard (Psalm 82:6)! But for most of us, this objective divine image has not yet become the subjective and personal likeness, to use the two helpful Genesis metaphors (1:26). Our goal is to illustrate both the image and the likeness of God. The image is given to all; the likeness must be personally surrendered to, allowed, and practiced. This is the core of Christian faith.

Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it. Surrender to Another, participation with Another, and divine union are finally the same thing. Once we have achieved this union, we look out at reality from a much fuller Reality that now has eyes larger than our own. This is precisely what it means to “live in Christ” (en Christo), to pray “through Christ our Lord, Amen.” Note the important preposition here: we do not pray to Christ; we pray through Christ! Most Christians have not clarified this for themselves because they do not know that they are the Body of Christ. This change of consciousness is monumental in its implication.

This utterly transformed sense of self, living in objective union with God, no longer needs to live in shame or denial of its weakness, but rejoices because it does not need to pretend that it is any more than it actually is—which it now realizes is more than it ever hoped for! “When I am weak, I am strong,” Paul says (2 Corinthians 12:10). The loss of our small self, which initially feels like weakness and losing, becomes strength and winning. This is the great paradox enjoyed by every true believer.

Gateway to Silence:
We are already in union with God.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 62, 69-71. 

Image Credit: Early Autumn (detail), Qian Xuan (1235-1305), 13th century, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Numbers only; no punctuation

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