God Is Love, I Know It

I stared at the large crucifix hanging on the wall behind the alter, focusing on my breathing, doing my Zen best to be in the present moment. I knew every little nuance of the large plaster corpus of Christ (it must have been 7 feet tall), his eyes open, the crown of thorns, nails in hands and feet, and the gash on the right side of his chest.

Pius X was the church of my childhood. Unlike old ornate Catholic churches with stained glass windows and statues of angels and saints, Pius X church was a large, post-Vatican II building in the way of 1960′s architecture: sparsely decorated, half theatre, half church. But it was my childhood spiritual home and a place where I experienced many graces. There I received First Communion and was confirmed in the faith as a 14 year-old. As a Catholic family we went to Mass there every Sunday.

The Scripture reader, at the ‘ambo’ (Latin for the lectern upon which sits the book of readings), began reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, the one that is used by so many at weddings that it has almost become cliche. This day however I heard it as if for the first time. The words, so familiar, struck my heart in a new way, making my spirit throb with an interior recognition, so clearly and deeply did they resonate in my heart.

Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous; love is not boastful or conceited….

…now I can know only imperfectly; but then face to face….

…as it is, these remain: faith, hope, and love, the three of them; and the greatest of these is love.

In the hearing, a wave of love, warm, soothing, mixed with a deep and consoling sense of relief, washed up in me,  I understood immediately that it was love all along that I was seeking, deep unadulterated love. I understood too that it was God I was really looking for, not an abstract notion, concept – idea – called nirvana.

My parents, sitting beside me, were oblivious to what was happening in their son.  I sat there in contentment, enjoying the consolation of love I found in my heart. In these moments I knew I was okay, would be okay, and that, most importantly, my need for God was at the heart of it all.

Yet, there was much pain to work through, and despite these moments of love and reassurance, I found it impossible to step into this love and live it consciously and fully.

One thing was certain, though, and I understood it innately in the depths of my being, I could no longer believe in something as ephemeral as ‘enlightenment.’ It no longer made sense to me, for love, as I experienced it, was something – someone – living, tangible, and recognizable in my experiences of life and especially in the experiences of my childhood.

After Mass, sitting in the backseat of my father’s car, as he drove us home, I realized, my efforts in Zen, and all the energy and effort I put into finding, taming, and becoming one with my ox, all the striving and pushing was an effort to save myself. Because really, from such a deep sense of shame in my heart, I knew I was lost and, because of the dread that lived in me, I felt I was doomed.

After we got home, I went out into the yard to dig a drainage ditch from an eavestrough pipe on the side of the house, to the woods about 30 feet away. As I pushed down through the dark soil infected with stones that made the shovelling difficult, I realized that no amount of meditation, chanting the sutras, practicing chi-kung, or perfecting my punching and kicking, could save me from my dread.

It was truly beyond anything I could remedy myself. And that’s when it made sense to me; Jesus Christ suffered and died for me in my place. He took upon himself my shame, my guilt, my dread, my anxiety, all of which I was trying to rid myself, and he lived it, tasted it, and experienced it, then died with it on the cross – all to save me from destruction. How much can a man pay for his life? How much can he pay for his guilt? He can’t buy his way out of it. Dr. heal thyself? I couldn’t.

I needed a saviour, one who understood my guilt and could rescue me from it. The Buddha couldn’t do that for me – I couldn’t do that for myself. I was completely dependent on my faith and the teachings of the Church, the Bride of Christ, for my salvation. And I have never turned back.

Categories Blog Post | Tags: , , , , , | Posted on December 26, 2017

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