At this time of the year, when life becomes busy with everyone preparing for the holidays, I have to remind myself that it is also Advent. The weather, the early darkness also remind me to go inward, reflect, and pray. Christmas requires more than decorating and shopping.
This week, in my reflective mode, I ran into several statements by Richard Rohr, a favorite spiritual writer and speaker, whose topic is love in its most transcendent form.
He quotes the Jesuit scientist and mystic Teilhard de Chardin: "love is the very physical structure of the universe." By that he means, I think, that everything in creation (from the cellular level on) desires union with everything else in one sense or another.
This is in keeping, believe it or not, with the medieval vision of Dante, who says at the end of his "Paradiso," that love moves the sun and the other stars. He is not speaking of romantic love but that the life force of the universe is divine energy, which is called love. His idea of God, like that of many contemporary mystics and some scientists, is vast enough to include the idea that everything that exists in part of one whole. Life, being, and love are all parts of what we call God. So we and our fellow creatures and planet are parts of God. Goodness is built into all that is.
What Thomas Merton and Rohr call my "true self" is who I am in God, and this union is made possible by love. Love is who I am and who I am becoming.
As Rohr says, God is a flow more than a substance, and we are inside that flow. We are allowed "to ride life and love's wonderful mystery for a few years--until life and love reveal themselves as the same thing." This, he says, is the message of the risen Christ: life morphing into a love that is beyond space and time. We on earth are allowed to add our own energy to the cosmic energy, to "add our breath to the Great Breath." This is a wonderfully positive insight, reflecting the optimism that informs mystical theology.
I find this a striking and memorable way of looking at life, including death, as a whole. Like God, they are the ultimate mysteries. As a result, if we choose to talk about God, we can't do so as if God were a Being separate from us and from creation--an autonomous Supreme Being. Rather, as Rohr says so well, God is Being itself ("I am who AM"), that is, an energy that moves within itself (Father), beyond itself (Christ), drawing us into itself (Holy Spirit).
In this rich and beautiful formulation, the Christian idea of the Trinity takes on fresh meaning, even though I know too well that all such language is hopelessly inadequate. These are mysteries meant to be contemplated and savored, never understood.
I realize that all of this may make no sense, that it requires volumes of further commentary, with references to the mystics who, in various traditions, have had similar insights over the centuries. I am grateful to have encountered some of them, like the Franciscan Richard Rohr, and to be lost in the mysteries they present.