Continuing on my previous theme, I want to share some more thoughts and insights on discovering again our deepest selves from Fox’s classic work Original Blessing.
Quoting a Native American elder, Fox says,
“Goodness is the natural state of this world. The world is good! Even when it seems evil, it’s good. There’s only goodness in God. And that same goodness is in us all. You can feel it in yourself. You when you feel good inside. Yes, you’re God’s child, too. You are good. You are sacred. Respect yourself. Love the goodness in yourself. Then put that goodness out into the world! That’s everybody’s instructions”. (5)
Fox connects this innate goodness which bears the image of Christ with the ideas of Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of Bingen.
Eckhart wrote about this essential self with which we lose contact and which the spiritual life invites us to rediscover as the “spark of the soul”, saying that “hidden in all of us is .. something like the original outbreak of all goodness, something like a brilliant light that glows incessantly and something like a burning fire which burns incessantly” – the fire is which connects us with “nothing other than the Holy Spirit” (5).
Drawing on the Proverbs 8 image of God’s creative presence being manifested from before time in the Feminine as Lady Wisdom, a wisdom inherent in all creation and all people, Hildegard speaks of us all being sharers in an “original wisdom”. Fox writes, “we are all born with an original wisdom [so that] life’s task is to set up this tent of wisdom, which comes to us small and folded up as children. This rich image is mirrored in the work of … Buddhist nun, Pema Chodran who writes: ‘This is our birthright – the wisdom with which we were born, the vast unfolding of primordial richness, primordial openness, primordial wisdom itself… [We must] realize that we don’t have to obscure the joy and openness that is present in every moment of our existence. We can awaken to basic goodness, our birthright” (6).
To me, such descriptions remind me of the words of Rowan Williams and St. Ireneaus.
Williams writes, in “The Body’s Grace”:
” The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ’s body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God’s giving that God’s self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God. The life of the Christian community has as its rationale – if not invariably its practical reality – the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy.”
For Williams, the heart of Christian spirituality lies in living as ones who knows we are desirable, created to be embraced by the all-surrounding love of the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. This is our essential nature. As we learn to embrace this, we can become people whose lives embrace this in others and are a well-spring of joy and delight in the world.
St. Ireneaus, in his From Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), 4. 34. 5-7, wrote that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
Christian spirituality then involves, at its best, practices that reorient us to this sense of being ones in whom God desires and takes delight, so that we see our connection to this sacred fire and light, deep wisdom, of which Hildegard and Eckhart speak. It is learning to free ourselves from those things that keep us from being fully alive, so that we might glorify God with our lives.
Such spirituality calls us also to open our eyes to this same sense of each person we encounter being a person whom God also desires and in whom God the Creator, Christ, and Spirit delights, with this same deep connection.
Flowing from such an eyes-wide-opened perspective we would have to begin to also the ways in which our own actions and the way we order our communities – families, towns, neighborhoods, churches, work places – teach others they lack this worth, dehumanizing them and oppressing them in ways that they do not experience being fully alive in the ways that allow them to express the shining brightness and glory of God as fully as they are created to do.
This opening of our eyes to ourselves, others, and God’s world which our faith calls us to is beautifully pictured by the words of Jurgen Moltmann in his prayer from The Source of Life:
“When I love God I love the beauty of bodies, the rhythm of movements, the shining of eyes, the embraces, the feelings, the scents, the sounds of all this protean creation. When I love you, my God, I want to embrace it all, for I love you with all my senses in the creations of your love. In all the things that encounter me, you are waiting for me.
For a long time I looked for you within myself and crept into the shell of my soul, shielding myself with an armour of inapproachability. But you were outside – outside myself – and enticed me out of the narrowness of my heart into the broad place of love for life. So I came out of myself and found my soul in my senses, and my own self in others.”
May we all embrace such a transformation of our souls, hearts, lives, and world.
Your progressive redneck preacher,