March 2013

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ: Christ is in our midst!

Do you think if Jesus were to appear at the door of our church today he would come in grand Byzantine vestments, mitre and all? I do not believe it. I seriously doubt we would recognize him. Since we already think we know him he would have to look like we think he would look before we would recognize him. Since we already think we know what he would do and say, then he would have to do and say what we think he should in order for us to receive him. What if he didn't?

Psychologically, that is called projection. It's like when we marry the "perfect woman" and wake up one day and realize she isn't all that perfect! She never was. We fall in love with our ideas of people most of the time rather than the people themselves. We create false images in our minds and believe them! In order to love someone, we have to be willing to let go of our ideas about who they are and just let them be who they are. No manipulation, no deception, no expectations. Just the facts will do when love is at stake.

The same is true of God. Our ideas of him are exactly that, "ours." Not setting up false images has less to do with statues than it does with our thoughts and definitions. That is why the Great Western Mystic Meister Eckhart wrote (scandalously), "In order to find God, we must let go of God. There above the mind, God shines."

I recommend this Great Lent that we learn how to fast from our projections, to let them go and dare to meet God face to face. This demands a good deal of quiet and stillness so that we can actually watch how we construct our projections and then, with kindness and compassion (a little humor is also very good), we gently let them go with a fond farewell. Remember the verse, "Be still and know that I am God?" There you go! That is how we find that place "above the mind, where God shines."

This also means letting him meet us face to face as well. That calls for us to become honest with ourselves. What is going on under my own skin? What is it that compels my behavior?

Why am I not free to do the good I know I should do? This is what confession is supposed to look like. We need to do more than give a laundry list of sins; we need a deep cleaning, a true transformation. We need to get real. It is a painful process no doubt, but it leads to liberation, to freedom, and finally to joy.

Meister Eckhart's instruction about knowing God applies here as well. In order to know ourselves we have to let go of ourselves.

Love on the Eve of Great Lent,

Fr. Antony Hughes