[I have found all this to be utterly true. I’ve also found it almost impossible to wrap words around. I didn’t want to weaken the words by trying to restate them. So here they are, for your consideration. — LM]
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Exploring the Mystics
with James Finley
Only Love Is Real
Friday, October 13, 2017
Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues sharing insights from John of the Cross. Take a few moments in the midst of your busy day to slow down, to enter into the quiet, and to read these words from your heart center, without judgment or needing to fully understand with your logical brain.
Just as with Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle, by the very first paragraph of John of the Cross’ Prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel you get the sense that the words are coming from some very deep place from inside of him—or really through him—that intimately accesses a deep place in us:
A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. 
One of the operative principles of love is that love does not rest as long as there is an inequality in love. In seeing the beloved down, the lover is moved to lift the beloved up. John says the infinite love of God will not rest until you are equal to God in love. Even though you would be absolutely nothing without God, God will not rest until you are as much God as God is God. God will not settle for a trace of inequality. In the “dark night of the soul,” we are weaned away from the ego’s finite ideas and feelings about God. We come to know that no idea about God is God. We are also weaned from our ideas about our self as being a finite, separate self apart from God.
Not everyone experiences this kind of union in this life. But in some lives God does not wait until death to begin the consummation through a dark night of the soul. In this nondual state, although I am not God, I am not other than God either. Although I am not you, I am not other than you either. Although I am not the earth, I am not other than the earth either. All things are unexplainably, invincibly one in endless diversity forever.
The awakening of this state on this earth does not mean you are holier than others. Rather, you awaken to how unexplainably holy everybody is. The mystic—that is, the person who is ripe with this love consciousness that’s born in the night—is not more holy but is granted a greater realization of the infinite holiness of the simplest of things.
Then, in some strange way, when you die, nothing will happen, because you’ve already died to the illusion that anything less than love is real; and you are aware that Infinite Love is loving you endlessly and giving itself away as your life.
Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.
 John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Institute of Carmelite Studies Publications: 1991), 114-115.
Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: TheDivine Ambush, discs 1 and 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.
8 O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! 6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
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OK, so some morning this comes into your heart and you just SOAR… right? I mean, for a moment, just the barest fraction of moments… you are utterly rapt in true praise and worship… right? But then… then… the moment drifts away… as the leg cramps, or the chair is uncomfortable, or the day’s appointments intrude on consciousness, or the coffee pot burps, or the dog barks… and the moment is gone, like a soap bubble popping in a stiff breeze.
Gentle Reader, it should come as no surprise that I am a bit strange… that my prayer life is a bit strange.
So it won’t come as a shock to anyone here to say, I had a strange thing happen the other day, as God gave me one of the oddest moments of encouragement I’ve ever known. I invite you into this moment, though it may well stretch the imagination a bit. Forewarning, you want to pull out and dust off your “science fiction mind” for a few minutes. You’ll need some of that “physics – edges of the universe” thinking for just a bit.
Anyhow… the moment started, typically enough, with a moment of pure, clean, clear praise/worship prayer. Kinda like what the heart feels/experiences with we gently move through that 8th Psalm up there… just this beauteous, lovely, moment lost in Him…
So far, so good… for like… nanoseconds…
Then, it starts… all the little frailties, foibles, distraction, sparkly bits, chaotic cats… like my mind/spirit is a little bar magnet tied on a shoelace, being dragged through a pan full of metal shavings! By the time I come to the “Amen”, I can scarcely recall the essence of the Heavenly Throne where I started…
And that depresses me. That disturbs me. I… ** watch me draw myself up in my very best monastic dignity here **... I… am a GROWNUP, gosh-darnit! And I should be capable of maintaining a train of thought longer than my caboose linked directly to His locomotive.
For I realize that it is the Lord Himself, who BEGINS every worship, praise or prayer. It is the impulse of the Holy Spirit, towards His Own Person… the Father… through the Son… that sets up the “cycle”, the “convection” of prayer, thanksgiving or praise that we are privileged to “ride along with”, like surfing a wave of grace that upholds the omniverse.
I realize that!
I just get so frustrated that before hitting the beach, almost at the same moment I catch the initial wave… I suddenly have to pull every bit of seaweed, flotsam, jelly fish, seashell, foam… and every other thing I encounter, up onto the board with me. I NEVER get there with a “pure intention”… with simple, straightforwardness… with a clean heart.
(You may recall, for years I really felt down on myself for that. Then, a couple years ago now… Jesus sat down alongside me when I was in one of these mini-tantrums, put His arm around my shoulders, and said, “Little Monk… I KNOW this. I’ve ALWAYS known this. And I embrace and treasure you… AND this… always! Now, if I embrace this truth of you, don’t you think you can too? Without all this regret?”)
So, I learned to “shrug” rather than condemn, accepting this frailty as my human condition, knowing by faith that the Lord receives the “prayer of my heart”, my “will”, my “intention”, despite all the debris I hang on it by the time I release it.
