So try to be like God,
because you are God's own dear children.
- Ephesians 1:1
Paul, in his comprehensive exhortation on love, 1 Corinthians 13, calls the way of love the most excellent path. Indeed, it is God's path. As Fr. Thomas says in Manifesting God, "Divine love tirelessly gives itself away. It even seems to wish to throw itself away in order to manifest the divine urgency to pour out its boundless mercy and goodness upon all creation, especially upon human beings who can respond with gratitude, trust and self-surrender and fully enjoy it."
Though the love of God is freely, extravagantly given, in today's video Fr. Thomas reminds us that, "Love … is the secret of secrets. God is love. And God is hidden from us chiefly because we don't yet know how to love in this way. And this is the purpose of the spiritual journey … which is totally in the service of this project to get to know through a practice, the deep knowledge of God … and to open ourselves profoundly and ever more comprehensively to the influence of the Spirit who communicates to us, twenty-four hours a day if we're willing, this presence which is basically love."
How do we learn to give and receive love in this way? Recognizing that love is not a feeling of love, but a choice, and eventually is a self-giving state and disposition, we begin by practicing. We practice Centering Prayer and the Work of Inner Christianity. We practice attention, intention, consent, and surrender. We make effort to choose to love and then observe all that is not love arise.
"How can I pay for the gifts I have received in my life? What is the price of transformation? … [We] must pay with efforts — or better yet, super-efforts. … Such efforts include doing a task well, being present to yourself as often as you can during your waking hours, … attempting to be quiet and immobile when emotions are taxing your energies, sensing yourself and working to prevent your attention from being pulled out of you and absorbed in a life situation — that is identifying. You engage in 'intentional suffering' when you sacrifice your internal considering … when you refrain from expressing a negative emotion. … We would love to vent our ire, criticize a person or situation, or simply gossip or bad-mouth someone. Not doing it is intentional suffering. We all have experienced how hard this is, especially when we are personally attacked. … We are allotted only a limited time in our life for our inner transformation. The time we give to the Work is payment. … My efforts show me who and what I am, if I am there to see. And this is painful payment. … Payment is a very important principle in the Work. … You have to make payment before receiving anything and the first real payment is to take the trouble to study and understand the things you hear and read. This, in turn, creates the possibility, the conditions, required for the next levels of payment. You sacrifice imagination to live in the real world. If you work long enough, perhaps you will sacrifice your negativity, your anger, your laziness and your multitude of contradictory 'I's. You may eventually be able to sacrifice who you are for what you can be."
- John Fuchs, Forty Years After Gurdjieff: A Guide to Practical Work
"There is an absolute Divine Love at the heart of life, a wholeness of Love completely centered, irresistible, and attractive. This Love is the life force of unity and deeply vested in what life becomes. To wake up to this Divine Other at the heart of life is to admit that reality is relational; nature is relational and we are relational because love is relational and God is Love.
"As the mystic travels into the inner universe through the stages of consciousness, the separation between self and God wears away so that at the highest stage of luminous darkness, there is one conscious unified reality, grounded in love."
- Ilia Delio, A Hunger for Wholeness
Video Reflections: View the video excerpt "The Most Excellent Path." This excerpt is about 24 minutes in length. You will find it and a transcript here. If you would like to stream or Chromecast this video, use this link.
Examen: Reflect on what Fr. Thomas and Ilia Delio say about God's nature as unconditional love and what John Fuchs says about making payment. How do these seemingly paradoxical ideas illuminate the most excellent path for you?
Resources for Further Study:
If I speak in angelic tongues but do not have love,
- You may wish to read Chapter 5, "The Most Excellent Path" from Manifesting God by Thomas Keating.
- An archive of previous emails may be found here.
- You may wish to read — in the manner of Lectio Divina — 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend
all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over s
o that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,
[love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became an [adult], I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.
At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.