A Few Thoughts on Clouds for Ascension

The clouds are more than they seem. We see them all the time. They are never fixed to one spot or shape and they are more than just a misty mass of white fluff. They are a dynamic mix of water in liquid, solid and gas (which is also amazing that water can do that!) .

Clouds are also made up of very small particles of dirt, the earth! The fluffy cloud in the sky is really quite heavy by weight but it defies gravity, is ruled by levity. Warmth and coolness meet and change in the cloud. Rising and falling and moving all the particles around. Creating static electricity…. lighting and thunder!

When we really take a moment to look at the clouds, this drama and wonder can fill our soul. Our souls and the clouds have quite a bit in common. We could even imagine our souls to be a cloud.

Our souls are also quite dynamic. Our souls are the meeting place of heaven of earth. The dramas of our lives play out in our souls. There can be a battle of gravity and levity in our souls.  Suffering, conflict, war, can rage in our souls. We can battle ourselves as well as the world outside us. We can lash out in anger and pour out our tears. We know though, as the morning verse in the Waldorf school says, “The Sun with loving light makes bright for me each day...
On the darkest of days the sun is behind the darkened clouds. The sun rays its light though the clouds. We can hold this as a true picture that the Christ’s light rays through the dynamic landscape of our soul. The light illuminates, clears and warms the coldness and darkness of our souls. Uniting us with Christ Jesus. The one who is also of the heaven and the earth.

Rev. Ann Burfeind
The Christian Community Vancouver

Contemplation on John 16

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have much hardship; but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Contemplation on John 16
By Mimi Coleman

So many people have been in their homes now for weeks, a month or more.  We have tried to keep our distance, to keep ourselves safe, to keep others safe. In order to do this we’ve had to step out of our usual rhythm of life, away from all the things we would normally do.  It has given us the opportunity to establish new patterns and activities, to set aside other habits, and to think about how we might like to go forward next, while also knowing that we may need to withdraw to our homes yet again.

How was it for us as we went to our homes?  Were we prepared for our loneliness?   Did we scatter and withdraw well-equipped for what we would face?  I don’t mean only did we have enough food or supplies, but also did we have the inner resources we would need?

In this week’s gospel reading we hear that the disciples will be scattered, “each one to his home,” or, depending on the translation, “every man to his own,” or again, “each one into his own loneliness.”   This now sounds very familiar to us, not only as something that was said to a few people thousands of years ago.  This is very timely, though the reasons then were different than they are now.

Christ Jesus explains earlier in the chapter, that it is also to the disciples’ advantage that he goes away to his father where he had his origin, “…for if I do not go away the comforter will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you.”  We thus hear him encouraging this kind of aloneness for his disciples.  Do we dare encourage ourselves to be alone?  Are we being alone out of fear, or because we were told to do so? Or are we finding the opportunity within the imposed, or self-imposed, isolation.  How are we using this time?  Are we able to tune in to the divine all around us and within us?

Christ Jesus would prepare us for such a time as this that we are living.  After all, he withdrew many times throughout his ministry, either on to a mountain, or by himself alone, away from the crowd.
The disciples have to go to a place of their own, to withdraw and feel the meaning of the events of Holy Week and of Easter; only then will the Holy Spirit be able to come and enlighten them.  My hope is that as many of us as possible will also experience that comforter in our loneliness, when we are on our own.  May we have the spirit courage we need to get us through this time.

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A Prayer for One’s Country

Mother Earth – NASA

Prayer for One’s Country (adapted)

–Adam Bittleston

O Christ, Thou knowest
The souls and spirits
Whose deeds have woven
This land’s destiny.

May we who today
Are bearers of this destiny
Find the strength and the light
Of thy servant Michael.

And our hearts be warmed
By Thy blessing, O Christ,
That our deeds may serve
Thy work of world healing.

This appears as a “Prayer for Britain” in the 1966 edition of Meditative Prayers for Today by Adam Bittleston. It does not appear in the current edition, available at http://shop.steinerbooks.org/Title/9781782504672 . This much-loved collection can be used as a kind of breviary. From the description:

Growing into the daily use of these meditative prayers makes us conscious of how we stand in great world rhythms. We learn to follow the alternation of waking and sleeping, the ordering of the seven days of the week, and the course of the seasons, as gifts of heavenly powers gradually become known to us.

