Clowning in Rome
Reflections on Solitude,
Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation
By Henri J.M. Nouwen © 1979
Interspersed with comments and bold
highlighting by Dan Kral
Chapter Four –
Contemplation and Caring
One epithet Rome certainly
deserves is City of Statues. You cannot walk for long in the streets of
Rome without encountering marble characters, some playful, others fierce,
some beautiful, others ugly, some sensual, others spiritual. On one of my
walks I met the little stone elephant with an Egyptian obelisk on his back.
Looking at this friendly animal, I was reminded of a short story.
There was once a sculptor working hard with
his hammer and chisel on a large block of marble. A little boy who was
watching him saw nothing more than large and small pieces of stone
falling away left and right. He had no idea what was happening. But
when the boy returned to the studio a few weeks later, he saw to his
great surprise a large powerful lion sitting in the place where the
marble had stood. With great excitement the boy ran to the sculptor and
said “Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?”
O Lord, help me to see that what you created me to be has been inside of
me from the foundation of the world.
The art of sculpture is, first of all, the art of seeing. In one
block of marble, Michelangelo saw a loving mother holding her dead son
on her lap, while in another, he saw a self-confident David ready to
hurl his stone at the approaching Goliath, and in a third, he saw an
irate Moses at the point of rising in anger from his seat. Visual
art is indeed the art of seeing, and the practice of disciplines is a
way to make visible what has been seen. The skillful artist is a
liberator who frees from bondage the figures hidden for billions of
years inside the marble. The artist reveals the true identity of the
As we come to know who God created us to be and the inheritance we have
in Christ we are freed from the bondages that have been put on us and
that we have put on ourselves. As we grow closer to God, our TRUE
identity is revealed both to us and to the world – becoming more
transparent so people can see God in us.
The image of the sculptor offers us a beautiful illustration of
the relationship between contemplation and caring or ministry. To
contemplate is to see, and to minister is to make visible, the
contemplative life is life with a vision, and the life of caring for
others is a life revealing the vision to others.
I arrived at this definition
through the writings of Evagrius Ponticus, one of the Desert Fathers who had
great influence on monastic spirituality in the East and the West. Evagrius
calls contemplation a theoria physike, which means a vision (theoria)
of the nature of things (physike). The contemplative is someone
who sees things for what they really are, who sees the real connections,
who knows – as Thomas Merton used to say – “what the scoop is.” As I said
before, to see the vision we choose the practice of certain disciplines.
As we walk with Jesus we will not only see more clearly but we will also
begin to see how things are connected (it is all connected in the Lord).
Evagrius calls the discipline
the praktike; removing the blindfolds that prevent us from seeing
clearly. Merton, himself very familiar with the writings of Evagrius,
expressed the same idea. He told the monks at Gethsemani Abbey that the
contemplative life is a life in which we constantly move from opaqueness to
transparency, from the place where things are dark, impenetrable, and
closed, to the place where these same things are translucent, open, and
offer vision far beyond themselves. He says it so well.
Our goal in life is to be in the process of removing the blindfolds that
prevent us from seeing clearly. I Corinthians 13 says for now we see in
a glass dimly, but then we will see face to face. Seeing more clearly
is a process of going from the shadowlands into reality in all aspects
of our lives. The opaqueness of the glass is the smoked over glass that
we cannot see through. Our journey in life includes removing the layers
of opaqueness until we can see and be seen clearly.
In this reflection, I will
look first at the different levels where this movement from opaqueness to
transparency occurs, because that makes it clear to us how our lives become
theoria physike, a vision of the very nature of things. Then I will
explore the praktike, the concrete discipline of communion with God
in contemplation that must under gird the living passage from opaqueness to
transparency. In so doing I hope we will understand more clearly the
relationship between being and doing, between contemplation and ministry.
This relationship is as intimate as the relationship between the vision and
the discipline of the sculptor.
We know much about doing and very little about being. Being is to be
with Jesus and to have a love relationship with Him.
Contemplative life, as Evagrius describes it,
is a life that leads us to see our world as a transparent world, a world
that points beyond itself.
Just as the Bible is written to point to God the world was created to
point to God.
Finding God in prayer reveals the true nature
of our world to us. Just as a window cannot be a real window for us
if we cannot look through it, so our world cannot show to us its real
identity if it remains opaque and does not point beyond itself. You and
I on a seeking journey must therefore try to move continuously from
opaqueness to transparency in three central relationships: our
relationship with nature, with time, and with people.
