Tag Archives: cross

Exploring Solitude: Meeting the Crucified One

God is simplicity and one-foldedness,
inaccessible height and fathomless depth,
incomprehensible breadth and eternal length,
 a dim silence and a wild desert.

So wrote John of Ruysbroeck in the 14th century.

God is also a man, whose name is Jesus,

born in a middle eastern city,

of a woman named Mary.

Firmly anchored in time and space,

he walked the paths of Nazareth,

ate,  and laughed,  and loved.

God is also this same man,

now beaten,  bleeding,  and dying,

executed on a cross.

For in Jesus

the Inaccessible Height and Fathomless Depth

had inserted

itself into

the messy specificity and limitation

of humanity,

and consented

to occupy

suffering,

injustice,

cruelty,

fear,

defeat,

and death.

So now,  all that suffers,  loses,  messes up,  and bleeds finds welcome in that dim silence and wild desert of the cross.  All that is lost or broken is gathered and folded into the height and depth and breadth and length of God. Every precious particle of God’s making  is held with infinite tenderness in the simplicity of love.

There are moments,  days,  even years for some,  where the work of solitude involves suffering.  Alone with God,  we are presented with painful truths. We are refined and purified.  We gradually learn to be present to God,  not on our terms,  but on God’s terms in the context of our own specificity.

This is the work of letting go and letting be. This is the journey of ever deepening faith and radical trust. This is the door that sets us loose to roam forever free.

During the observance of Holy Week,  the specificity of God made known in Jesus,  enters into the lonely anguish of surrender to the terms of his Father.  The one who has been surrounded by crowds and encircled by his chosen disciples,  makes the solitary journey into death to return to the heart of all being.

We find an account of this journey in the gospel of Mark.  Mark’s gospel is characterized by a simple,  direct,  unpretentious style.  The gospel has an urgency about it.  Mark’s  frequent use of the dramatic present tense contributes to the immediacy.  The emphasis is on the action – the deeds and words of Jesus – as he confronts and responds to the religious establishment,  the disciples,  and the crowds.  This action moves compellingly to the crucifixion.  The story unfolds in a hurry,  as though the very presence of Jesus has set in motion forces which lead inevitably to the cross.

Then at the cross,  in striking contrast to the preceding scenes,  Jesus becomes the receiver of the action in total surrender.  The syntax changes from active voice to passive voice,  as the Greek word,  paradidomai,  appears more and more frequently.  Paradidomai means handed over,  or to give into the hands of another,  to be given up to custody,  to be condemned,  to deliver up treacherously by betrayal.  This is the same word the gospels,  as well as St. Paul, use repeatedly to describe the crucifixion.

As the resurrected Jesus tells Peter on the lake shore,  there comes a time when we will be carried where we do not wish to go. (John 21: 18)  Then we find ourselves being handed over to our life circumstances,  the limits,  sins, injustices,  and frailties of human existence.

At the cross in Jesus the Limitless,  Inaccessible,  Unfathomable God makes things very plain, very simple:

Watch me. Trust me. Do it like this. All is forgiven. Surrender. Allow yourself to be carried into darkness. There is a place beyond your knowing or naming, where I am and you are. Follow me.

All transformation,  all redemption require moments such as these:

the passivity of the seed buried in the earth,

the passion of love poured out to the last dregs for the beloved,

the prostration of oneself in the dim silence and wild desert,

where all things are born anew.

The moral revival that certain people wish to impose will be much worse than the condition it is meant to cure.  If our present suffering ever leads to revival, this will not be brought about through slogans, but in silence and moral loneliness, through pain, misery and terror, in the profoundest depths of each person’s  spirit.      Simone Weil

 

Solitude Practice:

  • What do you need to surrender, let go of, or let be this week?
  • Not all, but much of our suffering may be tied to our defiant resistance to letting go and refusal to accept the suffering of self denial. Do you agree with Simone Weil that broad social change could be gained, not by imposition of morality, but through the struggle in the depths of individual souls?
  • What is it like for you to shift from being the prime mover and actor in your life story, to becoming the receiver of the action of others? How might God be handing you over this Holy Week?
  • Is there a relationship between your consent to being carried where you do not wish to go and experiences of healing and redemption in your life?

Next post in this series –  Exploring Solitude:  Leaving solitude, gone to Galilee.

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 News for Praying Life Readers!

I am leading a workshop in April here in Topeka, KS. Hope to see some of you there!

Look and See: Nurturing a Shining, Festive Life of Prayer

Saturday, April 21, 2012
8:30-12:00
$20.00
First Congregational Church
1701 SW Collins, Topeka, KS  

Please register early to assure a place by calling or emailing First Congregational UCC. 785-233-1786; info@embracethequestions.com

 

The Morning After

Well, it’s over, thank
goodness.
The lilies droop.
The chocolate bunnies hunch
half eaten in the plastic grass.
Mrs. Mitchell runs the sweeper
in the sanctuary
sucking up the alleluias.
It’s over
and we made it.
We said it wouldn’t be easy.
We said we would be taking up the cross.
But the pain catches us
off guard
and we hunt
for other causes.
We said, “Yes, Lord, we will follow,”
and sauntered into lent
with the nonchalance of toddlers reeling
along some sheer drop off
all ignorant of our peril.
So when it comes.
The event, the person, the inner turmoil
which nudges us to embrace
the cross’s hideous face,
we forget
and call it irreconcilable differences
or stress or heartburn.
_____________
Once I went through a very painful period of deep suffering. When I talked with my spiritual director about it, he asked, “What have you been praying for?”
“To be conformed to God’s will.”
“Well, what did you expect?” he said.
We have an uncanny way of compartmentalizing our life in God. For some of us the things we say to God in church, the prayers, and songs, appear to have little connection to the life we lead outside church. How many times have we prayed “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and then gone home and worried all week about the state of the economy, our nation, or our families?
Several people lately confided to me how afraid they are about the world. These are deeply faithful people, yet they are afraid. As for me, I, too, fretted most of last week – those useless “what should I do next” worries. The one we follow has explicitly told us not to fear. Yet we try to justify our fear by hunting around for the cause of our discomfort and call it whatever is fashionable – midlife crisis, the government, the economy.
In doing that we subvert the process of growth and maturity God has initiated within us, usually at our request. Think about it. What sort of things have you been asking of God lately?
The sacred action of transformation within our souls as individuals and nations will create turmoil, uncertainty, painful loss, and suffering. This is the cross. At the same time it is purposeful, hopeful, and to those who remain grounded in faith will, absolutely, result in new life and greater freedom to love and serve one another.
For me the bottom line is this, where do I get my news?  What is my foundation, the central fact and eternal truth of my life?  CNN, FOX News, my wimpy ego, or the Risen One calling me to trust in the hidden life and power of God around every bend in the road?
Now – go eat the rest of that chocolate bunny and have a day full of wonders!

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