This is a small, elegant guide to aid meditation.

C O N T E N T S:

Introduction

PRAYERS:
Evening and morning
The week
The year
Earth
Against fear
For one who has died
Intercessory prayers
For children
The guardian angel
Blessing on a house
For a journey
For the peoples of the world
Grace before meals
Thanksgiving

A note about the Lord’s Prayer

This appears as a “Prayer for Britain” in the 1966 edition of Meditative Prayers for Today by Adam Bittleston. It does not appear in the current edition, available at http://shop.steinerbooks.org/Title/9781782504672 . This much-loved collection can be used as a kind of breviary. From the description:

Growing into the daily use of these meditative prayers makes us conscious of how we stand in great world rhythms. We learn to follow the alternation of waking and sleeping, the ordering of the seven days of the week, and the course of the seasons, as gifts of heavenly powers gradually become known to us.

This is a small, elegant guide to aid meditation.

C O N T E N T S:

Introduction

PRAYERS:
Evening and morning
The week
The year
Earth
Against fear
For one who has died
Intercessory prayers
For children
The guardian angel
Blessing on a house
For a journey
For the peoples of the world
Grace before meals
Thanksgiving

A note about the Lord’s Prayer

–Rev. Cindy Hindes

Uncertain Times

In times of uncertainty, of sudden disruptions and upheaval we look for indications, for signs that can help us to process all that is upending our lives. And it is natural to search frantically for any sign that promises safety, security and a return to normalcy. And when the kind of life raft needed to get us there is still unknown, fear takes over.

 

But what if the fear driven, frantically thrashing about should actually be the most exhausting part in trying to stand up to the gigantic wave of massive disruption of life as we have come to know it and expect it?

 

Maybe the very remedy, the most effective way to deal with the wave of disruption and of uncertainty is to dive down under in a kind of active, attentively perceiving surrender, and a soft but steady will to breathe while doing so? Not with frantic, pressing questions that exhaust us but with a gentle, heart motivated curiosity as to what it might all mean. With a desire to plumb and to fathom what might be found in the dark, in the deep of the unknown and to find a place of stillness in its center.

 

The wise have always known: to see the light we have to first go dark.

 

No answer is found without entering the unknown future, however frightening a prospect that may be. Or as the provocative philosopher Nietzsche put it: ‘Without the grave there is no resurrection’. Joseph Beuys, the revolutionary and far sighted artist of the 20th century, said: ‘Every creation begins with a cross’.

 

It is the sign. It is the way that will take us into a new reality, into a life as we have never known before.

From Rev. Gisela Wielki’s Facebook page, March 15, 2020

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I am the door….

John 10: “I am the door.”

 

“While our speed may keep us safe, it also keeps us malnourished. It prevents us from tasting those things which would truly make us safe: Prayer, touch, kindness, fragrance–all those things live in rest and not in speed. Only when we take refuge in rest can we feel the company of the angels who would minister to us, regardless of what we were given. In the stillness there are forces and voices and hands and nourishment that arise, that take our breath away, but we can never know this, know this, until we rest.”

~ “Fear of Rest” in Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, by Wayne Muller

Each one of us can only say the words, “I am” for ourselves. The deed of Christ has brought about a turning point, so that we can have access to and be guided by our higher selves, our “I am.” Our higher selves accompany us through our lifetimes, and keep a perspective we do not yet have. How can we align ourselves with that?

Christ Jesus gave seven different pictures for us to understand and come closer to the “I am.” One is the door. A doorway allows us to pass through from one reality to another and back again. A threshold can be a mighty experience, if what is on the other side will be life-changing. The door that allows us to go from here to the spiritual world and back can be found through meditation, which aligns us with our higher self. That is what meditation is.

Meditation requires that we bring ourselves to rest. We may even spend the first ten minutes or so, just living with the word “rest.” When we rest we acknowledge that there is something deserving our attention which is not of this material world and which may bring no result.

