'Sunset... Aroostook County, Maine'
No clear impressions, either from above or from without, can be received by a mind turbid with excitement and agitated by a crowd of distractions. The stillness needed for the clear shining of light within is incompatible with hurry.
*Caroline Emelia Stephen. Light Arising.
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Wednesday, I go out to sit on the front porch of the Meeting House and watch, as in prior evenings, the daylight setting into the night. It is chilly here in western Massachusetts, late Fall. A group is sitting nearby, some 100 feet away. The gathering, as Friends since the 17th Century, enters the Silence together.
This Quaker Meeting is outside under the darkening sky due to the Covid-19 virus. They are wearing masks. All is quiet among them.
I sit in the rocking chair quietly in respect of the Meeting, while silence pervades the space all around me. I have a drink but find it difficult to partake of it; such is the sense of reverence felt. I feel like it would border on disrespect to do anything but sit quietly.
I did not come to join this Meeting. Yet, the power of its togetherness, emanating outward like a vibrational field, holds me in itself. I am intimate with them, though not choosing to be. We are intimate with Something much more than ourselves.
This strong field-of-energies, generated through these about fourteen men and women worshipping wordlessly, amazes me. I have felt such power many times when participating more closely in proximity. Yet, I have never felt enveloped in such power and peace generated by a worshipping communion at a distance like this.
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Upon reflecting on this, after many days, some truths arise. First, we generate the Word in our being receptive in silence together. To "generate" means we participate in co-creating the field-of-subtle-dynamism whereby we feel the Word and welcome its guidance and healing for the common good. Words are easily the expression of our sense-of-self and tend to hinder the full coming of the Light. We bow spiritually in reverent silence - not necessarily physically - before the Beloved-of-the-Heart; we welcome the Light's subtle, mute rays. Being disrobed of words, we sink progressively, collectively into a venerating quietness, and the One shines - another Coming of Christ.
A second fact is about "proximity." I initially saw from the perspective of the self. Nothing wrong with this. Still, a shift occurs when we see in Spirit. The principle of proximity changes in the Silence. Physical distance no longer deters the sharing of intimacy. There is no distance in the Heart-of-hearts, even as there is no space. This dissolving of relativism, I believe, is why we can have heart-communion with beings who have lived before us, as well as with persons who are with us on Earth but at a great distance. Over time, the Heart teaches us a new landscape, different geography other than that of the self.
One is blessed to have a community to join in worship. Even more, one is blessed to have one that honors the need for silent receptivity to Spirit. No spiritual path can claim to offer this alone. Anywhere persons sit quietly in respect of the Light is a welcoming of the Light to appear. We do not have to agree on how to understand that Presence appearing. We do not have to go to a place esteemed holy or sacred. The Effulgence can manifest anywhere we create the reverential environment.
Second, the religion of my younger years fixated on what has been called the Second Coming or Second Coming of Christ - note, the term "second coming" is not in the Christian Scriptures. We waited for Jesus to appear in the sky to end history. The rapture referred to all Christians being lifted to Jesus in the firmament. In seminary, I studied varied theories of this return, or what the Christian Bible refers to as, in Greek, the "parousia" (lit., coming, appearing). I was gladdened when discovering some Christians have taught a "continuous parousia." This teaching says Christ, as a spiritual presence, is coming now. To me, this is what I refer to as the Presence manifesting in silence. I do not mean the historical Jesus, however. "Christ" refers to the manifestation of the One that has appeared throughout human history; Jesus was one appearance of the one Word. However, I do not exclude Jesus from manifesting spiritually now for those who live in intimacy and love with Jesus. Based on my studies and experience, it seems reasonable to conclude some beings return into time-space to assist their followers in the Way.
Hence, Christ is the Light appearing. Christ is not of one religion or is not one historical person but is universal. To say the Silence manifested from the Quaker Meeting that early evening is saying Christ appeared among us. Christ will always come when we together welcome Christ. This re-coming reminds us of the early Christian community's witness, which retained a vital intimacy with the resurrected Christ, before the institutionalization of Christianity as a religion.
Here, Jesus speaks, in the Gospel of John 14.18, to his disciples just before his arrest and death -
I will not leave you as orphans; I will return to you.
Jesus, here, is speaking in the Gospel of Matthew 18.20 -
Where two or three gather in my name, I am among them.
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One could ask, "What if I cannot find such a community who values this openness to and reverence before the Light?" Grace will provide for you, anyway. In modern societies, one may fail to find such a gathering nearby to attend. I mostly find groups that gather for the social benefits of meeting together and fulfilling an expected routine of ritual, with possibly some social outreach. While I applaud the benefits of such groups, these groups do not meet the spiritual longings or needs of persons who no longer find conventional religion to meet their spiritual aspirations. One can outgrow conventional religion simply by continuing to mature spiritually, even as persons outgrow their clothes by continuing to grow. Conventional religion can become too tight a fit for one who has outgrown it.
One can explore online spiritual gatherings. However, it is better to find at least one to a few persons to meet with and begin a group. You do not need to be an official group. Indeed, it is better to meet with one other person and share intimacy with the Light rather than many who are not receptive to the appearing of Christ. Recall, the early Christians were non-denominational groups, not churches in any sense of the modern word. The future of religion is possibly from institutionalization to these types of unofficial, so to speak, worshippers. As one of my late friends, an Episcopal priest, said during a sermon to our college faculty and students in the 1990s, "Once a movement becomes institutionalized, it's dead." As far as my background, I can find nothing that indicates Jesus ever intended the formation of a religion in his name or would have approved of the institutionalization of what he began as a living, God-focused movement - but this is a matter for another day and writing.
Peace to All!
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.