Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Christ our Resurrection and Life
Christ our Resurrection and Life
"Wherever you are on earth, you wish to perceive the Mystery that lies at the Heart of your heart.. 'Why be afraid? I, Jesus, am here; I am the Christ. I loved you first… In you have I set my joy!
..Recognized or not, the Risen Christ remains close to every person, even those unaware of Him. He remains there in secret."
(Brother Roger of Taize, No Deeper Love)
In the Lenten Liturgy we celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ. In my childhood years the only thing I understood was that Easter was a time for dressing up in fine clothes and families to take pictures. I never made the connection very well between the death and resurrection of Jesus and real life. So I've been reflecting on that every since. Yet in the Christian tradition we teach the death and resurrection of Jesus as the pivot point of Christian life. If this is only historic event, how can this be central to our own spiritual life?
I have come to understand the Paschal Mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, is the mystery of *our* life and all existence. We celebrate this mystery in the spring of the year when there is the rising of new Life. In the spring the new life arises out of the death and transformation of the old life.
The rising of new life arises out of death, and the relinquishment of all that has gone before. New life is the developmental fulfillment of the life cycle. The butterfly in Easter Christianity is a potent symbol of transfiguration and resurrection. The caterpillar dies as it was before, and leaves behind the husk of its former existence so the butterfly can spread its wings and leave the bounds of earth. The old life has to be cleared away, so that there is space and room, for the new life to emerge. The season of winter is this phase in the rhythm of the seasons, so that spring can burst forth.
For us the meaning of resurrection, the invitation to join Christ in the Risen Life is not just about the resurrection at the end of physical life or the end of time. Resurrection is the potential that awaits us here and now to live the Risen Life of Christ in our own. In the tradition of Eastern Christianity we realize the goal of human life is Christification, to bring forth and manifest the Life of the Risen One fully in our own human life, in the uniqueness of our own journey and life development. Easter and Resurrection therefore are what we live more than just what we believe.
Resurrection is not something we do alone or of ourselves. It is the something we participate in; it is the way we unite our life to the Life of Christ in the way of the Cross, in the many deaths of self relinquishment and kenosis. We face these transformative movements most clearly in time of trial and loss. Living the Resurrection is the way we die to the former life we lived, and are given to the consecration of the Risen Life of Christ coming alive in our own life.
Gethsemane and Easter
Two visual representations of the Paschal Mystery are the icons of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and the icon of Resurrection called Anastassis (raising up). The first shows the self-offering and surrender of Christ, while the disciples sleep. They show all those resistances in our humanity that don't want to face the truth of the way life is in our vulnerability and impermanence. These sleeping apostles in us resist by being unawake or unconscious or distracted. The Christ of Gethsemane is a vulnerable Christ, and we are not different. The self-offering of Christ, the kenosis of Christ, is what makes the second movement of Rising possible. And so it is also in our own practice of Breathing Yeshua each moment, releasing and offering. In our opening in the Heart and in the space of our surrender to Christ we are then joined to His Rising. We are lifted up and out of the deadness and stagnation of our habitual patterns, as represented by the Christ figure reaching into the underworld and lifting up the figures of Adam and Eve in the Anastassis icon. The discarded keys and locks in the icon represent the unbinding of our chained and oppressed condition. Christ is the liberator who frees us from death to live His Life.
Resurrection is a life long process of living out the Paschal Mystery. Gethsemane is part of the process, Golgotha is part of the process, and Easter is the fulfillment of the process in each of our lives. Years ago in presenting a hospice workshop a pastor invited to participate made the comment: "There are too many Christians who want the Resurrection and are unwilling to accept the crucifixion." In other words we come to participate in the Risen Life of Christ through our equal participation in His crucifixion in our own life.
Yeshua poses that same question to each of us when he says, " Can you drink the cup which I am to drink?" Our invitation is to drink fully the cup of our life and death, and to allow all those experiences of joy and sorrow to be the means of our redemptive, transformative work. (Mathew 20-21).
In the garden of Gethsemane we are presented with the vision of a Yeshua in his vulnerability. He is a human who sees the losses he faces, the pain of complete desolation, of abandonment, of aloneness, of not only the loss of his own biological life, but also the loss of the experience of union with the Source that all humans experience. In the Garden of our Gethesemane again and again our own human will cringes before the onslaughts to our vulnerability. In moments of crisis we come face to face with the physical and psychological vulnerability that is our humanity. Like Yeshua we may say, "Let this cup pass from me" We just don't want it. "Make it go away." The ego says, "I didn't bargain for this." And our time of trial arises as fear and despair grips us in small or big ways. The life of Faith can take us deeper.