In our current world situation there are many extremes: There are those who have been granted a “time out” in which rest, self reflection, slowing down have been made possible. And there are those who have an increased work load, with children at home and can seem to find no rest at all. All prayers, blessings and strength to them!

Nevertheless, there is Divine Wisdom working through all of this. This world pandemic has woken us up from our complacency. It has laid open our weaknesses, both as individuals and as a society. It is shaking the foundations of what we knew. For those who can respond in love, compassion, in faith in God and concern for other human beings, it has been a certain grace. We are learning to practice equanimity and balance in the face of fear and great injustice.

We are being shown “The Way,” another path of the “I am.” We have to learn to bring spiritual insights into our everyday earthly existence. The virus behaves exactly like evil itself: it is invisible, destructive, everywhere, contagious, relentless and feeds off the living although it is dead.

But when evil is met with love, it “back-fires” and becomes a transforming agent! This is what is happening with so many people through this terrible epidemic. We can transform it toward the good if we stay the course, help people as much as possible, strengthen our prayer life, take up the resurrection into our souls and raise ourselves to the highest place we can. Let us walk in grace and with Christ’s healing power.

–Rev. Carol Kelly

Congregation of the Greater Washington DC-Baltimore: https://www.ccgwb.org/

The Reflecting Pool Blogsite: https://religiousrenewalindc.wordpress.com/

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At Sea

John 6:16–21

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off over the sea for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the sea; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “I AM, have no fear” Now when they wanted to take him into the boat, immediately the boat was at the land, at the place where they wanted to go.

 

2nd Passiontide

March 18, 2020

John 6:16–21

Cynthia Hindes

 

This gospel reading has the quality of a dream. It starts as something of a nightmare. It is night; the disciples are in a boat, working hard to make headway in rough seas. Suddenly they see Christ. He appears as if walking, a shining form above the waters. At first, they shrink with fear, but he calms them with the assurance of his very being – it is I. And when they take him in, they are suddenly at their destination.

 

Our lives, too, are sometimes beset with darkness and rough passages. It is just at those times when Christ can make his ever-presence known to us. He assures us that fear can be dispelled because he is the helping Guide on our journey. With his aid, we will reach our goal of firm grounding.

 

Not only is he our guide for the way, but he is also our bread for the way. Just as after a night on the sea of dreams, we come to the daytime shore refreshed, so too does Christ nourish our spirits. He gives our spirits life and strength. He comes to us, we who trust that we will survive with him, even in the darkest hours. Perhaps, like Rilke, we can also learn to love them. He says,

 

I love the dark hours of my being.

My mind deepens into them.

There I can find, as in old letters,

the days of my life, already lived,

and held like a legend, and understood.

 

Then the knowing comes: I can open

to another life that’s wide and timeless.*

 

 

*Ranier Maria Rilke in Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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Coronation

Coronation–Feb 2, 2020

–Rev. Gisela Wielki

A corona is a circle of light around an object. The most magnificent corona in our universe is the corona around the sun. It is a fiery circular crown with occasional intense flare-ups. Its rays extend millions of miles into space. What a majestic body our sun is, the source of light and of life.

Looking at the heart, there is also a corona. The heart muscle has its own blood supply. It comes from a crown or corona of blood vessels that circle the heart. This corona can be defective, and then one speaks of coronary heart disease.

And now we have a corona-virus that has unleashed panic around the globe. Borders have been closed. Air travel has been partially suspended. Millions of people are under lockdown. The corona-viruses are named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. They usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory infections, like the common cold. But they can also cause more severe illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which can, of course, lead to death.

For some time now, people all over the world seem to have fallen under the spell of fear. Fear has entered our lives like a fast-spreading virus. It has become a corona of darkness around the globe.  Like the crown-like spikes of the corona-virus, the dark spikes of fear drive people apart. Fear drives people into isolation. Fear contracts and constricts the heart.

And is the heart of humanity not suffering from coronary heart disease, from constriction, and therefore from a lack of love supply? Infectious love and life and laughter are giving way to deadly infections of the soul and the spirit. The world needs healing. We need healing.

