We Are the Beloved — Center for Action and Contemplation

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We Are the Beloved

Mystical Marriage

We Are the Beloved
Sunday, May 9, 2021

Saint Bonaventure taught that we are each “loved by God in a particular and incomparable manner, as in the case of a bride and groom.” [1] Francis and Clare of Assisi knew that the love God has for each soul is unique and made to order, which is why any “saved” person feels beloved, chosen, and even “God’s favorite.” Many people in the Bible also knew and experienced this specialness. Divine intimacy is always and precisely particular and made to order—and thus “intimate.”

The inner knowledge of God’s love is described as joy itself (see John 15:11). This inner knowing is the Indwelling Presence. Which comes first? Does feeling safe and held by God allow us to deal with others in the same way? Or does human tenderness allow us to imagine that God must be the same, but infinitely so? I do not suppose it really matters where we start; the important thing is that we get in on the big secret from one side or the other.

Yes, “secret,” or even “hidden secret,” is what writers like the Psalmist (25:14), Paul, Rumi, Hafiz, Bonaventure, Dame Julian, and many mystics called it. And for some sad reason, it seems to be a well-kept secret. Jesus praises God for “hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them only to the little ones” (Matthew 11:25). Well, what is it that the learned and the clever often cannot see?

The big and hidden secret is this: an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once we experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes the experience for us: mystery, tenderness, singularity, specialness, changing the rules “for me,” nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and of course also, necessary suffering. This is the mystical vocabulary of the saints. Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) puts it beautifully:

Who could explain the benefit that lies in throwing ourselves into the arms of this Lord of ours and making an agreement with His Majesty that I look at my Beloved and my Beloved at me . . . . Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth, for without You, what am I, Lord? If I am not close to You, what am I worth? If I stray a little from Your Majesty, where will I end up? Oh, my Lord, my Mercy, and my Good! And what greater good could I want in this life than to be so close to You, that there be no division between You and me? With this companionship, what can be difficult? What can one not undertake for You, being so closely joined? [2]

[1] Bonaventure, “Breviloquium,” part 5, 1.5, in Works of St. Bonaventure, vol. 9, trans. Dominic V. Monti (Franciscan Institute Publications: 2005), 172.

[2] Teresa of Ávila, “Meditations on the Song of Songs,” 4.8,9, in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, vol. 2, trans, Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (ICS Publications: 1980), 246.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 35–36.

Story from Our Community:
Having experienced profound mystical experiences, I felt frightened and alone. As time passed, I began to understand that I was on the mystics path, and was not alone. Friar Richard Rohr has served as a beacon of light for me. I find great joy in knowing that I am not alone, but am holding the mystic path with many other souls, as we work together bringing forth the Christ consciousness of unity. —Ruth B.H.

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, swan (detail), 2017, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: The lines, curves and graceful beauty of the swan on water guide us into awe. Wouldn’t that be how one would respond to the presence of a beloved? God, the beloved. We, the beloved.
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