Spirituality

The Way of Humility is living as the Image of God, an Ambassador of Zion

As we continue our study on Humility, it is time for us to go back to our definition again: "Occupy a rightful space, neither too much nor too little. Focus neither on your own virtues nor the faults of others (Alan Morinis. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar p. 45.)."  This brings up the question:

What is our Rightful Place?

I have evoked that we are created in the Image of God, The Tzelem Elohim, so the question is, what does that mean?  To discover the answer we need to look at 2 versions of the same passage:

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
— Psalm 8:4-6 (NAS)
But one has testified somewhere, saying, “WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
— Hebrews 2:6-8 (NAS)

Did you notice the difference? 

Are we made lower than God or the Angels?

The answer is both, sort of.  Let me explain.

In the Psalm, the Hebrew word used is Elohim (God), and in the Letter to the Hebrews, the Greek word used is Aggelos (Angel).  Is this a contradiction or a mistranslation?  The answer is tricky, but kind of neither.

I am not familiar with another word in another language that has a meaning like Elohim.

Elohim means God in Fullness, all the energies of God, and every one and thing that participates within the Divine Nature.  It incorporates Yesh (God as the Ground of Being) and Ayin (The Nothingness of God), as well as the Heavenly Host (The Angels and Saints) and often the Just who are still living in this world who act according with the energies of God (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34).

The author of Hebrews uses the translation of Angels to highlight the argument he is making.  It is not a mistranslation, but it focuses on a part of the meaning rather than the whole.

What does it mean to be made a little lower than Elohim?

First of all, it means that we were made with Free Will.  Our nature is not forced to submit to a will that is not our own.  Since we can choose our actions, we can align ourselves with justice or injustice.

It also means we do not have an exact copy of the Yesh (Being) and Ayin (Emptiness) of God in our nature.  Instead, we have:

  • a Yetzer ha-tov, a shadow of the Ayin (Emptiness) of God.  This is our inclination toward unity, and it is often an inclination toward good.
  • a Yetzer ha-ra, a shadow of the Yesh (Being) of God.  This is our inclination toward individuality and separateness, and it is often an inclination toward evil.

I use the word often because neither of these inclinations are purely good or evil, and that is what makes them hard to navigate in between.

Our spirit is a trinity just like God, we have a Nashamah, a Ruach, and a Nefesh.  I just wanted to mention that now, I will go into more detail about that later.  Sorry about that, but I don't have enough time to go into that in this post.

Humility is the path between our two sides

True Humility is learning to live our lives as the Images of God that we are by walking carefully between these two sides of ourselves.  We have, in fact, been talking about this all along.

The Yetzer ha-tov of Humility is self-effacement.  The Yetzer ha-ra of humility is Arrogance.  Like with everything in the life of the Spirit, we need to learn to walk the middle path.

Armed with this knowledge, we now have the tools to determine our individual level of Humility in each and every circumstance we find ourselves.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I conforming too much? 
  • Have I submitted myself too much to the authority of others?
  • Have I allowed someone or something else to take up more space than it rightfully should?
  • Am I standing out too much?
  • Am I being to obstinate, forcing my will on others in a way that I have no right to do?
  • Am I taking up more space than I have any right to?
  • Am I taking up so much space I have left no space for others?
  • Have I allowed my opinions or comfort to blind myself to the needs of others that I should pay attention to?

These are only some of the questions we could ask.  Once we learn to question our inclinations to unity, conformity, individuality, and separateness, we can properly discern our rightful place, and develop a just and balanced sense of humility in ourselves.

May we all learn to walk this middle path.

Sharing the Journey

It has been hard for me to open up about my spiritual journey.  I don't feel like I have the stature required to talk about such important things. I have to ask myself, "Where would such qualifications come from?"

As a kid, I always thought that I would go to seminary.  I would study under learned men and women, and they would give me their imprimatur.  Then I would have right to an opinion.  What an idea, having to earn the right to an opinion.

The problem boils down to the idea that spirituality is about Truth.  People mistakenly believe that preachers, priests, monks, gurus, and saints teach us Truth.  They can't.  Truth cannot.  No one can speak the Truth.

“The best things can’t be told,” because they transcend thought. “The second best are misunderstood,” because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can’t be thought about, and one gets stuck in the thoughts.”The third best are what we talk about.”
— Heinrich Zimmer (via Joseph Campbell)
Scared Child by D Sharon Pruitt

Scared Child by D Sharon Pruitt

My job, when I share my journey, is not to pretend that I can ever talk about the best things.  I talk about the second and third best things, while trying to push forward toward the best.