In recent decades we have become particularly
aware of the crucial importance of our relationship with nature. As
long as we relate to the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the fields,
and the oceans as our properties to be manipulated by us according to
our real or fabricated needs, nature remains opaque and does not reveal
to us its true being. When we relate to a tree as nothing more than a
potential chair, it cannot speak much to us about growth. When a river
is only a dumping place for our industrial wastes, it no longer informs
us about movement. And when we relate to a flower as nothing more than
a model for a plastic decoration, the flower loses its power to reveal
to us the simple beauty of life. When we relate to nature primarily as
property to be used, it becomes opaque, and this opaqueness is manifest
in our society as pollution. The dirty rivers, the smog-filled skies,
the strip-mined hills, and the ravaged woods are sad signs of
relationship with nature.
Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is
not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with
admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the
rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can
they become transparent and reveal their real meaning.
A friend once gave me a beautiful
photograph of a water lily. I asked him how he had been able to take
such a splendid picture. With a smile he said, “Well, I had to be very
patient and very attentive. It was only after a few hours of
compliments that the lily was willing to let me take her picture."
All nature conceals its deepest secret and
cannot reveal its hidden wisdom and profound beauty if we do not listen
carefully and patiently. John Henry Newman sees nature as a veil
through which an invisible world is intimated. He writes: “The visible
world is … the veil of the world invisible …so that all that exists or
happens visibly, conceals and yet suggests, and above all subserves, a
system of persons, facts, and events beyond itself.”
How differently we would live if we were constantly aware of this veil and
sensed in our whole being how nature is ever ready for us to hear and see
the great story of the Creator’s love, to which it points. The plants
and animals with whom we live teach us about birth, growth, maturation, and
death, about the need for gentle care, and especially about the importance
of patience and hope. And even more profoundly, water, oil, bread, and wine
all point beyond themselves to the great story of our re-creation.
It is sad in our days we are less connected with nature and we no longer
allow nature to minister to us. We so easily limit ministry to work for
people by people. But we could do an immense service to our world if we
would let nature heal, counsel, and teach again.
I often wonder if the sheer artificiality and ugliness with which many
people are surrounded are not as bad or worse than their interpersonal
I have found this painfully true in trying
to care for the elderly. Old people suffer from the ugliness of their
environment and I trust that much healing and peace are available to
older people if only we help them make their homes or rooms a little
more beautiful. With real plants that grow and die as they do and ask
for care and attention as they do, the lives of the elderly might be
less lonely. There is more going on between plants and people than we
realize. Perhaps real flowers, about which and to which we can speak,
have more healing power than well-chosen words about the meaning of life
Those who are sensitive to the enormous ecological problem of our
age and work hard to take away some of nature’s opaqueness are doing
real ministry for us and for our universe. They are wise enough to
allow not only people but also plants and animals to speak about the
cycle of life, to heal the lonely, and to tell of the great love of the
Lord. Let us endeavor to make the passage from opaqueness to
transparency in our relationship with nature. Transparency not only
leads us to a deeper knowledge and vision of the world, but it also
contributes generously to our lives of teaching, healing, and worship.
A second relationship in which the contemplative life calls us to
ongoing movement from opaqueness to transparency is our relationship
with time. Time constantly threatens to become our great enemy. In our
contemporary society it often seems that not money but time enslaves
us. We say, “I wish I could do all the things that I need to do, but I
simply have no time. Just thinking about all the things I have to do
today – writing five letters, visiting a friend, practicing my music,
making a phone call, shopping, cooking, and cleaning – just thinking
about these things makes me tired.” Indeed, it seems that we often feel
we no longer have time, because time has us! We sometimes experience
ourselves as victims of an ongoing pressure to meet deadlines, to do our
tasks within short time periods, and to be ready on time. In simple
conversation we frequently hear the excuse “I am sorry but I have no
time.” And when we approach each other for support or favors we preface
our request with “I know how busy you are, but do you have just a
minute?” We hasten over a quick lunch or “while grabbing a bite” to
make important decisions. A strange sense of always being in a hurry
pervades our consciousness as we watch the time in front of us filling
up so quickly. It causes us to sometimes wonder, “Who or what is
pushing me? Why am I so busy that I have no time left to live?”