Yet true freedom from fear only is resolved only when we give over our vulnerability in sheer gift of love and trust. Like Yeshua we have the capacity to loosen the fist of our hand and hold it out empty and offering our own humanity and emptiness to the Beloved. This giving, this choice, isn't one we make by ourselves It is our union with Christ that allows us to make that gift in Him. Christ chooses in us when we say, "I choose You. Let Your will be mine in this moment forward." Then we begin to move in freedom to accept that our life suffering and circumstances are the cross on which we can be fully given in love and transformed. The cross of "what gets in the way, becomes the Way." In this way we are united with the Cross of Christ in every moment, and every circumstance of life. This is the heart of Prayer of the Heart, to be fully given in love in Christ.
Luke 9:23- "If you want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, those who lose their live, for my sake will save it." It is in this emptying and relinquishment of all those things that we have identified with in this life, all our ideas of success and failure that we release from our false identity; we lose our life and therein find our True Life who is Christ. We must make room, make space, and give a whole hearted "yes" for Him to live in us.
"Unless a Grain of Wheat fall to the earth and die, it cannot bear fruit." (John 12:24) Falling is not a bad thing in the Gospel. The culture deems falling as failure. Yet falling is inevitable in life. The real question in our practice is how do we fall and what do we do when we fall. Can we learn to fall in self-relinquishment to Christ? Can we learn to keep going in our walk with Christ when we fall? Can we let our falls be the occasion of our deepening self-gift to Christ? Are we willing to take the next step in our falling?
Yeshua says: “ Be not afraid .. I am with you always.” (Matt. 28) This is the promise that we are never alone in our journey. And it may be in our falling that we are most accessible to Yeshua, most aware of our need and His presence as our Faithful companion in this life.
Our Daily Cross
How do we take up our cross daily, when do we do this? In our practice of Prayer of the Heart both in stillness and in the middle of life we cultivate the interior movements of presence and adoration. In our adoration we bow in self-offering love to Christ who is our Life. In the ceaseless invocation of the name of Yeshua we unite our human life to the Life of the Risen One and we enter the life of Resurrection.
Our cross of human vulnerability and impermanence, our cross of separateness, are the raw material of our daily bowing in adoration and self-offering in love. All of us, without exception come through life wounded, especially in the earlier years when we are most vulnerable and least defended. Our wounds, the wounds we often deny and run away from, can be seen as the sacred wounds of Christ. We may have hidden them in shame, or in fear. The way we defend our wounds and protect ourselves from further harm may keep us from loving more deeply. Yet it is these very wounds that are the way of our salvation. If we look closely in our journey, it is the way that we have been hurt or injured in life and our search for healing and strength that become our Way into Christ. For me the early injuries of insecurity and isolation, became the fuel for my finding true sanctuary and true belonging in the Heart of Christ.
The main purpose of God's redemptive work is that we may be restored to a life of participation in His Life in Christ. Hence true redemption, true salvation, is the healing of the soul's capacity to receive and manifest the love of Christ, present within us from the beginning.
Our Sacred Wounds
Our Wounds in the Paschal Mystery are the means of our redemption and opening to the Risen Life of Christ. Think of those times in your life when you are brought closest to your wounds, to your vulnerability as a human being. They are times of crisis, when the habitual patterns don't work, when the usual supports aren't present. They are a time of trial when the temptation is to dig a hole and climb into it, or lash out in anger or self-defense and fear. This is the moment when the cross of Christ is our redemptive path. In this moment when we allow Christ to choose, and say "yes"- that we are given in love, given in trust to love more deeply, more fully, more completely. That is a Resurrection moment. The beatitudes teach us that Resurrection happens only in our vulnerability when we really exercise Faith to take refuge in Christ. When things are going well, when the mind and psyche feel secure, we are comfortable in our habitual patterns and old husks. When things fall apart, through grace, the self of separateness can fall apart into the life of communion with Christ. Holding it together isn't always a good thing. When we fall apart into the arms of Christ, that is a good thing indeed and we break free from our husks into butterfly glory and flight.
The moment of trial, of doubt, in a relationship, in a human encounter, in helplessness can be the moment of death and resurrection. (And isn't what we fear the most helplessness?) Can I do this? Can I drink this cup? Can I give myself without reservation to the love of God in even this? That is our Garden of Gethesemane.
Think of your Cross in life, and the carrying of it, as the particular way we bring the wounds of our human soul, and the knot of separateness again and again to the healing and restoration of God. Christ is the One who carries the cross in us, the One who unravels the knots of isolation and separateness. He is the One who opens us to the choice of self offering in Him; and His love, again and again, ceaselessly opens us to Himself in the course of a life time.
Think of those choices you have made, when it was most dark, when you were most in trial, most in crisis. Think of when you were most willing to reach out with empty hands and ask for help in making the choice for what is most good, most loving, and most healing, regardless of the cost. In each moment, in the darkest moment, this is the cross of Christ which brings us to the death of the cocoon of our self absorption and into the flight of freedom to Love, as we are called to, as we were loved into existence to do.
