Two comments after sharing this Facebook post piqued my interest:
We are all ONE with nature, as well as with all our fellow humans, so why is it that we continue unabated to destroy our Mother Earth without seeming to care about that important part of our Being? It’s a conundrum, indeed. ~Margaret S.
And why are we so busy trying to destroy each other?! ~LaVerne H.
Margaret suggested I write a blog post about my take on the matter. So here goes.
Many factors contribute to this conundrum, I’m sure, but, as an ordained Christian minister, there is one that interests me most. I believe the suppression of love is at the root of it.
My education about the suppression of love expanded a couple of years ago when some women friends from church and I embarked on a study of the lives of women mystics. As a Protestant, most of the names were unfamiliar to me. I had heard of Julian of Norwich, Saint Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux, but knew next to nothing about them. If memory serves me, these women were not even mentioned in my seminary training. Nor do I remember them mentioned in my years of Christian education as a youth and active adult lay leader.
Experience: A Mystic’s Language
Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language. ~Meister Eckhart
In contrast to a wrathful, angry, distant God who punishes sinners, mystics overwhelmingly emphasize a relational God who loves human beings and all of creation with abandon. It is their experience of connection with The Divine that confirms this.
The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love. ~St. Teresa of Avila
I know by what I have experienced that divine love conquers all things. ~Catherine of Genoa
God is pure, unadulterated compassion from beginning to end. ~Julian of Norwich
Praised by You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day and through whom you give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One. ~St. Clare of Assisi’s love poem to all creation
Lord, Make me an instrument of thy peace … where there is hatred let me sow love … ~St. Francis of Assisi
The height of soul is reached in love, therefore those who would storm the heights by fierce inhuman effort deceive themselves sorely and bear within themselves grim hearts, for they have not the virtue of holy humility which alone can lead the soul to God. ~Mechtild of Magdeburg
To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. ~Thomas Merton
Love is the physical structure of the universe. ~ Teilhard de Chardin
Big-heartedness is the most essential virtue on the spiritual journey. ~Matthew Fox
…use a contemplative gaze to look at the world around us. Signs of love abound, reminding us of God’s essential nature. ~Richard Rohr
Somewhere in those depths of silence I came upon my first experiences of God as a loving presence that was always near, and prayer as a simple trust in that presence. ~Cynthia Bourgeault
The teachings of mystics are often at odds with church authorities and orthodox doctrine. These courageous souls from our past stood firm. Contemporary mystics continue to stand firm. All of them at great personal cost.
- Most of the women mystics we studied lived in the 1200s-late 1500s. They constantly worked to reconcile their experience of divine truth with orthodox doctrine, maintaining that their personal experience and revelations were as authoritative as scripture. Needless to say, this was not a popular viewpoint among those in power.
- In the early 1200s, despite opposition from the so-called authorities, Clair of Assisi never failed to say what needed to be said. She maintained her brave and uncompromising stance for thirty years.
- Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380) passionately participated in public and political events, puncturing the arrogance of rich, powerful, so-called learned men.
- In the mid-to-late 1500s, inquisitors constantly nipped at Teresa of Avila’s heels because she emphasized interior prayer and love. She outwitted them, chose her words and actions carefully, and survived the Inquisition.
- From the late 1930’s, with the publication of his first book, Rome essentially tried to obliterateTeilhard de Chardan, a priest and paleontologist. His books were banned. He was not allowed to teach and told to stop writing and publishing. Awards were cancelled or he was not allowed to accept them. Permission to translate his books into other languages was denied. He was even denied permission to live in France, the country of his birth. It wasn’t until after his death in 1955 that those who appreciated his writing and their mystical message published them.
- In the 1960s, Thomas Merton’s contemplative writing won world-wide recognition and led to voluminous correspondence with well-known leaders. He was occasionally forced to battle with the abbots in the monastery for permission to travel outside its walls.
- In 1984, an investigation into the writings of Matthew Fox, a Dominican priest, was ordered by Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. Even though the investigators found nothing heretical, Ratzinger objected to Fox’s writings on original sin and attempted to silence him by forbidding him to teach or lecture for a year. Due to continuing theological conflicts, in 1993, his Dominican order expelled him. In 1994, he was accepted as an Episcopalian Priest, where his ministry focusing on Creation-Centered Spirituality is more warmly received.
Missing the Mark
Jesus never asked anyone to form a church, ordain priests, develop elaborate rituals and institutional cultures, and splinter into denominations. His two great requests were that we “love one another as I have loved you” and that we share bread and wine together as an open channel of that interabiding love. ~Cynthia Bourgeault
In my opinion, the institutional church and those who perpetuate its disempowering message of unworthiness, fear, and division miss the mark of Jesus message … and that contributes to “why it is that we continue unabated to destroy our Mother Earth without seeming to care about that important part of our Being? … why we are so busy trying to destroy each other?!”
Just imagine how different our world would be today if our spiritual centers taught us how to love ourselves enough to have the capacity to love and value each other as we are uniquely created and to cherish our magnificently created world. Imagine the healing that would usher in.
We are in need of an awakening … an ability to see through the eyes of love … a transformation in consciousness … a revolution of the heart!
Jesus has been waiting a long time for us to get it. Our Creator has been waiting even longer. And most amazing … despite our blindness and hardheartedness, we are loved and cherished with abandon. Isn’t it about time we started to act like it?