It still isn't easy.  I am creative person, and want to write stories and midrashim.  These are hard to share because I don't want to put a huge disclaimer on each one.  I am afraid how people will read them and treat them, and again I see the face of my old enemy.

Fear is the mind slayer, the nemesis of creativity.  Fear is the death in the heart that brings about total isolation.  Trusting my heart to God in Christ, I must face my fears and walk through the dark valleys to the glorious eastern sunrise on the other side.

So, as I ford the rivers of fear laid out before me, I ask only that you share your journey with the same open and honest heart that I am.

The Darkness may encircle us, but the Light of God cannot be conquered.

Annunciation and Consecration

Me making a Rosary in my Grandparents' living room in 1995

19 years ago, I consecrated myself to the Blessed Mother.  At the time, it was both the hardest and the easiest choice I have ever made.

I was raised Baptist, we never taught about the Saints or the Blessed Mother accept in passing.

I had lost my faith the previous year, and became a secret atheist.  I couldn't believe in a God that hated me, and whose followers were such self righteous hypocrites.  I hated God.  I hated the Church, and more than anything, I hated myself.

One night, in the December of 1994, I decided to kill myself.  It wasn't a rash decision.  I had made pro and con tables and given it a lot of thought, and believed the best thing I could do was end my life.  Through a series of circumstances I cannot fathom to this day, I stumbled on a copy of The Secret of the Rosary by St Louis De Montfort.  In one of the introductory chapters, he wrote:

If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins “you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.” Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and save your soul, if - and mark well what I say - if you say the Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.
— St Louis De Montfort, Secret of the Rosary

All my life I was told that God hated me, and there was nothing I could do about it.  I was curious how this Rosary could do anything.  So, I read through the whole book.  I was moved to my core, but I didn't have a rosary.  I counted the beads on my fingers and recited my first rosary.

Something changed within me.  I felt a love that I never thought could be real.  I cried myself to sleep that night.

I hunted down all of his books, including The Secret of Mary and True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In these books, St Louis recommends a 33 day preparation and a Total and True Consecration to the Blessed Mother.  I chose the Feast of the Annunciation for my consecration day, and started my preparation.

The Feast of the Annunciation

Through this process, and over the years that followed, I have learned many things about the Annunciation of Our Lord.

Did it happen?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!  I get so tired of people who do not understand spirituality asking questions about metaphysical truth in history.  Historical truth is a beautiful thing, but life is affected  by stories not events.

If we ask, "Exactly what happened to Mary on that day 2000 years ago?" We have fallen off the path.  Did she see an angel?  just hear a voice?  How exactly did she conceive the child?  All of these questions are distractions.  They draw our eyes away from the story which tells us a poor young Jewish girl, surrounded by oppression and poverty conceived a Child not from this world.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”.
— John 3:5

A biological child is born into a world where survival of the fittest is the only law.  Her Child is the Son of the Most High, who seeks compassion over survival and power.  No one who lives only by the flesh can enter the kingdom of God, which is compassion, light, and justice.  Mary's Son would be different:

And Mary said : “My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave ; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm ; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS ; And sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
— Luke 1:46-55

The Angel's Annunciation is for you

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you-
— Galatians 4:19

The call to give birth to the Son of God still goes out to this day.  The difference is, no longer does an angel deliver the message, but Christ himself:  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock ; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20)."

Open the door, and let Jesus into your heart.  Awaken to the interconnectedness of all things.  Lift up the low.  Raise up those who need your help to stand.  Have the courage to live in the Light.  Walk in Compassion and Justice.

Sisters and Brothers, turn your heart toward the One who holds all things together and walk the path of Spirit until Christ Jesus is born through you into the world.  You are not alone.  In the Matrix of the Blessed Mother who molded the Christ, we will be formed into the perfect and true Image of God.

How do we do this, we follow the example of our Blessed Mother:

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
— Luke 1:38
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
— Jesus, John 15:10-17

St Buddha and the Way

St Buddha and the Way

Many Christian groups misunderstand the heart of the Buddha’s Teachings.  They confuse the Salvation Christ taught (Reconciliation with God) with the Salvation the Buddha taught (The Cessation of Dukkha).  Jesus taught us about our relationship with God and our neighbors.  Buddha taught us about our relationship with ourselves and our actions.  His teachings, Dharma, are the same as the teachings of God and Christ.