Monday, April 15, 2013
There Are No Mirrors In Heaven
Review: Contemplative Provocations
Yesterday’s Gospel had Jesus asking Peter: “Do you love me?” and Peter responding, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” Our pastor, in his homily, pointed out that Jesus and Peter used two different words for love (in the Gospel’s original Greek text), Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him with a self-sacrificing love, and Peter responding a word that meant he loved with a love of friendship.
The teaching of this Gospel to all of us is that Jesus calls us to grow in a perfection of love, to try to achieve in ever-better ways the love which He had, a total self-sacrificing love. We have a responsibility to give, in freedom, a love to others --- and to God --- that puts them first, a self-sacrificing love.
Even before this Gospel and homily yesterday, I have been thinking (and writing) a lot lately about freedom and responsibility. Perhaps that’s why the title of this meditation struck me; it’s a quote from the book Contemplative Provocations, by Fr. Donald Haggerty.
Heaven is perfection. Saying “there are no mirrors in heaven” is saying that in heaven’s perfection we are not concerned about ourselves, but only about others. We need no mirror in heaven, for we don’t look at ourselves. That is what a self-giving love is. Jesus was asking Peter --- and us --- if he/we could strive for that love here, on earth. We begin to achieve heaven when we begin to live more “heavenly’ here on earth, loving with a self-giving love, loving without looking at ourselves first.
In his forward, Cardinal Dolan says that this book is “a rewarding work for anyone striving to deepen his spiritual life.” Amen. Fr. Haggerty assumes his readers want a life given more fully to God; they wish to make a commitment to prayer. He then goes on, in short paragraphs, to explain feelings of God and of men, to show relationships, to describe longings, to consider the nature of God and men, and our longings to be together, to love. These ARE provocations to contemplation.
I, the underliner of important points, underlined many sentences and paragraphs in this book. It is made to be read and meditated upon before the Eucharistic Christ, so you can ask Him questions as you consider the topics, and hear His answers in the still of a chapel. This book is a true classic. I shall be reading it for many years to come.
When I did not seek him with a self-love, he came to me without being sought. (St. John of the Cross) To love, after all, is to give oneself, and to give oneself is to forget oneself. (Augustin Guillerand)
Our internal poverty of soul hinges on our absolute dependency on God. It is a recognition of our incapacity for God unless he draws us. Our nothingness attracts God’s love in the way a poor child’s smile draws our own emotion.
God’s concealed presence requires an alertness to these subtle promptings to sacrifice. If we do not deny ourselves in smaller ways, we may soon prefer a God who blesses our own biases and propensities. God is close to us when we make ourselves accessible to his requests. This means to expect small testings in which our own preference has often to be denied.
While God is the ultimate truth to be sought, it is difficult to experience a need for him while keeping steady companionship with a computer. This narrow search for practical benefit suffocates a deeper hunger of the human soul. The struggle for religious insight and for God, unanswerable at the touch of a keyboard, can be neglected provided the electricity continues to flow. In a culture of technology the question of God can be simply ignored as lacking practical purpose, a wasteful glance at fanciful vapors. Honest thought about God requires engagement with his divine presence. This is fully possible only in prayer ….. less analytical.
There is no such thing as a successful foray into seeking God in silent prayer; no one returns home with a prize in hand.
I could quote many more very thoughtful words from the good Father Haggerty, but they are not words just meant to be read, but meditated upon. There is so much meaning in them, meaning unique to each of us.
For my friends, this book may well be in your Christmas stocking this year.