All this suggests how time has become opaque, dark, and impenetrable,
and we experience it as chronos. Life is nothing more than a
chronology, a randomly collected series of incidents and accidents over
which we have no control. To experience life in this way soon leads us
to depression and a sense of fatalism, and the fatalism sometimes
manifests itself under the guise of boredom. Boredom does not mean that
we have nothing to do but we are gnawed by the feeling that whatever we
do or say makes no real difference. Boredom is the feeling that the
real decisions are made somewhere apart from us, independent of our
words or actions.
Boredom in this sense is another way of describing “sleeping through
life”. We can easily go through life asleep – doing the things we are
suppose to do (e.g. getting up in the morning – going to work – coming
home) – going through a routine that loses meaning when every day starts
to become like every other day – when you wonder sometimes what day it
is – because you don’t really know.
Boredom, therefore, is a symptom of living in time as chronos.
The paradox of chronos is that we are most subject to boredom
precisely when we are in a hurry, overly busy, or rushing to meet
deadlines. This boredom reveals how opaque time has become for us.
When we choose to spend quality time daily with the Lord, we become
slowly aware that time loses its opaqueness and becomes transparent.
This is often a very difficult and slow passage, but it is full of
re-creating power. To start seeing that the many events of our day,
week, or year are not in the way of our search for a full life but are
rather the way to it is a real experience of conversion. We
discover that cleaning and cooking, writing letters and doing
professional work, visiting people and caring for others, are not a
series of random events that prevent us from realizing our deepest
self. These natural, daily activities contain within themselves some
transforming power that changes how we live. We make a hidden
passage from time lived as chronos to time lived as kairos.
Kairos is a Greek word meaning “the opportunity.” It is the
right time, the real moment, the chance of our lives. When our
time becomes kairos, it frees us and offers us to endless possibilities.
Living kairos offers us an opportunity for a profound change of
If we wake up each day with the real possibility that today is going to
be a great day – a day worth living and a day worth remembering it will
change our perspective and thus, change our reality. Living in the
present with the possibility of greatness always there in the present is
the best way to live.
In Jesus’ life every event becomes kairos. He opens his
public ministry with the words “The time has come” (Mark 1:15) and he
lives every moment of it as an opportunity. Finally, he announces that
his time is near (Mark 26:10) and enters into his last hour as the
kairos. In so doing he liberates history from its fatalistic
Jesus’ life and death is truly Good News because it reveals to us how
all the events of our lives, and even such dark events as war, famine
and flood, violence and murder, are not irreversible fatalities.
Each moment is like a seed that carries within itself the possibility of
becoming the moment of change. So what seemed nothing
more than flying pieces of marble begins to reveal itself as the
important, necessary, and sometimes painful removal of what prevented us
from seeing the true image of God. As we live this passage, we no
longer feel seduced to run from present time in search of the place
where we think life is really happening. We begin to have a truer
vision of the world and of our lives in relationship to time and
eternity. We begin to glimpse something of eternity in time. At this
point boredom falls away and the joyful and painful moments of our lives
take on new and profound meaning. It is then that we know that for us
time is becoming transparent.
The contemplative life, therefore, is not a life that offers us a few
good moments between the many bad ones, but a life that transforms all
our time into a window through which the invisible world becomes visible.
The core of all real caring and ministry is to make time transparent so
that in the most concrete circumstances of life we see in time the
deeper vision of life. Wasting time in communion with the Father in
prayer is anything but a waste, because from it we see the hand of God
with us each moment and we live each moment as an opportunity of
solidarity with God and neighbor. We live time as kairos. Those
who suffer – the elderly, the poor, and those who are physically,
mentally, or spiritually imprisoned – are burdened with a sense of
fatalism. But our life of prayer and caring may help to break the
chains of this fatalism, and perhaps we can support others on their
journey to see the real nature of what they are being asked to live. At
this point we claim our discipleship by bringing good news to the poor,
new sight to the blind, and liberty to the captives (Luke 4:18).
The third relationship inviting us to move from opaqueness to
transparency is our relationship with others. With people, more than in
the two previous relationships, the importance of our daily time of
solitude and contemplation as theoria physike – as seeing the real
connections – becomes manifest. We have been conditioned to relate to
people as interesting characters or as individuals who strike us as
worthy of special attention because of their special qualities. Aren’t
we always intrigued by interesting characters? Whether they are film
stars or criminals, sports heroes or killers, Nobel Prize winners or
perverts we are curious about them and about their lives. Sometimes we
become fascinated, and we are instinctively drawn to move closer to one
or more of these unusual individuals. We want to meet them, shake their
hands, get their autographs, or be close enough to gaze at them. The
magazine People makes millions of dollars catering to human curiosity
about famous men and women, while the front pages of our newspapers give
less and less actual news and more and more pictures and reports of
human irregularities, whether they evoke praise or blame.
