There is a depth and generosity in the imagery of the Bible, and of Christian writers over the centuries, that is often not dreamt of by those whose theology is proudly proclaimed to be ‘Biblically based’. One of the writers who best demonstrates what I am getting at is the Roman Catholic Franciscan friar and theologian Richard Rohr.
In a recent series of his Daily Meditations, Rohr writes:
The core belief of all the great world religions is that the underlying reality is love. Teilhard de Chardin says that “love is the very physical structure of the universe.” Everything is desiring union with everything in one sense or another. I actually believe that what it means to know and trust God is to trust that Love is the source, heart, engine, and goal of life. Our primal and deepest act of faith is the willingness to somehow say, “It’s okay” because at its core all of reality is good and of God. (Ironically and sadly, many religious people say they love God but they do not trust the goodness at the heart of all reality.)
The Christian belief in the Trinity makes it clear that God is an event of communion. God is not a noun nearly as much as a verb. We’ve always thought of God as an autonomous Supreme Being, rather than as Being itself, as an energy that moves within itself (“Father”), beyond itself (“Christ”), and drawing us into itself (“Holy Spirit”). When Christianity begins to take this pivotal and central doctrine of the Trinity with practical seriousness, it will be renewed on every level…
Love is where we came from. And love is where we are going. When we live in love, we will not be afraid to die. We have built a bridge between worlds. As Paul says “Love does not come to an end” and “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13).
“We will not be afraid to die.” Somehow it comes down to this. Any faith that holds us, yes, that can save us, has to be strong as death, just as love is.
We are so frail, each of us, so easily broken. A few years and we are gone anyway, scraps of memory on the ebbing tide, that choking ache in an old friend’s chest long after midnight–then only the odd printed reference, maybe, letter in a tin box under the bed, ghost link on the web.
To be close to one who is dying is to be close to something so right, so clearly, in Kathleen Dowling Singh’s words, grace out of tragedy. Or to know that, in Pippin’s words, “That isn’t so bad.” To have been faced with the great likelihood of one’s own death, as I have been blessed to be once or twice, is to know that that frailty is only one side of the coin. Reality is not what it seems. Our loneliness is in our separation, our differentiation. But once “the grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass,” then we know that really, in the end, truly, it’s OK. That in each of us which is love itself is beyond all the dimensions of time and matter, beyond the reach of thought, but there, at the centre of every heart.
We never were alone, and love is a very good name for God – for that Source and centre of all in which all things from galaxies to wood mice grow, and are held: that Ground of Being out of which, finally, we can never fall, but which will call us home to endless light, and the healing of all wounds.
[Some of this appeared in an earlier form in my post The Harbour Bar]