As I child I used to sing: ‘The Sun is in my heart …’ We need to re-discover the sun-being in our hearts, in our midst, so that His corona can embrace our frightened humanity and drive away the cold and dark corona of fear, and so that we may find the courage to touch each other’s soul with the contagious healing power of love.

 

 

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The Path from Advent to Epiphany

There is an inner pathway that leads from Advent through Epiphany. It spirals inward, dwells for twelve days in the light of Christmas, and turns to spiral outward again at Epiphany, January 6.

The path already began to turn inward at Michaelmas, for the dragon that we were meant to conquer is the rapacity of our own natural selfishness, the dragon of our own lower nature. This is, of course, not a one-time victory. The battles continue. And as we traverse the land of the dead in November, through the mighty pictures of the future from the Apocalypse, they warn us that we are to continue with the tasks and trials of cleansing.

In December and Advent, we continue to prepare for the future. And inwardness increases both in our own soul and in the mood of the darkening natural world. The inwardness of both worlds finds its expression in the blue of the altar — a deep blue of infinite calm like the sky before sunrise. This is most appropriate, for in preparing for Christmas we are preparing for and awaiting the birth of the Sun God within us.

This inward turning from Michaelmas to Christmas is a picture for the development of all humankind. Each of us repeats this path in our own development. So just as the history of earthly man began with that fateful apple, each of us is given the apple of our destiny before entering this earthly life. On top of that destiny there rests the potential to ignite a higher self.

In the Advent Garden for children, this potential is symbolized by the candle in the apple that each child carries on the spiral path toward the large central candle that the angel has lighted. We all spiral inward on our path through life, looking for the true center, led by our angel who has gone there before us. Each of us moves toward this center in his own characteristic way. Some of us, like some children, stride quickly and blithely, interested in everything there is to see in earth’s garden. Others are more cautious, anxious to protect their light, and to find just the right place for it.

But eventually we all finally arrive at the center. This center is Christ’s deed on earth. It is a deed that began its visible course with the birth of Jesus at Christmas, prepared by the illuminating plan of the Holy Spirit. At Christmas the altar is illuminated, clothed in the pure white sunrise of spirit light and the pale lilac of new beginnings.

The tender brightness of the twelve holy days of Christmas is a time set apart from the rest of the year. Its twelve days mark the difference between the solar year and the lunar year. Day by day, the Christmas light shines into each of the twelve months of the coming year. It illuminates our future. It is a time that brings special blessings into our coming lives when we work with its deepening and enlivening. Participating in the act of humankind’s consecration during each of these twelve days helps to bring special blessings for the coming year. It helps His light to illuminate us, to be ignited within us.

Then on January 6, at Epiphany, the light from the altar deepens into a warmly incarnated magenta red-violet, a red that faces the darkness of the future with love and trust. Humankind’s future was illuminated by the star of Jesus’ birth. Just as the children have lit their candles in the center of the Advent garden, we have again ignited our higher self at the altar, letting it shine in the center of our being, during this twelve-day season. Now at Epiphany we begin to spiral outward again, out into the world, to illuminate what is still dark, once again to face Herod’s forces of evil that result from human selfishness.

________________

This article appears in the most recent North American Newsletter, which you can find in its entirety here.

Visit our festival page for more about Christmas in the Christian Community.

 

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Who is Like God?

A Path Through the Michaelmas Readings

September 29 is the festival of the Archangel Michael. On this day and in the four weeks that follow we hear in the seasonal prayer or epistle of the Act of Consecration of Man about the workings of the Archangel throughout the ages. The image of the battle between Michael and the Dragon in the heavens is brought before our souls as a mighty revelation, and we are invited to follow the Archangel in gaining a new understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. Michael’s mission is so intimately connected to that of the Christ being that he appears as the countenance of Christ and guards the mystery of transubstantiation as he guards the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.

At the core of these mysteries lies the permeation of earthly substance by heavenly being, the complete blending of human being and God. How can we understand this relationship between the divine and the truly human? What does this have to do with us who are incarnated today? And how do we actually relate to God: as something outside of us, inside of us, or both? It may not be mere coincidence that the guiding Archangel of our time bears the name Michael, which can be translated as the question Who Is Like God? It is a question whose answer is no longer a given, but which may accompany us throughout our lifetime together with a growing understanding or inkling of what it may mean.

