Once upon a time, the story begins, some seekers from the city asked the local monastic a question:
“How does one seek union with God”?
And the Wise One said, “The harder you seek, the more distance you create between God and you.”
“So what does one do about the distance?” the seekers asked.
And the elder said simply, “Just understand that it isn’t there.”
“Does that mean that God and I are one?” the disciples said.
And the monastic said, “Not one. Not two.”
“But how is that possible?” the seekers insisted.
And the monastic answered, “Just like the sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and the song. Not one. But not two.” (Taken from Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, p. 195. Written by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).
The wonderful story told to us by Sr. Joan reinforces an inescapable truth about prayer. Prayer deepens our relationship with God and one another. I would tend to take what she wrote a step further by writing that not only are we not one, and not two with God; we are also not one, nor two with one another. Genesis 1:26 confirms that we are created in the image of the Holy Trinity; a Community of relationship through the love of God who is in Community with God’s Self in each of the Three Persons. In the death and resurrection of Christ, we are redeemed and set free to live into that relationship through our common Baptism. As prayer is a means for taking such a relationship with God to a deeper level; prayer also deepens our relationships with one another.
Thomas Keating in his book One Mind, One Heart wrote about how through all of the things we attach ourselves to, we move further away from God who is at the center of our being. Centering prayer is a fantastic means of taking us back to the presence of God who is there waiting for us to spend time with God. In centering prayer, we are not looking for anything magical or a feeling that will psychologically satisfy us. Keating recommends that if we experience something that we feel or satisfies our psychological impulses during centering prayer, that we detach our thoughts even from those. Feelings or emotions (whatever word you want to use) are good in and of themselves, until we begin to identify ourselves on the basis of them. “I am a happy person.” “I am a charismatic person, because I feel the Spirit within me.” What Sr. Joan and Thomas Keating are telling us is that we are not one, not two with God and one another except by the walls we put up to create a distance that God has already removed.
Jesus calls you and I today to live into a relationship with God through that purity of heart that searches for God for God’s sake alone. Jesus invites us into a deeper contemplation of His presence so with all the obstacles out of the way; including all those labels so that only the love of God and one another radiates from the relationship of community we share together. What could be more awesome than that?
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB