Friday, November 16, 2007

"Unity in the Heart of God" - Another Nouwen Reflection

Unity in the Heart of God

Love unites all, whether created or uncreated. The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love. That's what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us through the ages. Benedict, Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch of Brabant, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Dag Hammarskjˆld, Thomas Merton, and many others, all in their own ways and their own languages, have witnessed to the unifying power of the divine love. All of them, however, spoke with a knowledge that came to them not through intellectual arguments but through contemplative prayer. The Spirit of Jesus allowed them to see the heart of God, the heart of the universe, and their own hearts as one. It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realisation of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated.
- Fr. Henri Nouwen

What's this "unity" business? Oh, yes, yes, intellectually, or on some quantum knowledge level, I get that "We Are All One." It's something I ramble off and hold as a tenet in the "Melissa-Borgmann-book-of-faith-and-understanding-of-the-Universe." (We all have our own books, right? Like little scrappy journals inside our hearts where we store pithy quotes and fortune cookie fortunes.) Well, I do, and this notion of a unified body of LOVE exists there.

But what does that MEAN? And what does that call me to do? Or be?


I read this reflection of Nouwen's this morning, and it smacked me in the center of my chest. I love Henri, and some days he speaks to me; other days, not so much. Reading these emailed passages is simply part of my morning routine. I pray using them, but sometimes wonder, "What is the quality or nature of my prayer?"
"Who's it for?"
"Why do it?"
"What does it matter if I'm at home drinking coffee, walking around in a t-shirt and tending to some dead spiritual dude's words or not?"
"I mean, REALLY, in the grand scheme of things: does it DO ANYTHING?"

I left a life of teaching, of feebly attempting to MAKE CHANGE in the world, to do this? Scantily clad, caffeinated prayer-warrior work?


But there's something in here today. There is something in this contemplating business, in this almost-rote activity of pouring over words and ideas, and sitting still with them in my heart. Stirring the pot of potato/turkey sausage/ pepper chowder I just made for tonight's dinner guests, I thought, "Yep. We are all one. And this prayer business and thought and heart work, it's as important as preparing food."

So, what? Where's that bring me? "I'm just a little potato in this soup of love?" Or: "We are all peppers and turkey sausages on some level?" I mean, if we are to hold this idea of "WE ARE ONE" to be true, then doesn't that follow?

Does it offend you if I call you a "turkey sausage"?

And if that is so, Sweet and beloved Creator/Christ/Benevolent and Enlightened Buddha, how do you react if I tell you you are the same and ONE with Hitler? With Osama? With George W.? With Mother Theresa? With Ghandi?

It is something to consider, or hold, if you are like me, and believe in this business of unity.

"We are all one."

Sweet Planet Earth, does that scare you?! To tell you the truth: it knocks me on my ass. Levels me. I'm Saul, on the road, getting struck down and blinded by Love. I'm trying to see clearly, I'm grasping at the dusty road, trying to feel my way, and wondering what conversion means, what peace means, what healing is possible - given my blasted, on-my-butt-blindness.


I'm sitting at the Visitation Monastery on Girard in North Minneapolis. It's a Saturday, and I'm surrounded by Visitation Companions and Sisters, and I'm being asked to contemplate the pierced heart of Christ. I'm being invited to make meaning of an organ that is the pumping machine of the body, and is pierced to the core, and yet still works? I'm being asked to hold my basic knowledge of cardiology alongside my basic knowledge of Love's Mystery.


Friends, I have no answers. But I share my ramblings with you, as Nouwen stirs things in me, and I tend to listening to my own pierced heart and these notions of alignment, love, unity.

Let me know if anything comes up in your reflections.



Sr. Suzanne said...

dear melissa,

i love your reflection on the companion retreat....thanks for sharing all that is in that quirky inner journal of yours...some of the same things are in mine some place...
have a good one!


Sr. Rafael said...

Deaer Melissa,

I have only the answer I gave to you a while back. When I pray, with the centurion, before my communion in the Body of Christ, saying, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," I know we are all one in our need of healing. Where else should contemplation lead me? and what else should it do? Like Mother Teresa, I will try to see clearly how the poorest of the poor in front of me can use my healing touch, remembering also, that my touch is Jesus's touch and we are all one.

May God give you peace!
Sr. Rafael

Chris Schmit said...

Mel -
Your energy and contemplations never cease to amaze me. My mind often hurts after reading your emails (not a bad thing). I am usually at a lost of words to reply but your chowder talked to me, so I will burp this out.

You are hardly the potato! I see you more as the water. Rapidly boiling, softening the potato, and taking flavor from the sausage and peppers.
The part that makes stew/soup/chowder good is the water! It has the flavor of all the ingredients. It doesn't get that way by boiling all the time. It needs to simmer!

Take time to SIMMER Mel.

"Yet not what I will, but what you will"

Just one of the mixed nuts,

Jody said...

I have to agree with all the other comments so far. What I like best about your blogs, your way of life is it continually challenges me to think more, love more, step out of the box more.

So for all of us who are blessed to be ingredients in the chowder of your life, thank you for adding flavor and mixing us all together as one in this great mystery of life.

Betty Lou Miller said...

Hi, Melissa,

A pot of soup is a good analogy of Unity and the Body of Christ as described by Paul. We all do have different gifts. Altogether we are part of a created good thing.

One of the words in Nouwen’s meditation, brought a question into my mind/heart and that is “uncreated”. What could that mean: something that will be created? Something in God’s mind? Something in our mind? Is it an oxymoron, to see if you are paying attention? Tell me what you think uncreated means.

Jesus desires that we are one as He is in His Father. Does this imply work, prayer, community, seeing God/Christ in each face? Did you say the same thing?

Unity implies union. Communion is union. Community is both. I find joy in this Philipian community, in our choir community. I find awe in the neighbor community. The hardships, the dependence, the strength, the having to ask for help, the thankfulness.

All for now.

Betty Lou

Daniel K said...

Thanks for your e-mails Melissa.

You probably know these authors already and have read them but the things you write about remind of these kindred spirits--May Sarton, Annie Dillard, and Annie Lamotte (sp?). I've liked their writing a lot and the places they create for themselves in their work.

Also, you might enjoy the singer/songwriter Sufyan Stevens. He has this searching Whitmanesque quality to him besides being very interesting arrangements and tunes.Have a happy turkey day