As a path to a possible understanding of this question about the relationship between God and human being we can follow the Gospel readings that are read in the Michaelmas season. Like the epistle they are full of images. In Matthew 22, Jesus uses the image of the preparations for a wedding feast as a way to describe the Kingdom of God. The opening words of this parable, “The Kingdom of God is like a human being, a king,” show the intimate connection between the divine world and the world of human beings. It hints at the possibility of manifesting the divine within us, and points out a particular quality that most resembles the divine: the quality of kingliness. Instead of going into an exploration of all that this quality of kingliness may include, it may suffice at this point to say that the movement from human being to king assumes the possibility of and indeed need for an ongoing development of the soul forces of the human being.

To take hold of this development in the right way, we need to gain some understanding of the spiritual forces that work in the world to undermine this development. In Revelation 12 we hear again about the battle between Michael and the Dragon, and how the Dragon was cast down to the earthly realm where it now rages. The Dragon in its two manifestations of devil and satan tries to ensnare the human soul through spirit-denying materialism and earth-denying spiritualism respectively. It hinders the right relationship of the human soul to the realm of spirit and the realm of earth, and of the soul forces of thinking, feeling, and willing to each other.

An understanding of the workings of the adversary in our soul life and in world events can help us move from fruitless reactivity to a place that allows us to overcome and transform the powers of evil through the help of Christ. Christ appears in Revelation 19 as the White Rider, the Word of God who works in the world as the One who puts everything in right relationship. This process has often been envisioned as a great Judgment, but may well be understood as a balancing, healing process.

Finally, in Ephesians 6 we learn what it looks like when we allow ourselves to be permeated by the Christ being, and how we can strengthen our soul forces against the power of the adversary. The armor of God manifests itself as truthfulness, communion with the divine, peacefulness, and trust in the workings of God and in the healing that comes from Christ.

As we follow this path of the Gospel readings through the Michaelmas season, we can experience a growing hope and trust in the presence of the Divine in our lives as we are consciously working to balance out our soul forces and move from reactivity to steadfastness. It can become indeed a path of inner development, a preparation of our souls for the nearing of the Christ being during the season of Advent.

By Florian Burfeind, member of the Chicago congregation and former student at the seminary in Stuttgart, Germany. Reprinted from the North American Newsletter of the Christian Community, vol.25, no.2, 2017.


To read more about the Michaelmas festival season in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. You can also find a Michaelmas children’s story here.

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Outer Works, Inner Deeds

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

-Ozymandias by Percy Shelley

 

Shelley wrote Ozymandias as a meditation on the transience of human achievement and power. He referred to an antique land, but knew that his own time and ‘land’ would soon be antique, just as every epoch must become. His particular time saw huge technological advances in industry. Since then, time has marched on. Shelley’s time is already for us an ‘antique land’.

The Romantics sank into melancholy when they pondered the ephemeral vista of human existence and achievement (‘that colossal wreck, boundless and bare’). But it also inspired them to revolution and the fiery will to change. They easily saw through the artifice of established beliefs and philosophies. They saw the certainty with which empires ruled, the opportunity for success and wealth that industrialism presented, the complacent dogmas of worldly religions, and they scorned them. They knew that nothing would remain of such ozymandian works.

Shelley famously wrote in his A Defence of Poetry that it was poets and artists who were the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’. This meant that the creative processes of artists were the real life of the world—not the sham dogmas, politics, and works of institutions, or the limited paradigms of current thinking. No, it was the creating principle that bore and ordered the world’s life—the Son-God principle. In this sense, the Romantics were the true Christians of their time.

It was not human works that were important, but the creating, the working from Christ that was essential.

The Romantic philosophy rejected the materialistic rationalism of the Enlightenment. Out of it came the tender shoots of Coleridge’s philosophical musings on the power of imagination as a spiritual force. In central Europe, Goethe quietly developed a human-centered form of science, beyond the limits of materialism.

Their ‘works’ too have almost disappeared from human culture—but not quite. They have continued to flow as a source of life for the human spirit in the modern world, a world which is full of the ‘lifeless things’ of which Shelley writes the empty and crumbling edifices of much of our mainstream culture. One might say that modern culture is like the pedestal that Shelley describes. It boasts much, but there is nothing actually there.

The central lines that I would like to concentrate upon here are those of the long-forgotten King Ozymandias: Look on my Works, Ye Mighty, and despair. These words resound in an otherwise dead landscape.

They are narcissistic words, of a soul caught up in itself. The words return, empty, to themselves. They eradicate life around them. They offer no way forward. Nothing can live when such words are spoken. The ‘lone and level sands’ are testimony to that.

What if we were to say, ‘Look on my Works’? What would we refer to if we did so? What body of work could we point to? Would we perceive some coherence in its patterns? If we addressed it to ‘Ye Mighty’ then we would not mean the ephemeral might of earthly sovereigns, but perhaps the spiritual world. Would they despair? Only at our myopia and hubris.

All of our works eventually recede in memory. Everything that we do is swallowed up into life. Our successes and our failures, our originality and genius, our sufferings and torments. We pour ourselves into life— and eventually we are poured out and emptied. Everything passes, and quiet inevitably descends upon even the most cacophonous of lives. Paradoxically, the transience of human existence is intransient.

Our external works will all pass away. But that which lived in the soul, as we ‘worked’, that will surely remain. Did we work with joy, love, imagination, freedom? Were we ‘working from Christ?’ I would like to draw a clear distinction here between two aspects of human working. Let us call them ‘works’ and ‘deeds’. ‘Works’ are everything that we put out into the world. They are the sum of all our outer activity. One may think of a ‘body of works’; also our daily work and livelihoods. All of this will be no more, just as the everyday life of ancient Egyptians in their ‘antique land’ is lost to us. Work is subject to the forces of transience and will pass away when ‘heaven and earth pass away’.

Let us call ‘deed’ that which lives in our work. This is not what we did, but how we did our work. Deed is the mood and gesture of our activity. It is the manner in which we applied our will. ‘Deed’ is the enduring life of the will. ‘When heaven and earth pass away, my words remain’. Such are our deeds, like words spoken into the eternal. It is the deed which gives meaning to our work.

Our work will not remain. But our deeds do. Our will is inscribed through our deeds, however slightly, into the earth. In the 8th chapter of St. John, there is the scene of the woman caught committing adultery. This scene captures the imagination almost like no other, because something powerful happens here: Christ inscribes his will into the earth. A deed is written into it. The quiet deed causes the extraordinary turnabout. What remains is an unforgettable picture, sublime, simple and profound.

There is a moment (in our service) towards the end of the Transubstantiation where we acknowledge that before the Father God, we can do no works. Without wishing to pin down an interpretation, or take it out of the context of the living liturgy, it may be helpful to consider a perspective on this.

Our ‘works’ often have an egotistical character. We invest so much in our earthly works that we can become proud of them. We want to bring something good into the world. But inevitably, there is a degree of self-gratification involved. And there is also the intractable web of karma that we become further entangled in, when we bring our work into the world.

What the Act of Consecration asks us to concentrate on again and again is not our work, but our ‘offering’. This is the will-life at its most religious. ‘Offering’ is more inward, more spiritual than our ‘work’. Everything that is true and serving in our works—our will’s deeds— has an offering gesture; and this is what can flow onwards and evolve through all cycles of time yet to come. At the very beginning of the Act of Consecration, we invoke our own powers to be mindful of the deed of Christ; that is, to enter into the mood of sacrifice that concentrates around the mystery of Golgotha, not the external events of ‘the life of Christ’ and Golgotha. And so we come to the crux of our existence. For it is not our works upon which the Mighty (‘Before You…’) should look, but our deeds. And we hear soon enough what the inner dynamic of these deeds is: the overcoming of sin.

This is what we would do. This is the mystery and deepest desire of our will. What lives in our will is a desire to overcome sin. Sin sunders our Self from itself. It has a deathly grip on the human being, causing a sickness unto death in our being itself. All our works should be directed to this purpose: joining with the deed of Christ that overcame death—and thereby also overcame the dynamics of sin.

