I want to clip a brief note to the front of this post about my experience of the silent retreat that brought about this reflection. Although it has been wonderful. A lot of my time this week I would consider ‘unholy’. I thought about fasting but ate food instead; some of it healthy, some not as healthy. I had a lot of coffee. I took long naps even though I had had plenty of sleep during the night. During the silent part of the retreat I skated off site and blared my rock music to the woods. I stared longingly at a pretty young woman but not long enough for her to catch me (I hope). This week has been quite human as far as my lived experience goes. I am not excusing my behaviour but simply describing it. Now we can move on.
I always feel that when I set aside intentional time to be with God and experience his mystical presence that there is something lacking. It is often never quite as intoxicating as I expect. Yet, when I reflect on the experience in my memory it is always as sweet as I desire it to be. I think this is the natural flow of events from experience to memory. When we frame a moment with thoughts or words we can barely help ourselves from idealising it simply to preserve it. Maybe this is normal and if it is normal, maybe it is acceptable. And maybe, at least sometimes, it is acceptable to err towards the ideal, But that is probably the Seven in me speaking.
Now I want to describe what I have learned about the invitation of God and the journey towards God; although, in reality, it is a journey towards our true self where God, never having moved, is already waiting for us. The journey is simply becoming aware of his presence with us all along. Even the search for God contains God. It is God in us who is doing the searching. God in us has planted the desire to return to him. As the Hindu Scriptures put it “I am what I am seeking.” Or so I am told.
Most mature religion teaches some form of meditation or altered consciousness that requires some effort on our part. It is good that to begin with, our time with God is not all sparks and fire. It is good that it starts with devotion and a longing from our part otherwise there would be no relationship. There would only be an invasion. There would be no consent. God is consent. God is the lover of the soul. Without consent, there can be no true union. Carnal union without consent is always rape. All lovers know this. God longs to be pursued and sought after by the soul. In this way, God is feminine and the soul is masculine. God is also the valiant pursuer and romancer of the soul. In this way, God is masculine and the soul is feminine. God is both the pursuer and the pursued in the Divine Union.
Simone Weil writes something like this: To employ the language of lovers for Theological purposes is not to borrow it from them. On the contrary, the language of lovers primarily belongs to God and the lovers of God.
What deeper intimacy can there be than divine union? To speak of it with sincerity is more scandalous than speaking of a merely carnal union. It warrants a blush more than mere talk of sex. For proof of this notion, look no further than all of the superficial barriers, or clothing, that religion tends to put between people and God. It is almost as if, half the time, religion is trying to convince humanity that it can not possibly be the desired subject of the divine and that humanity must cover their shame and their nakedness. All that God says in reply to this effort is “Who told you that you were naked?”
The scandal of authentic religion is the revelation that we humans are made for divine union and divine intimacy. I can think of no other notion that comes close in magnitude to the scandal of divine union between God and humankind. It is this scandalous behaviour of God that caused Lucifer to mock him and rebel against him. He could not accept that God wanted to invite the dust-walkers into the very essence of the divine.
We are, all of us, longed for. All of us desired. All of us beckoned towards Divine Union.
Here’s a beautiful poem that I was invited to read this evening whilst meditating on Andre Rublev’s Trinity icon. It illustrates this welcome very well and deserves the title and the conclusion of this post.
“Come and join us”
I hear you say
And I see the place
Clearly waiting for me.
But I hesitate.
I feel as though I will be intruding.
The three of you there
Already in deep conversation
I fear my company
Will spoil your obvious intimacy.
And so I stay put.
But then as though you know my thoughts
Once more I hear you say
“Do come and join us
You are very welcome.
We would love to have your company”.
I still find myself questioning
“Do you really mean that?
Do you really want me there?”
But something deep within
Makes me take that first tentative step
My fears have not disappeared
But from somewhere unknown
I find the courage to trust what you say
And I accept the offer and join you at your table.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
~ Author Unknown