It is Easter Sunday, the start of the great fifty days of Eastertide (or Paschal Time) which runs up to Pentecost Sunday. In the Christian wisdom tradition this season is considered to be made up of ‘thin’ days. The idea of ‘thin’ places or times is most notable in the Celtic tradition and essentially refers to times or spaces when the vertical or eternal realm that is ever infusing and enlivening the horizontal realm seems to be more palpable, more easily spotted.
These fifty days, when Jesus was bestowing his last teachings before the ascension took place, are still understood to be quite supple and evocative. Some would say it is a time in which Jesus’ presence and fragrance is more perceptibly in our midst. A time to open ourselves to access the Love that is stronger than death, that which within us remains after we die before dying, and the Truth of Reality.
We are coming out of a grief and heaviness in Holy Week, a solemnness to the whole ordeal leading to the tomb. Jesus was a real wisdom teacher and he disrupted the current structure of consciousness and prevailing paradigms of his time. As my husband said, “Jesus challenged the self-reinforcing nature and patterns of tribalistic survival perspectives in all of his teachings.” This is what eventually lead to his death. And so as we engage these thin days we can ask ourselves this - am I at least on some level challenging the current structure of consciousness based in colonization and duality in such a way that is disruptive?
We are also coming out of a profound companionship and steadfast love, a witnessing from compassionate hearts wide open and present the whole time functioning as a womb. Although alone in his journey into the heart of the earth, he was not forgotten. Ultimately, he died in one form only to be reborn in another form still available to us even now. We can ask ourselves, what is Jesus as the Living One wanting to show me now? We can also ask ourselves, as my teacher Cynthia Bourgeault poignantly asks, “How do you live after you have found what you found after you die?” or how do I live from the place in me that exists beyond death? These are our question now.
We have the opportunity to integrate both the truth of the tomb and the womb as essential conditions in our own becoming.
Because this is a particularly spiritual thin time, one that coincides with a shift towards opening up as more and more people are vaccinated, I invite you to commit to leaning in these fifty days intentionally with me. Find some small practice that you can commit to. You will be met and supported in your aim. It may not always feel that way but our planet needs our ongoing offering. Let’s think of it as a Vigil. If you are drawn to do this, reply to this email letting me know how you are going to lean in.
May your mind be open.
May your heart be wide.
May your body be at ease.
May you re-member yourself.
Here are a some of the readings from this week, most from Cynthia Bourgeault's writings on this season:
“As we get used to this new angle of vision, we probably need to begin with some deconditioning, since so many of us have grown up in that guilt-inducing theology of sacrifice and atonement. What is the meaning of the passion?... we need to bury once and for all those fear-and-punishment scenarios that got programmed into so many of us during our childhood. There is no monster out there; only love waiting to set us free.
But what about “Jesus died on behalf of our sins?” Well, that foundational Christian statement is in fact completely and wholly true. But not individually, in the way you’re most likely to hear it – Jesus died because you were bad... The statement doesn’t work on that level. Rather, Jesus died for – meaning “because of” and “on behalf of” – the human condition in its collectivity. He died because of the irreducible reality—that ‘Planck’s Constant” (to borrow a metaphor from contemporary quantum physics)—of constriction and density that comes as part and parcel of this human realm, and is the necessary precondition for the full revelation of divine love... To say that he died on behalf of us means that he gave his life to help pull us through these difficult conditions; he implanted himself deeply at ground zero, at the root of the root of all density, in order to insulate us from it’s sting and empower us to live within our human flesh as he himself had lived.”
"Given the right kind of conditions, is it possible to enter Holy Week from the inside rather than the outside—not as a series of commemorative events surrounding the final days of Jesus’ earthly life, but as a way of actually accompanying Jesus on his timeless passage through death, to the very source of life, and back into this world with the unshakable certainty that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God’? It is a passage, as Christian mystics have from time immemorial proclaimed, that changed the very foundations of this world. And it is a passage that we ourselves will personally make, carried on the wings of this one Great Passage, when our own human lives reach their fullness of time.”
"These discourses contain, first and foremost, some of Jesus’s most beautiful descriptions of indwelling love – for example, “ I am the vine: you are the branches’ (John 15:5); “As the Father [Mother] has loved me, I have loved you; abide in my love” (John15:10); “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just has I have loved you, you also should love one another”(John 13:34); “Father [Mother], the glory that you have given me, I have given them so that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me” (John 17: 22 – 23). In these and similar passages we experience the intertwining mysteries of kenosis [self emptying] and perichoresis [the dance around] in their most pellucid loveliness. Even with death waiting in the wings, Jesus will allow no separation between God and humans, no separation between humans and humans, because the sap flowing through everything is love itself. In image after image he tries to impart to the disciples his assurance that they can never be cut off from that love, because their very beings are rooted in it”.
"...to consider the anointing of Jesus by Mary as our own invitation into the Paschal Mystery. ...the real domain of the Paschal Mystery is not dying but dying-to-self. It serves as the archetype for all our personal experiences of dying and rising to new life along the pathway of kenotic transformation, reminding us that it is not only possible but imperative to fall through fear into love because that is the only way we will ever truly know what it means to be alive."
"If we are fully to avail ourselves of Mary Magdalene’s wisdom presence today, it will be, I believe primarily through recovering a wisdom relationship with the ritual of anointing—that is, coming to understand it once again as she herself understood it, as an act of conscious love marking the passageway into both physical and spiritual wholeness."
“What is this Paschal journey from a wisdom standpoint? In the common understanding, Christianity has tended to view the resurrection as Jesus’ triumph over physical death. But for Christians in the wisdom tradition its meaning lies in something far deeper than merely the resuscitation of a corpse. Jesus’ real purpose in this sacrifice was to wager his own life against his core conviction that love is stronger than death, and that the laying down of self which is the essence of this love leads not to death, but to life.”
"…I will picture him throughout these next three holy days standing in “the heart of the earth” (where the Gospel of Matthew literally places him), engaged in his archetypal act of cosmic tonglen as he breathes in the pain body of our common humanity in all its brokenness and toxicity, then breathes out -- from what unknown depths? -- the unjudging love that releases us from captivity to that pain. Without overturning the difficult conditions that our earth realm is bound to, he nonetheless lines them with his presence and seals them with his own heart. We do not endure them alone."
"… Holy Week, the most sacred and mystical passage in the Christian year, when we ritually re-live and re-claim the very epicenter of Christianity, as Jesus reveals the depth of love and wagers his very life for the reality of the premise he has staked his whole ministry on: that love is stronger than death — love is the strongest power in the world — stronger than fear — stronger than hatred — stronger than division — stronger than violence. This is the moment, this week, when we again have the opportunity in a very special way to enter into this mystery of love with him, confront our own fears and shadows, and emerge as shareholders in his resurrection — not only through faith but through our own lived experience….
It’s hard in this maelstrom of hatred, abandonment, and violence to keep a living connection to the Master of Love, whose death is not to appease an angry God, but a voluntary consummation of the path he has walked through life — through death — and into resurrection life. “As we stand here in a world so abruptly and sometimes brutally awakening to discover ourselves as one — interconnected, fragile, radically dependent on our great spiritual traditions to reconnect at the point of the heart…
As we stand at that place in our world today, we must come to see that despite the venerable input of tradition, that the exclusivistic, judgmental, punitive theologies we have promulgated are a luxury the world can no longer afford. The epicenter of Christianity is Love, and this week we enter the epicenter. May we do so in Love.”