Saying For Today: What is most important is not that God appeared, but God appears.
Damariscotta, ME; Inn Along the Way, Chapman Farm
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2 Corinthians 5.16 (NRSV) -
"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view (lit., according to the flesh); even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way."
To see the other, is to know the other as more than an appearance. The form we see is a door opening to an unfathomable mystery. Do not stop at the door to such a Sanctuary. Walk in! Much religion, like secular thought, leaves us at the door. But we are so much more than what we appear to be. What is that we are? To see another in the Light of Love unveils to us the answer to that question.
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A sceptic said to the Sage, "It amazes me people claim they'll meet God after they die." The Sage replied, "What amazes me even more is so few persons recognize God is appearing to them before they die."
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonyomous Sage."
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A follower said to the Sage, "You say we can't do anything to get God to appear to us. Then, what's the purpose of the teachings you give, whereby you assure us we can see God before death?" Said the Sage, "You can't make the Sun rise. But I want you to be awake to see it when it does. If you're asleep, you'll not see. So, everything I teach can be summed up as, "Wake up! and Don't go back to sleep!"
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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Sitting outside the cafe on Main Street, basking quietly in the sunshine on a May morning in coastal Maine, I hear a voice: "That's a beautiful smile." I see a woman's bright, alert eyes looking intently at me. I had smiled at this apparent stranger. I had thoughtlessly smiled, for the smile had arisen spontaneously. I voice gratitude to her for her recognition, surprised by what she had said.
She walks up near, from my right and stands at my left. She looks down to me. I say, jokingly, "I can't see your smile for that mask." She pulls it down. I comment on her radiant smile, then say, "I learned to smile in my 30s." "I'm 86," she says, still beaming, "and I've smiled my whole life."
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Such moments I call sacramental moments or sacramental encounters. These heart connections often occur for me with another person, frequently someone I do not know. They vary in intensity, or intimacy.
Of course, I know the other, even as I knew the woman outside the cafe. That is, I know them. Here, the I is the True Self. The True Self is not Brian, not anyone; even to say my True Self is misleading. The True Self is you, me, and everyone. This Self goes by many words: buddha, buddha nature, Atman, Self, that of God in everyone, spirit, soul, Love, the Light, ...
In the Christian tradition, "True Self" arose from Thomas Merton's writing. Often this Self is contrasted with the "false self." Oddly, the "false self" is false, for it is nonexistent. That is, the false self is a mental construction, a fantasy. In Eastern writings this so-called self is frequently referred to by the word "illusion."
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The Christian religion often makes the mistake of speaking of the Word, or Christ, becoming flesh once - in Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, the "Incarnation," or "taking on a body" or "flesh," is what Life does. Life keeps showing up, arising from formlessness into form. The seen is the witness of the unseen.
We share God's arrival as the Christ through our appearing, for there is one Incarnation, and it is always happening. We are each a Word of the Word. God's manifestation cannot be placed into a tense: past, present, future. The Incarnation happens now, and it was happening now before Jesus' birth. This, of course, does not speak against any special significance to Jesus' birth - but the purpose of this writing is not to discuss such theology, even as such theoretical conceptualization often puts God's appearing at a distance from us. What is most important is not that God appeared, but God appears. We can call this appearing Christ's birth. Hence, Jesus was born, while Christ is born. And, Love is born, for, "God is Love" (I John 4.8).
We are transformed in our heart-and-mind to recognize these sacramental moments of encounter, or Christ births. We begin to appreciate the many ways God shows up. We fathom more and more the meaning of the Gospel of Matthew 5.8, "How joyful! the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And the more we are prepared to see God, the more we see God.
So, you could say I met a woman with a lovely smile that May day. That is true. You could say, too, I met God on Main Street or God met God on Main Street. In the Christian story, we can hold as one Jesus' birth and Christ's birth. One speaks of what occurs in time, one outside time. The same is true of how Buddhists often differentiate between the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and the Buddha.
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Richard Rohr, in Just This, writes, "We become what we are willing to see." Spiritually, this raises the question, "But do we see?" Do we look at the other person or see her? Contemplatively, this seeing is heart-with-heart, or God recognizing God. This insight is a recognition of the other mirroring the one Self as Christ. In such holy meetings, you are reminded of that we are, that we have an ego, but we are not an ego, even as we have an arm but are much more than an arm. We recall we do not have a soul; we are the soul.
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Regarding becoming that we see, the Eastern churches have taught that we are here to become God. This is not saying our person, or sense of self, is God or becomes God. Instead, "God-by-participation" is a sharing fully in that God is. God and you become one, as though a candle flame absorbed into the Sun of Grace or a drop of rain in the Sea of Love. Likewise, there was a becoming in the sacramental encounter with the woman. Through meeting her, I shared more fully in this participating-in-God. Through being open to these encounters, we grow to be more in-God, or en-God-ed.
Yet, our language remains confined by duality, and, hence, what all this means, as well as what was experienced outside the cafe, is where words drop into appreciation, even awe. In the Silence, we hold the unspeakable we encounter within the heart, where it is allowed to manifest deeper significances in time. These meetings continue to live within us, potentially unfolding depths of increasing revelation. Hence, such a holy meeting continues. Every sacred encounter we have been awake to is occurring now.
In yielding to Spirit, we do not seek to manufacture these God-meetings, for we realize we cannot - that would be a ploy of the self. Self-effort recedes in surrender, for, as writes the Quaker, David Johnson, "intentionality trumps inability" in the spiritual life (Surrendering into Silence). Key to posturing ourselves for these liminal moments is twofold - first, prepare ourselves to recognize when these moments arise and, second, remain in a wakeful posture of availability for them to come, when the conditions are present for them to occur. Our daily spiritual practice includes means to nurture our growing welcome of these visitations. When we are ready to see, we will see, for the eyes of the heart is by nature this seeing.