Many people, believers and nonbelievers alike, are aware that love is the only transforming power in the world. But they believe in love the way they believe in democracy.
The love we Christians profess is not an ideology. Saint John writes in his first letter: “We have known and believe the love God has for us.” (4:16). This love is a personal relationship. We don’t believe the world is changed by ethical principles, however noble these may be. The Apostles’ Creed consists of twelve fundamental pronouncements about God’s love for humankind. All of the Scriptures, all of Christian theology, is nothing but an explanation of this love.
Through faith, you know you are loved by God with a creative, respectful, unique, and personal love. God calls you by name. God knows your joys and disappointments, your weakness and strengths, hopes and feelings. “You reach out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways… You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” (Ps 139:3,5).
The hardest thing for a human being is to comprehend that he or she is loved by such a love. Your whole life, every hour of prayer, all your spiritual reading, ought to deal with making this truth come alive in you. If you know yourself to be loved, you will radiate this love to the world.
~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
Love, true love, is always directed at concrete people. Love is never anonymous. Love chooses; love doesn’t love an unknown mass.
God also chooses people onto whom he focuses his love. God wills that all people be saved, but he doesn’t begin with all. He chooses one man, Abraham. And Abraham becomes a people, Israel. Israel becomes the Church, the people of God, and the Church shines throughout the world.
To choose and be chosen is a characteristic throughout the Bible. God chooses someone from among the anonymous multitude and pours his love and gifts of grace over this person. From this person, love will in turn stream out to others.
If you want to live in love, you can’t begin by loving all of humanity. Start with your neighbor! Choose people you meet in your daily life. Love begins with a “you.”
The fire of love needs to spread all over the world, but its spark is always ignited in a relationship between two people. If you want to love everybody right away, you’ll end up loving no one for real. First, love the ones closest to you, then, through them, you may later acquire universal love.
~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
When a person is baptized, he or she officially acknowledges no longer wanting to live an inauthentic life. The “old” is drowned in the waters of baptism, and a renewal person rises. Invariably, the “old” will try, again and again, to make its presence known. Complaints and protests rise repeatedly. But just as insistently you shall arouse your confidence, the confidence that the old egoism is truly and irreversibly dead, since, through baptism, you have united yourself with the death of Christ on the cross where he, once and for all, died to sin.
The “old” no longer has any real influence over you. It can no longer have any control over you. As much as the “old” may try to entice and ensnare you, you can no longer be manipulated if you only keep to your belief that in Christ you have received new life.
Many years may have passed since your baptism—years in which you have not shown any attention to God and the new life he has given you. However, these years have not been able to eradicate the transfiguring power of baptism. You can, at any time, activate your baptism by forgetting everything that is behind you and focusing on the new life you have already received. Perhaps, for a long time, you have let the “old” live on in you. But from the moment you take your new life seriously, the “old” is helpless.
~ A Meditation by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
Happy & Blessed Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord!
The astrologers from the East presented gold, myrrh, and frankincense as a way to worship the unknown child of God. You—who know fully who the child in the manger is—can present him even more appropriate gifts.
You know that this child is your Creator. To create means to make something of nothing. If you really want to worship this child as your Creator, then give him your nothingness: your inner emptiness, powerlessness, and inadequacy. Without your nothingness, he cannot create you. With your nothingness, he makes your life his creation.
The child in the crib is also the Word. He is the Word of the Father. The Word will make itself heard, and seek those who will listen. You can offer him your openness, your silence, and your listening.
The child is also Christ your Savior. He comes to heal your wounds, and to free you from your sin. You can never get to know him if you do not reveal your sins to him. The third gift you can give this child is your need of his healing. Then he will change your sin into bright signs of his love.
~ A Meditation by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
Happy and Blessed Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord!
To seek God is an adventure. Nobody knows beforehand what lays ahead. Just like the magi, who wanted to adore the newborn king of the Jews, you will have to travel without a road map. You will feel that you lose your way, get lost, and make time-consuming detours. However, in the eyes of God, it is always a straight highway as long as you deliberately seek only him.
The only thing that can really lead you astray is losing your aim at the goal. If God is not your constant goal in all that you do, you will unavoidably lose much time. If you no longer know where you are headed, you will feel old and tired inside. But if you keep the goal in view, your heart will remain young and fresh.
It is appropriate from time to time to ask yourself whether you are staying on the original course or if you have lost some of your initial love and devotion. Is not the rootlessness of our time mainly a consequence of no longer having a definite goal before oneself? Wholeness comes to you when you know why you are alive and whereto everything is aiming. Faith is the star that leads you toward the goal. If you do not lose sight of the star, you can rest secure that you will reach the goal.
Here is an excerpt from the book ‘The Way of the Dreamcatcher’
Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax: Poet, Peacemaker, Sage.
By S.T. Georgiou.
