for edification and celebration
enjoyment of Union with Life
Oh! what blissful communion!
we, creations of Life, with Life
* * *
Each time we enter silence, to be with Silence, we experience a little death, meaning the decrease of self. As Silence takes us more into Itself, Silence and Its fruition come to the fore, increasing, with a corresponding lessening of self. In this decrease of self, increasing with the corresponding depths of Silence taking the self into Itself, the center shifts from self to Presence. This is so that outside these times set aside for silent waiting in Presence, life becomes more centered in Presence, That universal, rather than that a localization of Presence, the self.
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In the Gospels of the Christian Scripture, John the Baptizer is sent to prepare the way for the appearing of Jesus. So, in the Gospel of John 1.8-9 NLT:
John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world (or, ..., who enlightens everyone coming into the world).
John had received much attention, speaking to crowds that came to him in the desert, baptizing many, and had his own disciples. The followers of John were confused about this Jesus (Gospel of John 3.23-30 NLT):
At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism. (This was before John was thrown into prison.) A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew (or, some Jews) over ceremonial cleansing. So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah (or, Christ, Anointed One), is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less (or, He must increase, and I must decrease).
* * *
Jesus, in this Gospel, embodies and signifies That which must increase, and John the Baptizer is a sign of the self that must decrease. This does not mean that which must decrease is evil, sinful, wrong, or to be abhorred or neglected. Rather, the self is to be moved to its rightful place in relation to the Truth, the Presence that makes possible all presences. In this movement the self is clothed with the holiness, the love, that belongs to Spirit and flows from Presence into all Creation. So, the self does not lose in this reorientation, the self gains by being placed into the proper place in the household of Life.
So, the fear that arises in the self of loss through the increase of Presence, this fear is an illusion. In the losses self undergoes as it is drawn into Grace, the self gains thereby, by the same Grace. To the degree Grace increases, so the self loses and, thereby, in that degree gains.
* * *
The self cannot decrease itself. Only that greater than the self can transform the self, and this indicates the humbleness the self experiences to receive this gift of Grace. This humbleness allows the lessening of the self, for the gain of the self in Grace. This is intimated in the Gospel of John 1.26-27 NLT:
John told them, “I baptize with (or, in) water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”
The self needs to see its limitation and place in relation to Presence through the Grace, so graciousness, of Presence. Then, one can be gladdened to recognize its own limitations and, correspondingly, feel the desire to be in right relation to the Light. So, humbleness, when rightly experienced, is a joy and leads to joy. The self finding its rightful place finds love, joy, and peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit.
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Yet, for most of us, if not all, we resist this letting go into Grace that is part of the being filled with Spirit, with Life. We refer to this resistance being an evidence of pride, of self-absorption. So, a Buddhist story:
The teacher continued replying to the wish of the disciple for freedom by telling him over and over "Simply let go." The disciple tried very hard, engaging varied practices. This never worked, so the teacher came up with a plan to assist his disciple, who by now had begun seriously to doubt he would ever receive the grace of freedom.
The teacher had another disciple fill a sack with sand and place it at the foot of the nearby hill. When the first disciple came to the teacher again, the teacher told him about the sack of sand and where to find it. He told him to take the sack of sand to the top of the hill, not resting until he reached the top.
Not understanding why, but trusting his teacher, the disciple threw the sack of sand over his shoulder and began taking it up the hill. He became exhausted, but he obeyed his teacher, not dropping the bag or letting it down to rest. And just when he stood on the summit of the high hill, he thankfully dropped the bag, and it and he fell to the ground. He, on his back in exhaustion, gazed into the spaciousness of the sky and felt the freedom he had long wished for come over him.
This story speaks of the lessening of self through the exhaustion of carrying the sack up the hill. The disciple, like us, could not accept the simple teaching to let go. His self was not prepared to humble itself to allow the sense of self-control to be replaced by the gracefulness of Grace. Yet, the teacher, like the Light within us, assisted, and the collapsing at the top of the hill speaks of the humbleness that allowed the veil of self to part, for freedom to arise, and with it joy. Along the way, we find that often, if not always, we have to become exhausted of our effort for a new, fresh inbreaking of Grace to occur, gifting us with a more intimate experience of Life.
My own sense, partly based on experience, is this lessening of self never ceases for us who walk the Way. The entire spiritual pilgrimage is one of an increasing decrease of self and an increasing increase of Life. Much of this decreasing we are not aware of, as Grace works in hidden ways. And, strictly speaking, we cannot in ourselves actually let go or humble ourselves. Rather, the will for self to decrease and the will for Grace to increase, as well as the humbleness to say 'Yes' to this gracious work within, is all by Grace for Grace. Even the will to be humble and the desire to decrease arises as a sign of the increase of the Light within us. This has long been referred to as "prevenient Grace," meaning "Grace that goes before." So, even a momentary wish to surrender to Grace, that is the work of Grace.
This is all taught in a little account from the life of Buddha. I will share it from Anam Thubten, in his The Magic of Awareness:
Is it easy to bring about the end of suffering (as in, emotional suffering)? Perhaps it is not easy but it is quite simple. If it were easy then everybody would have been liberated a long time ago. It is so simple that when people asked Buddha to show them the way to liberation, he didn’t actually teach anything. His answer was: “The way is the true path, the dharma.” The word dharma actually means “the way,” so what he was saying is the way is the way. It doesn’t mean anything.
* * *
So, we find, if we simply, daily walk the path, turning to the Light, transformation happens, arising from the walk and the path and the Giver of both. We simply walk, with all that implies, and we find we are changed by Grace into Grace. We discover great joy in being part of a larger Whole, gladdened to be a little light in the Light shining everywhere and in everything.
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3.18 NRSV)
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An Aspiration Prayer
may all beings feel loved and freely loving
may their suffering be transformed into bliss
and grace given to alleviate the suffering of others
that all may live in the fullness of love, joy, and peace.
Amen ~ We say joyfully It is so!
*Brian Wilcox. 'The Light Celebrates (no. 2)'. Flickr
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2019