Weakness, Identity, the Bifurcating Mind, and Prayer

[originally posted 6/19/17]

  Romans 8:26- The Spirit helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.

The Spirit grants each of us the experience of a flowing mind. The Spirit can be viewed as being “strong” or “entering us” (and that’s just fine), but rather than seeing this as a description of material “spirit stuff” moving into the physical space of our bodies or “spiritual space” of our souls, we might best see this as a great way to illustrate the unimaginable or to outline the formless through the words that can actually be spoken.

The unutterable encounter with the Spirit is an event that is not attained by effort or even earned through devout asceticism: the Spirit is the discoverable movement of our spirit toward union with God through Christ — it is already interwoven with our experience as children of God.

The intercession that is gifted to us is the relief of knowing that failure is inevitable (and even invaluable)… The pain of humility (i.e. authentic self-knowledge of limitation) is recast as virtue through surrender to the indwelling presence and action of the Spirit (which is the eternal birth of Christ within us, as Eckhart might say).

Sin, temptation, failure, wickedness, trials, weakness… these can all be seeds of faith. Faith is consent to the emergence of the presence and action of the Spirit (consent to the birth of Christ within us), and the awakening to the presence and action of the Spirit is the unfolding of Christ’s resurrection in-and-as a perspectival shift in our identity [see Thomas Keating]. The resulting gift of contemplation is itself the Grace of God.

We cannot attain this shift, but we can receive it by allowing the Spirit to speak wordless prayer through our being — all we have to do is move out of the way, and die (“it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me“).

James 4:8- Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

We love to parse apart and analyze in order to make sense of things. It is our way of conceptually “owning” as much as possible, and this is a self-protective maneuver against the uncontrollable reality of existence – this is how we take care of ourselves.

This is great for most things…

God, however, is not to be owned. God – like a “circle with a circumference that is nowhere and a center that is everywhere” – does not always (or arguably ever) become clearer upon analysis.

Discursive exercises in divine exploration of the Diety are purifying spiritual practices that will promote growth and happiness (and, believe it or not, they can be fun!)… but they are not the primary way to union with God.

Drawing yourself nearer to God is not the same as trying to lasso God and pull that “Eternal Who” toward you in order to possess or contain God. The phrase “drawing yourself” anywhere doesn’t sound like it even necessarity implies a manipulation of anything but one’s conditional state in relation to something else. But, since we are all in God as Christ is (“I am in the Father and you are in Me and I in you“), we don’t even have to do that.

Drawing yourself closer to something that already constitutes your very being is a matter not of “getting there“, but “being here” [see Richard Rohr].

So, cleanse your hands by repentance: turn away (not in shame, but in self-Love… through Self-Love) from that which is unskillful and unwholesome; and purify your hearts by practice [“askēsis”: training] — work through what you can and meet what you can’t with stillness and silence (or do what Jesus did in the desert and have “Yourself” speak to “yourself” with words of divine guidance until you again tread the Path with sturdiness and stability).

This stillness and silence will requite the mind’s attempts to parse apart; to split and categorize; to list-and-label; to contain and own; or to “understand” God – the “Luminous Darkness” of infinite mystery; the “form-and-formless” of Being and Existence.

Martin Laird- “The very attention that gazes into this vastness is itself this vastness, luminous depth gazing into luminous depth. You are the vastness into which you gaze.”

Christ is all and in all” – I think it was Richard Rohr who once wrote “you are what you seek“…

I think I’ll leave it at that.

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