Robert, it’s been said that you eventually left Marseille and later went on to Greece and Patmos because of a “sign” you saw in your room. Over your bed there was an icon of St. John the Divine writing his Revelation. This image prompted you to start thinking of Patmos and the famous cave wherein John experienced his vision.
That’s a true story. And up there on my wall, among all the other pictures and postcards, is a copy of that very icon. The original is from an illustrated manuscript of the fifteenth century.
Oh yes, there’s St. John writing his Apocalypse.
And the fact that he’s writing also led me to believe that Patmos would be a good place to write and meditate.
So Patmos was love at first sight?
Definitely. Things were clearer here, much more real, rooted, you might say. No distractions. Excellent climate, at least for most months. A fertile, unfolding quiet. Beautiful, inspiring light. Something about the light – so many tones, hues beaming into the soul. And there was also a classical influence as well. It was a ruggedly Homeric place ringed by a “wine dark sea.”
What was it that you found holy here? The site must have certainly impressed you since you had previously gone to such inspiring locales as the Virgin Isles, the Canary Isles, and a number of the islands of Italy and Greece.
Many people who visit say that there is an ominous feel to the place as your boat approaches, but not in a bad way. There’s just a certain feeling that something spiritually significant is here, waiting to reveal itself in its own good time. When I first came I strongly felt the power of St. John’s cave as well as the great monastery and that whole area up there, but it was really the Cave of the Apocalypse that moved me.
You sound like the islanders — they’re very ” cave conscious. ”
Yes, the cave has been a magnet for all the Patmians since the days of St. John. In fact, St. John’s association with the cave has permeated the whole psychology of the people here. It has made them loving, gentle, wise. I’ve found that they never say a word in any situation that doesn’t emanate from a pure trust, a deep spiritual centre of which the cave is a part. So many times I’ve heard, “Epomoni” (Patience), “Oti theli o Theos” (Whatever God wants) and “Doxa si o Theos” (Glory be to God). Everything seems to be right here for a good rapport with the Creator. The men, women and children have a solid spiritual foundation nurtured by the sanctity of the isle and by their forefathers.
On top of that, they are always reminded of the high ideals of their classical and Byzantine ancestors. I mean, Socrates “Know thyself,” which many of the locals echo, is a good start for anyone.
So you feel Patmos is truly a sacred site, a blessed zone? Is there a unique energy here? A cosmic pulsing?
I certainly would not be inclined to doubt it. The sun, moon and stars seem to shine right into you. Yes, I very much believe the people are blessed simply by being here. Grace seems to flow here. You can’t help but sense the love of God. The gates of Patmos are as wide as the heart, open to all.
What did you feel when you first came to this holy isle?
A timeless serenity. Generative silence. Awe. The quiet imposed by the volcanic mountains and stones, a real love moving over the face of the waters. In a more familial sense, I did feel like someone might if they had run into their long-lost parents or grandparents — as if everything you’ve heard in your life, up till then, had just been an echo of something that all along had been planted right here. And the echoes of that something could still be heard. . .
It’s interesting how when St. John came here, he emphasized the need to love. “Just love one another, ” he would say. So we are meant to form relationships, to network. One star can’t illuminate the whole night sky. Constellations have to form.
Patmos then seems to be a model for harmonious living, a kind of cosmic school of higher learning.
I do believe that very much — it’s a wholesome place that naturally fosters self-discovery and genuine agape. There’s a living tradition here. I felt a great wave of peace when I came to Patmos, and I still sense these peaceful rhythms. Things are free-flowing here. The sunlight writes on the water, and the waters wave in the light. Even the birds seem to fly in a more peaceful way, as if they know that they are loved. Animals are like children because they know when they are loved, and when they are not.
Look far back, look infinitely on. Penetrate, do not appraise. Behold all things with the innocence of light. Laugh when you meet a stranger; let your glances flash together like water in sunlight. ~ Robert Lax
Happy Feast of Saint John The Evangelist! The Disciple whom Jesus Loved, St. John The Divine, St. John The Theologian,
pray for us!
A human being who was God has appeared in the world. This is the most jarring event in all of world history.
To the nonbeliever this is a scandal that turns Christianity into mythology. Christianity claims not only that Jesus was singularly transparent to God; it claims that God—he who carries the universe and to whom no name is fitting because he transcends anything we can imagine—is identical to a human being who was named Jesus, born in Nazareth, and who worked as a carpenter.
The eternal God, who can have no historical destiny since he is outside of any history limited by time, enters time and submits himself to a particular destiny. The invisible and intangible one becomes visible and tangible and ties himself to the human condition. He has a mother, a grandmother and a grandfather, and other relatives.
That God has crossed the threshold of history and entered our existence is totally incomprehensible. On our own, we would never have thought that anything like this were possible. Yet, the Incarnation of God is the central truth of Christianity.
Our faith is rooted in mystery. God has come so close that his nearness blinds us. We grow in the faith to the extent that we bow before the incomprehensible. It is only when you affirm the unbelievable that has become one of us that it is possible for you to become like him. And that is what he created you for in the beginning.