Rome is wonderful in this way and, remarkably enough, one of the best
cities to observe this phenomenon on both sides of the Tiber. Religious
journals and secular newspapers create the illusion that not only is the
earth dominated by kidnappers and the sky by hijackers, but also that
the clerical world around us is richly endowed with curious characters.
As long as the people we meet and relate to are little more than
interesting characters to us, they remain opaque. No one who is
approached as an “interesting character” will reveal to us the inner
beauty or the secret of his or her life. On the contrary,
characterization is extremely narrowing and limiting and makes all of us
close in and hide our real and precious identity. Especially if we
are in the field of the helping professions, we tend to quickly and
quietly label people with easy characterizations, thus giving us the
illusion of understanding. Not only psychiatric labels such as
“neurotic,” “psychopathic,” or “schizophrenic,” but also religious
labels such as “unbeliever,” “pagan,” “sinner,” “progressive,”
“conservative,” “liberal,” and “orthodox” provide a false understanding
of the actual person and reveal more about our insecurities than
about the real nature of our neighbors.
Fear is a big block, and so we are often afraid in our relationships
with each other. We want to try to prevent our fears from putting
people into boxes. We want to try to be open to recognize our brothers
and our sisters and we want to work hard to give them the dignity and
respect they deserve as children of the Father we know.
The word person comes from personare, which means
“sounding through.” In our lives we want to “sound through” in our
relationships with each other, having enough space within us to
recognize and know more than is immediately evident about another.
We faithfully try to “sound through” to love greater than we ourselves
can grasp, truth deeper than we ourselves can articulate, and beauty
richer than we ourselves can imagine. We are called to be
transparent to each other and thus to point far beyond our external
characteristics to the true Author of love, truth, and beauty.
It is possible that when someone says “I love you” or “I am deeply
moved by you,” or “I am grateful to you,” you immediately become
defensive and wonder what is so special about you. You might say or
think, “Aren’t there many other people who are much more lovable or much
more intelligent than I am?” But then you have forgotten that you are a
person who sounds through to others something much greater and deeper
than you yourself can hear.
Taking time daily to contemplate the beauty and the mystery of our
God as theoria physike, as seeing what is really there, has deep and
profound significance in our interpersonal relationships. We may not
hear or see many visible images of our “sounding through,” but we are
nevertheless seeing beyond and below the visual impressions we may have
of each other. Fear falls away and our real gifts and the gifts of
the other are recognizable and known. We are less reticent to
affirm each other and to receive from each other in mutuality and care.
Perhaps now we begin to see the intimate connection between
contemplation and ministry, between communion with God and caring for
each other. Our time of being with God gives us new eyes to see the
beauty and gifts in those for whom we care, and our caring is also
transformed. We were not expecting to receive from the person in
need, but by our reception and affirmation of what we hear “sounding
through” them they become gifts for us. And we hope and trust that
our recognition of their beauty may support them to come to a
recognition and acceptance of their unique and mysterious value.
What more beautiful ministry is there than the ministry through which
we help others to become aware of the love, truth, and beauty they
reveal to us? Ours is a time in which so many of us doubt our
self-worth. We hover on the verge of self-condemnation that takes the
very life out of us. So in reaching out to help another, our caring or
ministry becomes nurturing and fruitful. We see through the other to
the hidden gifts that ask to be shared and we both find new life and
Innumerable people suffer from being unable to give anything. Young
people are made to feel that they know little or nothing, adults doubt
that they have a real contribution to make, and millions of people in
the cities, towns, and villages of this world wonder if they are of any
importance to anyone. How beautiful, then, is the ministry through
which we call forth and receive the hidden gifts of people. How amazing
to celebrate with them the love, truth, and beauty they give to us.
This is the nature of prayer and caring. Contemplation enriches
ministry and vice versa, filling us with an ever-increasing joy.
God is revealed to us in the ever-changing lives of people, and the
beauty of each brother or sister removes the veil covering the face of
There is a continual movement in our contemplation and ministry from
opaqueness to transparency. It is the movement from nature as a
property to be possessed to nature as a gift to be received with
admiration and gratitude. It is the movement from time as a randomly
thrown together series of incidents and accidents to time as a constant
opportunity for a change of heart. Finally, it is the movement from
people as interesting characters to people sounding through more of
themselves than they ever could have believed. This does not mean that
nature is never property, that time is never chronos, and that
people are never interesting characters. It does mean that if
these were to become the dominant modes of relating to our world, our
world would remain opaque and we would never see how things really
connect. When, however, we are able slowly to remove our blindfolds and
see nature as gift, time as kairos, and people as persons, we will also
see that our whole world is a sacrament that constantly reveals to us
the great love of God. That is the real nature of things – theoria
physike – about which Evagrius spoke.