Let us return to the scene in John 8. The death of the ‘adulteress’* was practically inevitable. This is because she was ensnared in sin. In this sense, whatever her ‘crime’ was, is irrelevant. Her fundamental tragedy (her sin), is that she is sundered from her true self; she is living inauthentically. She is caught in externals (‘works’) and is sundered from her will—God’s will. And it soon becomes clear to her accusers that they all share in this ensnarement—and they are not alone in this: we are all in the same boat.

It was no longer enough merely to keep the Law. Our outer works could do that. But now it was being shown that the Law had been covering a deep underlying sickness. Christ’s sojourn on earth provided a diagnosis of this sickness. The deed on Golgotha begins the healing process.

Faced with the accusers, Jesus doesn’t try to reason with the mob, which would catch him in their intended trap. Instead, he allows the Christ in him to work. He is working from Christ. Externally, he does little—outwardly a few words are spoken and the hand writes into the dust. But this allows Christ’s will to work all the more powerfully. Jesus makes himself a vessel through which Christ can write a deed of freedom into the dying earth existence, thereby re-enlivening it. The deed of Christ Jesus in this episode already overcomes the forces of death. Everyone becomes potentially more free. It is with this that we would join. In this way, we would overcome sin. For we are all adulterating souls. We all join ourselves too much with what we do (our works), often at the expense of our relationship to what we might call God’s will. So it is that the adulterating soul is told to ‘go—and sin no more’.

‘Go—and sin no more’. We could express this thus: Go on your life’s path—and learn to receive your will. For when we learn to truly listen to our will, then we receive our will, like a longed for guest.

The scene with the ‘adulteress’ is an exemplary picture of freedom, a deed which frees her and us from the iron consequences of the Law, of karma. It shines like a light in our imaginations. It is what a human Self—an ‘I am’—can do. Therefore, ‘(the) I am (is) the Light of the World’ (John 8:12).

If we failed to learn this working from Christ, we would enmesh the earth further in our works until finally it would no longer breathe and live—and become a dead being (‘boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.’) And the human being would then become merely a ‘colossal wreck’ in the cosmos.

Finding a relationship to our inner life of deeds, as opposed to our outer works, involves a fundamental acceptance of our status as spiritual beings. It asks us to learn to know who we truly are: that we are not protagonists of the project of earthly permanence. It is not ‘Look on my Works, ye Mighty’, that we should stamp on the life of the soul, but rather, ‘before the Almighty, no works can be done’. Otherwise, the heart feeds upon the purblind vanity, and becomes sick. To ‘see’ our life of deeds, our will, requires a completely different attitude of soul: a modesty and an ability to put our lives into true proportion. That is our work. In this way, we find our true place in life. All this contributes to the overcoming of the sickness of sin.

When our outer work can begin to be informed by such thoughts, then perhaps we can approach the mystery of our own will—that mysterious force within, which causes so much chaos in the world-harmony. It is so sensitive and embryonic that it can easily be swayed by adversarial might. CCan we learn to see beyond the work of the adversaries in our souls? Can we begin to get to know the will’s unique dynamic, and align ourselves with it? Can we learn to receive this will? If so, then perhaps we begin to live into those words of the Lord’s Prayer which calls for the will of the Father – which is our deepest will – to be done as deeds on earth, as it lives in the heavens.

We were inhabitants of an ‘antique land’ – an earth which was constantly passing away, dying, subject to transience. The Law had covered up this fact. Then an ‘unacknowledged legislator’ came and made us the new executors of the Father’s will. Such are our deeds. It is these which gradually lay the foundation [can a basis unfold?] for the preservation of our life, destined for eternity.

 

*We will call her this without implying judgment, and take it as an allegorical picture of the state of the soul.

 


This essay was written by Luke Barr, a priest of The Christian Community in Aberdeen, Scotland. It appears in the summer 2018 issue of Perspectives on the theme of Inner Activism, and it is posted here by permission of the editor. To subscribe to Perspectives, and receive issues via email, please visit their site.

In this essay, Luke refers to the adult service of the Christian Community, called the Act of Consecration of Man. You can read more about our service here.