The Kingdom of God (3)
Jan 13, 2019
The Kingdom of God (3)
“I know a man in Christ who
fourteen years ago was caught up
to the third heaven.
Whether in the body or out of the body
I do not know – God knows.”
2 Corinthians 12:2
We are returning to the theme we stated a few weeks before Christmas, and continuing to talk about the words of Jesus, that the Kingdom of God is here and now.
St. Paul was obviously talking about himself. But what was his experience? It was beyond any words that can be used to describe it. How does one describe the emotions of seeing your new born child? Nothing can, as feeling are truly unique, and can only hinted at, but must be experienced by oneself to have true meaning. Can you or I have such an experience? Not the same, but yes, we can have sublime experiences that lift us to places we cannot imagine.
I will be using the wonderful book “Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God” by James Finley, who learned the basics of mediation at the feet of Thomas Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemane, Trappist, Ky., the most famous mystic of our times. I highly recommend this book for a much more complete discussion on mystical meditation.
Mystics have been writing about their experience ever since the start of Christianity. One of the best known, and still used today, is the marvelous book “The Cloud of Unknowing”, written by an anonymous author in the late 14thcentury. It is a breathtaking book who describes the meditative methods still used today, and this book is the fundamental teaching tool to approach the presence of God on a daily basis. The form “Centering Prayer” promoted most strongly by Fr. Thomas Keating, is a copy of the form promoted by that anonymous author. “The Cloud of Unknowing”is a bit challenging to read, but some of the modern translations from middle-age English makes it much more readable.
Yes, it is possible to reach the bliss of God, but it is a gift from God. There is nothing a human can do to merit that level of wonder, and if you are fortunate you may see it once or twice in your life. Apparently even St. Paul only had this one experience.
Yet the fact that this level of immersion into the conscious level of God illustrates fully what is true: God is in everything, not only within, but without, before us, behind us, beside us, below us, above us. God is truly the all-in-all, is everything; creating all as we grow to perceive ever deeper the reality of the ultimate Truth. This is what the author of the 600-year-old book The Cloud of Unknowingwas trying to impart to his readers. The total bliss of that cloud is truly unknowable, but available to the senses in ways that words cannot say. Countless words have attempted to describe the feeling of Love, but unless one has loved deeply and experienced the ecstasy of that love, the words are only pretty and hinting at something that cannot be expressed. Thus, the words by St. Paul “caught up to the third heaven” echo strangely in our minds, and, unless you have experienced it yourself, is certainly weird.
But the very fact that some have experienced it, and it is more common than you think, gives rise to the truth that God, or Love, or Life, is here, now. We are blinded by our egos, and find it difficult to perceive beyond what our senses reveal. But all of us live in our own perceived world, and none of us really know what any other person sees or perceives. The very idea that someone can see the bewildering beauty of that universal presence and write about it, gives us hope that there is more than what meets the eye – that the universe indeed is united in the being that we call God.
We will continue to discuss the various experiences of God that have been shown by authors in the past and in the present.
Wonder of Wonders, I place myself into your gentle joy and comfort that flood my soul. I know that everything is an expression of You, and even though my perceptions are poor and I understand so little, still Your presence sings in my soul and never lets me down. I know that this presence that fills me at times and leaves me at other times is the Wonder that is the entire universe, pouring itself in and through me. I am thankful for the warmth and blessings that have filled my life, and ask that I continue to rest gently in Your presence until You call me home into that third heaven to stay.