The lion in the heart
Finally, let us look directly at the practice of contemplative prayer.
If we look at the theoria physike without also looking at the
praktike, we are quickly deceived. It is so easy to develop a
romantic view of prayer and contemplation and its relationship to
ministry. But a contemplative life is the choice of a way of living
where all of creation – nature, time, and people – becomes transparent
and speaks to us about God and about God’s love for us. But this
all-embracing view of contemplation might suggest that caring and
praying are all the same. This is a large oversimplification. If we
say “My work is my prayer,” we forget that the act of seeing requires a
The little boy’s question to the sculptor is a very real question,
perhaps the most important question of all: “Sir, tell me, how did you
know that there was a lion in the marble?”
How do you and I know that God becomes visible through the veil of
nature? How do we come to the realization that all of our time is also
an opportunity for a change of heart? How do we know that people sound
through more than they themselves can hear? These realities are
certainly not obvious, because for most of us the world is very opaque.
We recognize nothing in marble but a thick, impenetrable block of
stone. Aren’t we romantics after all, people who are unwilling to see
the hard facts of life and who simply see what we want to see?
We are touching here the central questions of our whole lives and of all
our praying and caring. Is there a lion in the marble? Is there a
loving God, a Presence in this world? Or is this the journey of our
hearts and spirits to know God through prayer nothing more than wishful
thinking? And is our availability to give and to receive from others
nothing other than some collective illusion? Are we deceived, trying to
see God and missing the bitter reality of our daily existence? Do we
see a lion in the marble and yet not see that it really blocks our way?
There is an answer to the boy’s question
and it is an answer that irritates and inspires. The answer to the boy
is: “I knew there was a lion in the marble because before I saw the lion
in the marble I saw it in my own heart. There is a deep secret here
that I want to share with you. It was the lion in my own heart who
recognized the lion in the marble.”
It is the God in my own heart, who has been there all along, who
recognized and KNEW from the foundation of the world, my authentic self
that has been caught in the marble of life. Our authentic lives – the
life God designed us for has been there all along, is there now, and
will be there tomorrow – our job is to chip away at all the things in
our lives that keep us from that authentic life God has for us.
The practice of contemplative prayer is the discipline by which
we begin to “see” the living God dwelling in our own hearts. Careful
attentiveness to One who makes a home in the privileged center of our
being gradually leads to recognition. As we come to know and love the
Father of our hearts we give ourselves over to this incredible Presence
who takes possession of our senses. By the discipline of prayer we are
awakened and opened to God within who enters into our heartbeat and our
breathing, into our thoughts and emotions, our hearing, seeing,
touching, and tasting. It is by being awake to this God within that we
also fine the Presence in the world around us. Here we are again in
front of the secret. It is not that we see God in the world, but that
God within us recognizes God in the world. God speaks to God, Spirit
speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart.
Open the eyes of my heart Lord. Open the eyes of my heart
Contemplations, therefore, is a participating
in the divine self-recognition. The divine Spirit alive in us makes our
world transparent for us and opens our eyes to the presence of the
divine Spirit in all that surrounds us. It is with our heart of hearts
that we see the heart of our world and this explains the intimate
relationship between contemplation and ministry.
Saint Francis spoke with the sun, the
moon, and the animals not because he was a naïve romantic, but
because his ascetic discipline awakened him to the God of his heart
and enable him to see the Lord in all that surrounded him. The
Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus deliberately choose
inconspicuous and often monotonous work not because they do not see
other, better possibilities, but because they recognize and want to
make visible to the poorest the God whose loving care they saw in
their own adoration. They desire to carry God in the very midst of
human struggle. The Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta experience
God’s presence amidst the poorest of the poor because they already
experienced this presence in the intimacy of their contemplation.
So, all real ministry finds its source in a well-trained heart where
God dwells and is known and loved.
Knowing God in the world means knowing God “by
heart” and to know God by heart is at the foundation of contemplative
discipline. Finding the time and being faithful to the time with God is
a very hard discipline, especially for those of us who work more often
with our minds. But let us be serious about our yearning to care and
make the world a better place, and let us be willing to engage in the
tough and often agonizing struggle to break through all our mental
defenses and know God by heart.
