Via Negativa

What happened at the Crucifixion of Christ

When I originally posted about this January 15, 2008, a lot of people wrote in with questions.  The inquiry is important.

For Christians and non-christians alike, the common question asked is, "Why did Jesus have to die? Was Jesus’ death a sacrifice to an angry God, or was it something else?"  Fundamentalists have their answer, and people are more familiar with it.

Blasphemous movies like The Passion of the Christ proclaim quite loudly, that Jesus death was some sort of Divine torture porn.  A spiteful little god needed to see suffering and bloodshed to appease his wrath.  They say that Jesus had to die because of the Law written by men and angels (De 4:14; Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2).  It is true that this law charged and condemned God with Blasphemy for saying that he is God.  So the question they should be asking is, was Jesus killed to satisfy Moses and the Angels.

Whether or not Jesus died as a human sacrifice to a God of Wrath all blood boils down to the answer to one question very important to the answer to a single question:

If there was no sin, would Jesus have been crucified?

The Orthodox answer is yes. On the Cross, Jesus stood on the threshold to mediate between us and God. Now follow me closely. On the cross, he stands between live and death, faith and doubt, hope and fear, pain and release, God and humanity. In this singular act, he mediates between all these opposites and shows the way to Life. The cross is the gate to the sheepfold.

Christ is the Word of God, nailed up as an edict from the Eternal Father for us to read and therein find the Son of Man and the Son of God pointing us to our true Humanity and the true Divinity.

Christ is the manifest book of Life in which the Mind of God is made know. “This is the book which no one found possible to take, since it was reserved for him who will take it and be slain. No one was able to be manifest from those who believed in salvation as long as that book had not appeared. For this reason, the compassionate, faithful Jesus was patient in his sufferings until he took that book, since he knew that his death meant life for many. Just as in the case of a will which has not yet been opened, for the fortune of the deceased master of the house is hidden, so also in the case of the All which had been hidden as long as the Father of the All was invisible and unique in himself, in whom every space has its source. For this reason Jesus appeared. He took that book as his own. He was nailed to a cross. He affixed the edict of the Father to the cross (The Gospel of Truth).”

This is the glory of God, that in seeing Christ crucified, all of our fears and doubts are brought out of us. We fear death, yet we look upon the one who died and yet lived. We fear pain, yet we look upon one who was nailed to a cross. We fear that God will forsake us, yet we hear God cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” All of our fears become clear at the cross.
In the Round Dance of the Cross, we see Jesus after the last supper signing a hymn of praise and dancing with his disciples. In the Hymn he sings, he declares the pairs of opposites that he mediates between. It is in these paradoxes that we find the mystery of the Cross. From death, many are born.

Jesus on the the cross, returns the Tree of Life to those who will eat its fruit.

This is the tree of unity, where the pairs of opposites are knit together.

The idea of Christ sacrificed for moral outrages that offend God is not an idea found in the gospels. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, not the sins of the world (John 1:29). The sin of the world is that we forget God.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shewed it unto them.  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Rom 1: 16-21).

These verse are often taken out of their context to make a moralistic argument that Paul was not. The point of the text is that through Christ crucified, the knowledge of God is given through faith to those who believe. Those who do not have darkened their hearts to the light of God.
Behold, Jesus hung on the Tree of Life as its first fruit.

The Crucifixion offends our senses in every way.

We like things to make sense. Why did Christ have to die? To show us the way to the Father by demonstrating the way between all of the pairs of opposites that frighten us and distract us from God.

In the Crucifixion, we see our lives and our deaths. We see all of our hopes and fear coexisting as they do in life. Peace, ground luminance, basic goodness, what ever you want to call it exists at the same time as the horror of our life.

Suddenly, we realize that when Christ called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was singing the twenty-second Psalm. He was praising the God that would lift him up.
Once we see the way through the pairs of opposites, we sing:

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Gal 2:20-21)."

On the cross he unfurled the edict of the Eternal Father, so the invisible, unknown God may now be known.

"Now, none can say that they have found God, for it is through Christ that God is made manifest to us all. None can boast that they have found the truth, and they agree with the apostle:  God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Gal 6:14)."

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

The Presentation of our Blessed Mother

Today is the feast of the presentation of our Blessed Mother to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Her parents,  Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, took their holy child to be raised in the path of holiness.

In this mystery, we have much to meditate upon.

In the Via Positiva

In the Way of Bliss, we see this mystery from the perspective of Mary.  She was sent to the Temple to increase in holiness.  Not doctrine, not legalism, in the Temple she was meant to find wisdom and holiness.

This reminds us of our work in the Via Positiva, where we, like our Blessed Mother before us, learn to see the world as it really is.  She was surrounded by the power of the  creative Word of God, experienced the kingdom of Zion as a real place, and was constantly reminded that God is in all things and all things are in God.

As we contemplate this mystery, we need to recommit ourselves to walk the path of Bliss, remembering that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our guide, who leads us to all truth.

In the Via Negativa

In the way of silence, we see this mystery through the eyes of St Joachim and St Anne.

Saints Anne and Joachim had prayed for years for a child.  Now, standing on the steps of the holy Temple, they gave the child back to God.  Imagine the pain of the holy grandparents of the Lord as they gave up their only child.