So, the other night, I found myself “shrugging this off”. As simple praise that started so clear, got tangled in other thoughts and ideas by the “Amen”. I didn’t fixate on it… I just “shrugged” and carried on, wrapping a silent “I’m sorry” around my thoughts, as I continued to pray.
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That’s when God did this incredible thing.
He stopped me.
“O Little Monk!” He laughed, compassionately. “You try so hard, you work so hard, and you SO miss the point. Let Me try to fix this a moment!
“Behold… here is what you see…”
And I saw my “convection” model… like rain forming in the clouds. The water up there, in the atmosphere at high altitude, is largely crystal. It is pure, it is clean, like “ice”… it is pure water. At some point, temperature, humidity, pressure, wind, come together in just the right proportions and “rain” begins to descend from the heart of a cloud. THAT is pure water. Like the environment impels the cloud, and the cloud responds releasing a drop of pure water.
Like, the Holy Spirit impels the heart in God, and the heart/mind/spirit responds releasing a drop of pure… “prayer”.
But then, as that drop from the raincloud falls, it passes through haze, smog, dust, dirt, smut. It picks up “stuff”, some of which is really “bad stuff”. These days, the world is losing (every day) irreplaceable artifacts, architecture, and art to “Acid Rain”. By the time that raindrop falls to earth, it picks up enough pollution and toxicity that it’s dissolving the details of stone carved hundreds or thousands of years ago.
This is sad. This is how I saw my prayer. God agreed… this made me sadder, not relieved! I was confused.
“But wait!” He said. “That is only how YOU see it. How YOU experience it, Little Monk. Your drop has to ‘fall down’, has to filter on through your own mind and consciousness (complete with all your ‘stuff’), before YOU get to your ‘Amen’. So YOU experience it as polluted, watered down, and vastly short of what the Holy Spirit called it forth to be.”
“Yes, Lord. That’s true.” I nodded, not quite following Him.
“But don’t you see, Little Monk? I am NOT you! I do NOT work that way! I do not have to ‘wait for your Amen’. For Me, I am there, I am present in the moment of your RESPONSE. Let Me show you.”
And He showed me an “impulse of the Holy Spirit”… Um, imagine a “spark”, triggering a “heartbeat”. So there is a moment of a “call to worship”, or a moment of “thanksgiving”, or a moment of “loving petition or intercession”… like a laser ray, shining like a beacon towards the Father’s heart.
And, for a moment of response, I JOIN with that. For a time, however brief, my attention is focused entirely on Him, and/or on the person being loved and prayed for. For however brief a time, *I* am OUT of the loop. The prayer is “selfless” in the right sense of that.
But then, as I watched this “reconstruction”, I started moving further down the timeline, to where it gets polluted, and He said…
“STOP! Don’t DO that! THAT’s what you are not understanding. That’s what I want you to see here and now. That is what YOU do, what YOU experience… but not Me. Let me show you how I see that same prayer…”
** Now here’s where it gets a bit more weird, Gentle Reader. Just try to ride with me here **
But imagine a visible “time line” in front of you. Like a “number line” back when you were in grade school math. And imagine that on that Time Line you can see the… whatever the period was… lots of seconds, a few seconds, one second, nanoseconds…. whatever… where that RESPONSE to the call of the Holy Spirit (that “pure prayer of will and heart”) was demarcated, before magnetic sticky stuff started to glom onto it.
Right… now imagine that God just “magnified” that section of the timeline in front of you, so that it wasn’t just “inches” anymore, but “feet”, then “yards” then “miles”…. Now imagine that instead of just ONE dimension… (a time LINE), it became TWO… a surface, like a landscape of miles…
I watched this. I watched this nanosecond, become an entire landscape… a landscape of worship of Him, praise of Him, submission to Him, adoration of Him. It became light reflecting His Light, and He “reveled” in it. He wrapped Himself with it like a coat, and derived great joy from it.
“THIS, Little Monk. This is how I see everyone, anyone’s, response to the Spirit’s impulse to prayer, praise, or petition. Time means NOTHING to Me. I am NOT subject to Time. I capture and treasure moments when My children simply love and trust Me. No matter how short those moments seem to them.
“I can come here anytime. This nanosecond of yours, is like a millennium to Me. I take such moments as these, and preserve them in My heart… like you take the drawings of your grandchildren, and stick them on your refrigerator door… as you did their mother’s before them. Little Monk… EVERY time a child of Mine responds with love to a moment of Spirit… I capture and treasure that moment, like a canvas. I save it in My ‘forever’… like you on your refrigerator door.
“Try to stop focusing on the Acid Rain. I know you see it, but I do not. I see this… and in My House are many refrigerators… and the doors… the doors are huge. Think of those, and enjoy the moments.
“We’ll discuss the Acid Rain more later. But for now, just keep making the artwork. I’ve plenty of room left on your refrigerator door.”
And He hugged me, and returned me to my regularly scheduled dimension. I felt much better. How about you, Gentle Reader?