Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Mr. Matthew T. Leaycraft
RCL - Palm Sunday C - Sunday 27 March 2010
The Divine Harmonic
I love the grand harmony implicit in every aspect of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Everything is alined, almost like magic. Jesus foretells that in the village the disciples will find tied up a colt that has never been ridden. They go, and immediately the colt appears, just as Jesus predicted. The curious owners arrive asking, as Jesus foretells (and well they might), why the disciples are untying the colt. They answer as Jesus instructed, “The Lord needs it.” This seems to satisfy the owners entirely. Off they go with the colt. Jesus seems omnipotent. Everything moves at his command. People, objects, even time itself, seem effortlessly within his grasp. He is free and everything comes to him.
The action speeds up and more join in. The disciples throw their cloaks on the colt. Almost supernaturally it seems, they lift Jesus onto the makeshift saddle. Everyone catches the spirit. The crowd surges toward Jesus laying down their cloaks before him. Disciples all, they were witnesses to Jesus curing the blind, healing the sick, and even bringing the dead Lazarus to life. Caught up in the ineffable wonder of God, the incarnate Christ among them, heaven and earth at this moment in rapturous unity, they sing out blessing God in Christ their King and praising the peace and glory of heaven now realized before their very eyes.
And yet, all this unfolds as Jesus knows himself to be in mortal danger. He walks boldly to what may come. In his greatest moment of glory he is at his most vulnerable. And yet, he is beyond fear: wide open, utterly free. His self offering is absolute. Obedience for him is his complete oneness with God. This is what leads him to give himself up to the situation as it unfolds. The offering of self in love is the only directive, the only authority. Nothing stands in his way either within him or without because in full obedience he is in divine harmony with all things: perfect love of God, perfect love of neighbor. And so, he is at his most powerful. Fully conscious even while riding on the little colt, he tells them, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out!”
Paul asks us to emulate this. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” But it doesn’t seem to be so easy. He asks us to be obedient.
Obedience. A loaded word for most of us. In our minds it implies some kind of objective set of rules or value system to which we must willingly or unwillingly comply. Rules. For some of us the word conjures images of self abnegation, the giving up of things, or desires, or individuality. Sometimes we relish the discipline of denial. Adherence to fixed rules is what we live for. There lies safety. It is our marker of identity. Often it takes the form of our maintaining our distinction from YOU, whoever you are, who don’t follow my or our rules. For others rules imply domination, repression, and punishment. The only thing to do is escape. We rebel. Make our own rule, a better rule. In the name of freedom which isn’t freedom at all. In our own compulsive reaction we act out in various ways. Fettered by rigidity or driven in license, our identity is of our own making. In both ways we are unfree.
As many of you know, my Seminarian Internship here at Holy Cross and status as a commuting graduate student between New York and New Haven means I log in hundreds of miles a week on the road. Have you noticed that high speed driving in recent years has taken on the psychic and adrenaline pumping intensity of intergalactic combat? I don’t quite know when this happened, but it is at times truly terrifying, weird, and exhilarating all at once. We travel down the highway among strangers. All these isolated and seemingly disembodied souls hurtling along shielded and concealed in the hard shells that encase them. The characters, stripped of their personalized and complicated masks, act out revealing themselves on an essential level. It’s primal and it’s dangerous.
There is the petite young woman in the gigantic black SUV doing close to 90 who breathes down your tail. With terrifying speed she races up behind you, her whole psyche bent on getting you out of her way in the passing lane. You can feel the energy, can’t you? Finally, frustrated and enraged, she swings to the right, passing you. Before you know it, she has aimed her vehicle directly in front of you. Though there is not much more than a car length between you and the car ahead, she’s pulling right in front of you. You want to scream, but you can’t. Time stands still - is this going to be it? Chaos, danger, and possibly death come in her wake. Fueled by blind anger, her rebellion is heedless of any reality but its own compulsive drive. As you feel the blood drain from your body, a death grip on the steering wheel, you slow down and make room for her. And off she goes, her trip an extended conflict with everything and everyone around her. Careless of the consequences, her reality collapsed into itself, love can not enter.
On the other side of the coin, I know a man in his late ’70’s who, making the trip from the Midwest to visit us, proudly announced when he arrived that for the entire length of the two day drive he never exceeded the 65 mile an hour speed limit. In fact, he proudly boasted, he did 60 most of the time, just to be sure he was operating within the prescribed boundaries. His companion, a woman of his own age, emerged from the car ashen and shaken. His immovable slowness, so contrary to the prevailing conditions, had driven the other drivers to frantic extremes, to avoid, get around, and pass him. Yet, he took pride in the mayhem, because he was right. No love here either.
To be honest, I am both of these drivers at different times. Reactive, rebellious, self righteous by turns. If you get caught up in this it is exhausting and debilitating. Adhering to the authority of an identity of our own making, sometimes conscious, much of the time acting blindly, we are lost. But, there are times we intuit another reality. Sometimes your drive down the highway and the path seems clear. Fully attentive in all directions at once, you synthesize your situation and act accordingly. You are free, unfettered by self and others, letting those pass who need to and wishing them well on their way. You accelerate, slow down, change lanes with spontaneous ease relating to situations and others in harmony, creating harmony as you go. The journey, exhilarating and nimble, is over before you know it. You arrive perhaps tired but happy. It was an experience of freedom, a liberation from self.
We get a glimpse of the deeper truth. Something drops away in us and we see our reality from a different perspective uncluttered by ourselves. In grace God enters freeing us from the falsehood of obedience to our inner demands, our inner demons - self created, self inflicted, conscious and unconscious. It can be as simple as disengaging from the highway madness, or it may be letting go of some primal state trapping you anger, hatred, judgment, fear or chaos, what have you, with all the violence of the demons that assailed St. Anthony of the Desert. With the insight into the truth comes freedom. We experience a relief so profound. And, as if that were not gift enough, love enters. Once you have a taste of the Divine Presence you want more, it leads you onward. It’s all you want. With every opening through the infinite grace of God, love fills the vacuum.
It is the movement of grace that brings us to a place like this. It’s a hospital really, for the trapped and blind. We come seeking freedom. Here we find a respite from our particular worlds in which we are defined. Stepping back we become more open to see ourselves as we are. In hospitality, community, silence, prayer, and the Eucharist, we turn our attention to God. Opening ourselves to God, God is able to enter us in new ways. We see more clearly ourselves as we are, free from our allegiance to our false authorities. In humility is our hope. The goal is true obedience, an opening of love so deep there is nothing else. The freer we are in that love the freer we are to love others. It is the divine rule, the one follows the other. Love of God love of neighbor, this is our calling, this the authority which more and more it is our delight to obey. In letting go we invite participation in the divine harmony.
Now as we enter Holy Week let us concentrate our attention and open our hearts to God. Let us look to those areas that confound us. The places where no light shines. The places that seem closed rather than open, those actions, thoughts, and feeling that seem to come from nowhere. Those are the places to look. Here is where we need to spend time. It’s a bit scary, we have everything to loose. We hold on. But, God is our constant companion. We see the truth, humility enters. We have nothing but ourselves, nothing but God.
With every opening, we enter the imperative of love, the radical freedom of obedience to God. We enter the gift of that true self within, born of God poured out from us to God and to neighbor . Bit by bit, from grace to grace we unfold. The old self drops away. Union with God and right relationship, fall into place. Each step lifting us closer to the freedom and glory of the Divine Harmony that greets us, enfolds us and leads us on until we can join with Paul saying:
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, .... every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.