How often are we asked to do the same?  The child's first day at school, their first day at college, and sometimes the tragic loss of a child into the silence of death.  We share this experience also when we move from a favorite city, lose a beloved job, or realize we have to close down a pet project.

Throughout our lives, there are many beloved people, projects, and things we will have to let go of.  Our heart clings to them even though we know that they are gone.  This is the lesson we learn from the way of silence.  We cannot hold on to everything forever.  Attachment is the cause of suffering.  While it is never easy, we must learn to let go.

In the Via Creativa

In the way of creation, we see this mystery through the eyes of Mary.

While she was in the Temple, Mary found favor with the Lord.  She became the vessel through which Jesus Christ would enter the world.

This is the very same work that we are called to do.  We are called to be co-creators with God.  We must learn to see Christ as our brother and our child.  To do this, we must enter the holy place and set our hearts aside to do the work of God, which is compassion, justice, and loving kindness.

We learn to see God in all things and all things in God.  Now, we must learn to speak the Word of God, and arrange our lives as ambassadors from Zion.

In the Via Transformativa

The presentation of our Blessed Mother led to Mary's glorious Fiat.  It was her time in the Temple, her time in Zion, her time with God, that not only caused her to find favor with the Lord, but made her ready and willing to say yes to being the mother of God.

So many people in the church today jump straight to the way of transformation, and seek to change the world without first doing the hard work of preparing and changing themselves so they are the proper vessel for the change they want to see.  It is easier to yell at others than to do the real hard work of changing ourselves.

Sisters and brothers, I invite you to look at the example of our Blessed Mother.  she sought out the face of God so she might reflect God to the world.  We must humble ourselves and do the same.

Let us pray

Blessed mother Mary, as we contemplate your presentation in the Temple, we ask that you will give us your Immaculate Heart.  Conform us to the person of your son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Welcome us into the kingdom of Zion, holy Queen, and pray that we may be safe in our sojourn through Babylon.

Holy mother, teach us the ways of God.  Remember us always, as we forever hold your example in our mind.  Lead us to your son, our Lord Christ Jesus, that he may be born through us into the world.  Amen

Epiphany and Mystery of God

 We have followed the star to the new born Christ, and behold the one in whom God is made manifest to the world. We stand by the river Jordan and watch the skies open as the dove descends upon our Lord. We drink the wine at the wedding at Cana and marvel at the one who produced it. We celebrate the revelation of the Lord.

This is the day when we remember the revelation of God to humankind, but how can we celebrate the revelation the one who:

Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne (PS 97:2).

This is the God of whom Solomon says:

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter (Pr 25:2).

While I do not believe that anyone can every describe or define God in any great detail, I believe that God can be found be those who seek him out. All religion is an attempt for us to put these experiences in words. God is hidden from us by the minutia of our lives. Anyone can find God by relaxing, and coming to the present moment fully aware. This is the glory of mindfulness.

Creation Spirituality talks about the four paths to encountering God. As Matthew Fox answers the question, "Where can God be found?"

 In the Via Positiva. In awe, wonder, and mystery of nature and all beings, each of whom is a ‘word of God,’ a ‘mirror of God that glistens and glitters,’ as Hildegard of Bingen put it. This is Path One (Creation Spirituality 18)

This is the path most people find to God. Sitting in the awe of nature, we feel our interconnectedness with all things. This interbeing is the purest connection we have with the Divine.

We can find God in music, art, or anything that instills within us a deep sense of Awe.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Negativa. In darkness and nothingness, in the silence and emptying, in the letting go and letting be, and in the pain and suffering that constitute an equally real part of our spiritual journey. This is Path Two (Creation Spirituality 18).”

This is the path of the Buddha- the path of silence meditation. Most of us what to reject this aspect of life, but it is an equal part of existence, and the most universal.

The Buddha himself reminds us of the only things we can ever know for sure, that we exist and that we are interconnected with all things. There is not an atom in our body that did not come from another creature, plant, or long lost star. It is in this lack of separate self that we find the Ground of All Being.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Creativa. In our generativity we co-create with God; in our imaginative output, we trust our images enough to birth them and ride them into existence. This is Path Three (Creation Spirituality 18).”

This is the path of Rumi- the path of art and co-creation. The Via Creativa is the very beating heart of the sacrament of Art as Meditation. In trusting our own creativity, we come closer to God. We learn how to be bearers of Christ into the world like those who came before us.

"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you (Gal 4:19)," as the apostle said, we find God through trusting our generatively.

Where else can God be found?

“In the Via Transformativa. In the relief of suffering, in the combating of injustice, in the struggle for homeostasis, for balance in society and history, and in the celebration that happens when persons struggling for justice and trying to live in mutuality come together to praise and give thanks for the gift of being and being together. This is Path Four (Creation Spirituality 18).”

This is the path of Gandhi and Dr King, the path of satyagraha. In community and common cause, when find God. As David prayed, “Yours, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all (1Chr 29:11).” Wherever we see greatness, we see God. Wherever we see glory, power, victory, or majesty, we see God. When ever we see love, charity, grace, mercy or any of the Divine attributes, we see God.

These are the paths to God we have learned, the paths that we walk every day. They are as natural as breathing. There is nothing more simple than our experiences of God and learning to trust them.