In my marriage, in my life as a father, as a counselor to the emotionally and mentally afflicted, as a spiritual director, I have grown the most in love when I had to reach with empty hands and a sense of helplessness and inadequacy. I have opened the most when I asked for help to give of myself in love, the best I could. This is the opening to the Risen Life of Christ, coming alive in me and you. This is our death to the habit patterns and dead mental formations that keep us locked in bondage. The times of my seeming failure and helplessness, the death of my self-sufficiency and separateness, then become the opening to consecration in the Risen Christ. Brother Roger of Taize tells us about the nature of this Resurrection in Christ: " When Christ asks you, 'For you, who am I? Suppose you were to reply; 'Christ Jesus, You are the One who loves me into life that has no end.' " ( Brother Roger, p. 37)
Jesus said, " I am the Resurrection and the Life, those who believe in me, though they die, will live."( John 11:25) The way we come to that realization is through our humanity. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (I CO 1:23) said that he came to proclaim neither the law of the Jews nor the wisdom of the Greeks but Christ crucified. No high minded philosophy will bring us to oneness with Christ, but only the cross of our life experience, if we let grace happen. He was talking to people about what is real, that life is tough, and you can't realize goodness by making rules or expounding lofty ideals; rather you come to love's completion through the hard things in life. M. Scott Peck said that life is a school for loving. And so it is in our relationships, they are a dimension of the cross, the school of our life, where we learn to love, fully and deeply
Stations of the Cross
One of the important devotional practices of my childhood was the stations of the cross. At some level in my earlier life they made a deep impact because I understood they are not about history, but about the mystery of living for you and me. Christ crucified is about our living and our crucifixion as well.
Jesus is condemned- We are condemned when the hurts and injustices of life, and when our losses and vulnerabilities catch up to us. Things may come our way that we think we don't deserve. Our diminishments, the works we have wrought, the relationships that have disappointed or hurt us, they condemn us as well. What we had placed our hope and security in vainly, condemns us. Impermanence and death intrude and condemn us. We are mocked and humiliated by the judgements of the culture around us and by our apparent failures.
Jesus receives and accepts the cross- We accept what life has brought us, and let it be the means of our transformation to learn to love as best we can, to learn to let Christ give Himself in us as best we can. We accept the unavoidable and let it transform us, rather than give in to blind resignation.
Jesus falls the first time, the second, and the third- We fall, we fail, we don't live up to what is best and deepest in us, Our weakness is revealed. The fall to the ground is acceptance of our humanity, our limitations. We learn a great wisdom, the acceptance, and above all, the faithfulness of getting up again and again and going on. When we fall seven times, the important thing is the eighth time we get up.
Jesus receives help- We are not self sufficient and separate, Christ carries our cross with and in us, and others walk with us on this journey of transformation in His love. We are never entirely alone or abandoned as Christ continually offers Himself as our companion.
Jesus is stripped of his garments- We are stripped and naked in our defenses before God, and our utter and complete dependence on Him. Our life arises in God, and remains ever one in God. The paradox is that in our nakedness we discover our essence in God and our ultimate security.
Jesus gives up His Life- We give up the life we have known in self-offering to God. The prayer of consecration of Yeshua is our prayer- "Into Your Hands, Abba, I commend my Spirit." For me this is the last chant, the last mantra of the day. And in the official office of the monastic tradition of Compline it is also the last chant of the day. It is the daily commitment that we give up the life we have known that Christ can live in us. And in our surrender the stone of our own separate-self life rolls away and the life of Christ rises to live fully in us. In that moment we are offered up, as the host in the Eucharistic liturgy, and are united in the offering of Christ.
Resurrection Life in Ordinary Life
As we deepen our practice in the Way of the Heart we come to live Resurrection in ordinary daily life. We experience not just crucifixion but the glory and joy of the Risen Life of Christ. Our Resurrection becomes our journey of singular refuge in Christ alone.
We find extraordinary joy in the ordinary life of walking with others, it is the road to Emmaus, eating, drinking, cooking the fish for others. We find joy in breaking bread; we sail on the sea of Galilee with Yeshua in the everday lives of service. Resurrection life is sailing with Yeshua in this way, in the ordinary life of ours. True enlightenment and mystic union leads to this state, of living ordinary life with exquisite and extraordinary joy and love. Resurrection leads not to separation but joining fully the unitive life of humanity and all Creation. In us Christ can love and serve our loved ones, our community, and the created world of all things around us. It is a life of consecrated love and concern for all things. The true measure of a life then is agape, unitive love, and its measure is the tender concern we bring to all we do.