© rita h kowats 2014
photo credit: <a href=””></a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> Creative Commons
This poem comes to us from Joyce Rupp, a sister of the Servite order who clearly does her own spiritual work. I post it here because we are in January, heading into February, the doldrums of winter. As I create this post the Pacific Northwest of America is locked in a fierce storm, with 60 mph wind gusts and driving rain. Instead of cursing the dark, Joyce encourages us to embrace it. It is what it is, and out of it light can emerge. You can find a list of her books and tapes at http://www.joycerupp.com/
This year I do not want
the dark to leave me.
I need its wrap
of silent stillness,
of long lasting embrace.
Too much light
has pulled away
from the chamber of gestation.
Let the dawns
come late, let the sunsets
let the evenings
while I lean into
the abyss of my being.
Let me lie in the cave
of my soul,
for too much light
steals the source of revelation.
Let me seek solace
in the empty places
of winter’s passage,
those vast dark nights
that never fail to shelter me.
by Joyce Rupp from The Circle of Life
“The eye with which I see God
Is the same eye with which God sees me.
My eye and God’s eye are one.
One seeing. One knowing. One loving.”
As a young and naïve theology student, I took a course on process theology, and it changed my life. Faithful adherents of institutional doctrine would say it changed me for the worst. You be the judge. This post comes out of personal experience. I walked out of that class one day and met a friend who asked, “How are you?” I replied, “Well, currently, I seem to be an atheist.” Laughing, he claimed that atheists make the best Christians. Subsequently, I spent several months researching mystics, and I regained God, in a rich and unexpected experience. God had become my own greatest potential already realized, and thirty-four years later, this is still my experience.
The church branded Meister Eckhart a heretic for preaching that, “My eye and God’s eye are one,” “All that is [exists] is in God,” “We are sparks of the divine.” Eckhart denied the charge. I have studied and prayed with this profound mystic for a very long time, and I am finally old enough to realize that he was indeed saying at least, that we are growing into our divinity. Is not a spark of fire, fire? It may not be the whole campfire, but when a spark flies up and singes the hairs on a camper’s arm, he knows it’s fire! I believe that God is our own greatest potential already realized, and we unveil it minute by minute, day by day.
By seeing. “My eye and God’s eye are one eye: one seeing.” Soul-sight differs from soul-seeing. It comes from God as a package deal, but we have to learn how to see with it. We can’t see a painting with the eye of an artist without developing an artist’s skills; similarly, we don’t see with our soul-eye without developing spiritual intuition.
By knowing. “My eye and God’s eye are one eye: one knowing.” Most readers of the Hebrew Scriptures understand that Biblical Knowing refers to sexual intercourse. Adam knew Eve, and they had a son….The meaning can also go much deeper, describing a profound act of contemplation. There really are not words which adequately describe union with God, but here is an attempt. Individual sparks unite to make a fire, until they become indistinguishable. The spark is the fire, and the fire is the spark. If we are to experience this kind of knowing, we need to identify the lost fragments of our souls, and bring them back.
By loving. “My eye and God’s eye are one eye: one loving.” Knowing leads to loving. We must learn to love our lost soul-fragments. When we do, all the pieces will come together in that acceptance, and we will know and love God within our wholeness. If God is our greatest potential already realized, loving ourselves is loving God.
Blending visual art and words and music are ways to draw us deep into the eye of God. It doesn’t matter if our attempt falls short of expectations. I don’t really know how to draw or compose music. I just let go and do it, trusting that you will forgive my ignorance! Here I have created a mantra and put it to a simple Gregorian chant. When I can catch a space, I sing it repeatedly within the quiet of my soul and it sometimes brings me into contemplation, at least for a moment. Feel free to download this image and make a bookmark of it as a reminder.
“Every human person is noble and of royal blood, born from the intimate depths of the divine nature and the divine wilderness.” Meister Eckhart
“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we reap in the harvest of action.” Meister Eckhart
Without outward focus, spiritual development can become naval gazing for its own sake and self aggrandizement. Instead, spiritual growth is about uniting with the Other, and from within that union, invite others to do the same. This invitation requires us to help create a just and peaceful environment which allows us the space to develop, and in turn, invite others to join in the process. Meister Eckhart was an academic, a mystic, and a prophet. Through his own spiritual journey he came to the realization that we are all “aristocrats,” born from the nature of God. Instead of focusing on his own mystical experiences, he went into his medieval marketplace and preached to the masses in their vernacular German. He condemned a “merchant” mentality which denied the nobility of the soul, and which bound serfs to church and state by unjust contracts. Without outward focus our spirituality exists for its own sake. Our relationship with God gives us the moral authority to address injustices in our community.
Recently, near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, a garment factory in the Rana Plaza collapsed, bringing the whole plaza down on itself. As of this writing the death toll is 600. A few days before the collapse cracks had appeared in the building and police ordered it evacuated. The owners ignored the order, threatening to cut pay if workers did not report for work. There were some arrests of engineers who worked without permits and insisted the building was safe. One owner fled the country.
This is not Meister Eckhart’s Middle Ages. We don’t have a feudal system which supports the wealthy on the backs of the poor…do we? Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, supplying cheap knock-offs to fashion-addicted western buyers like me.
What is our call in response to this situation? In our prayer and study we can come to believe that by virtue of our relationship with God, we are noble. The Bangladeshi factory workers are noble. Because we believe it, we can participate in boycotts which put pressure on factory owners to recognize the nobility of their workers by giving them safe working conditions and just wages. We can better monitor our own consumption of cheap knock-off clothes, helping to create new and just markets. May our contemplation spill into acts of justice so that these hundreds of workers have not died in vain.