From last Tuesday, just before my latest surgery…
Cool, Spring air, a pink eastern horizon in which scattered clouds play. My first outdoor morning devotions since last fall.
How do I even summarize the life breathed into me in those moments?
Under creation’s gaze, I read, among other things, these thoughts from Thomas Merton, written a year before I was born (1958):
In Louisville I bought marvelous books for a few pennies – including The Family of Man for fifty cents. All those fabulous pictures. And again, no refinements and no explanations are necessary! How scandalized some would be if I said that this whole book is to me a picture of Christ, and yet that is the Truth. There, there is Christ in my own Kind, my own Kind – Kind, which means “likeness” and which means “love” and which means “child.” Mankind. Like one another, the dear “Kind” of sinners united and embraced in only one heart, in only one Kindness, which is the Heart and Kindness of Christ. I do not look for sin in you, Mankind. I do not see sin in you anymore today (though we are all sinners). There is something too real to allow sin any longer to seem important, to seem to exist, for it has been swallowed up, it has been destroyed, it is gone, and there is only the great secret between us that we are all one Kind, and what matters is not what this or that one has committed in his heart, separate from the others, but the love that brings him back to all the others in the one Christ, and this love is not our love but the Divine Bridegroom.
As I read these words aloud, standing in my front yard, a car passes. A child crosses the street and stands curbside, waiting for the morning school bus. A neighbor rolls his trash cans to the street. For one brief moment, my heart is brim full of divine epiphany of the oneness of humanity in the Cosmic Christ. The Christ who is “through all, with all and in you all” and who “holds all things together by the Word of his power” ultimately connecting us all in ways perhaps most of us don’t even fathom or realize on any practical level. Moving from other to one another. Common Christ, common Humanity. “And did not One make us all?” To see the reality of Christ as the ultimate common denominator of all humanity. To see His face, His image in the face and heart and soul of every person we encounter, a reality just waiting to be more fully realized, activated. Waiting to bud, to bloom, to explode with vibrant life. Imagine “evangelism” through this lens – as acting on and activating the Reality of the Incarnation already all around us, among us, in us.
No Jew or Gentile. No male or female. No barbarian or Scythian (the barbarian’s barbarian aka one savagely uncouth). No slave or free. Only Christ. Fill in our categories, our dividers, our distinctives. Imagine. Imagine not being so obsessed with sin in the other, imagine sin not being the deciding factor through which we see and evaluate each other. Imagine something far more Real filling our souls, our senses. Imagine living in the Reality that we are all indeed only one Kind, flowing in from East and West to share a table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – with only those who reject this common Humanity in Christ (“sons of the kingdom”) shut out – which generally means those thinking themselves closest to God (the “elect,” the “insiders”), the most religious, and often the most Bible-drenched.
For the briefest of moments I didn’t just imagine it. I saw it. I was bathed in it. It overwhelmed me, tears flowing, the air filling me.
The bare-branched bush before the house has suddenly exploded with green!