John 8:32 – And they shall KNOW the TRUTH and the TRUTH shall set them
free. KNOWING is KNOWING in our hearts – not just information in our
minds, but in the very depths of our being – of who we are. TRUTH is
Jesus and is also the real TRUTH that He brings to us. It is not
“truth” – those things that we think are true but are not really true.
Simple and obedient We must not underestimate the intensity of this
struggle. As people involved in the day-to-day we are surrounded by
papers and people, by TV and cocktail parties, by demanding children and
loss of friends. We are constantly in danger of letting God’s Word
become tangled in the network of our responsibilities and needs, of our
elaborate arguments and of the sheer verbosity all around. As those who
are serious about bringing God’s Word to others, we urgently need a
discipline of contemplative prayer.
There are two main characteristics of
contemplative prayer that seem to be particularly important: simplicity
and obedience. In our contemplation let us become first and foremost
simple, very simple. In prayer the Word of God descends from our
mind into our heart and there becomes fruitful. Let us try
diligently, then, to avoid all long inner reasoning and inner speeches,
and let us focus quietly on a word or sentence. We must ruminate on it,
murmur it, chew it, eat it, so that in our innermost self we can really
sense its power.
Secondly, in our prayer let us become
obedient. The word obedience comes from the word audire,
which means to listen. Contemplative prayer calls us to listen with our
hearts for the voice of Love. Let Love speak when and where it chooses
and do not try to manipulate it. Let Love guide us and let us give up
We are frightened of giving over the control
because it may mean that God will say what we aren’t expecting or what
we might not want to hear. But if we listen long and deeply, God is
revealed to us as a soft breeze or a still, small voice, God desires
communion and comes to us in gentle compassion. Without our obedience,
this listening to the God of our hearts, we remain deaf and our life
grows more and more absurd. The word absurd includes the term
surdus, which means deaf. The absurd life is the opposite of the
Thus, simple and obedient we come to know God
by heart in our time of prayer. When we know Love in our hearts, we
also recognize Love in our world, in nature, in history, and best of all
This discipline of daily, faithful, communion
with the Beloved is the foundation of the spiritual life underneath all
we do, say and create.
In these reflections I have tried to give a
contemporary meaning to the theoria physike, about a vision of
the nature of things and praktike, the practice and discipline of
prayer. I have called the theoria physike the contemplative life
and the praktike contemplative prayer. According to Evagrius,
praktike and theoria physike find their culmination in
theologia. This theologia is the direct knowledge of God
that automatically leads to the contemplation of Divine Source of all
life. Here we go beyond the practice of contemplative prayer, and even
beyond the vision of the nature of things, and enter into a most
intimate communion with God who calls us beloved daughters and sons.
This communion of mind and heart corresponds to our deepest yearnings
and is the greatest and most wonderful gift of all. It is the grace of
complete unity, rest, and peace. It is the peak of our whole
spiritual journey, because we somehow transcend the mundane to know and
experience ourselves in the heart of God’s inner life, and our world as
the precious work of God’s hand. In this experience we are not worrying
about the quality of our prayer or the depth of our caring. The
distinctions are no longer important to us. We are coming through the
passage from opaqueness to transparency and there are no more blindfolds
to keep us from seeing and living in the very Presence of Love.
We need to understand that we are in a love affair with God. We are His
beloved. He sees us as beautiful. He is in love with us and wants to
spend time with us.
This theologia in our lives is like the Mount Tabor
experience in Jesus’ life. In its totality it is an experience that is
given rarely and only to a few. In a moment they experience the deepest
and most profound intimacy, and then even they must return to the
valley, having been told not to tell others what they have seen. You
and I may spend the greater part of our lives not on the mountaintop but
in the valley where we have the privileged call of bring Good News to
the poor, but we will encounter God because God is Presence,
Love, and Compassion.
I began with the story of the boy
and the sculptor, which was meant as a parable. I thought it might help us
to see the intimate relationship between our inner lives of intimacy with
our first Love and our external lives of “laying down our lives” for
others. I conclude with the hope that we courageously choose the life
that removes the blindfolds and reveals our true identity as beloved sons
and daughters of a loving Father God. And I pray that we will become
God’s presence to one another in this valley of tears, knowing the truth and
the joy of our response to the question “Please tell me, how did you know
there was a lion in the marble?"
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