Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Lazarus: David Bowie. In Death We Become Alive

This is part two of our David Bowie feature.

The Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus was written, like all the Gospels were, through the prism of the human experience of Jesus risen from the dead. After Jesus’ death those who were close to him during his earthly life experienced him as alive to them in a powerful and deeply intimate way. Free from the limits of physicality, Jesus exploded into their hearts – that place of pure experience at the centre of us where we and divinity are one, communing in spirit. The Gospels were written after this experience and during it.

What the story of Lazarus tells us is that death has no hold on life; that life is of such a force and nature that nothing can contain it. Life is of the spirit and life embodies (enlivens) all physicality. Death is a material reality, not ultimate Reality.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven.” The Lazarus that is David Bowie is now no longer limited by the physical. The scars of a human life and the drama of ‘below’ that were his have now been transcended. In this transcending, this going beyond, Bowie bursts into the fullness of life, a life that is in everything and everyone.

In the Gospel story eternal life courses into the dead Lazarus revealing to us that we will emerge into eternal life after death. This eternal life can be experienced here and now as it heals and transforms our human lives.

“I’ve got nothing left to lose…Dropped my cell phone down below.” As Bowie sings these words he floats between worlds. It seems that only his bed clothes are preventing him from floating away. Perhaps his experience of death is shedding him of what is ultimately unimportant: such things as opinions and judgements, our fears and anxieties, notions of success and failure, pride and competition, and all those things in our personalities that would stop us from living in the fullness of life already given to us. The cell phone is dropped – attachment to temporal intrigues and involvements is gone.

He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Thus the people who had come to mourn said, “Look how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “This is the man who caused the blind man to see! Couldn’t he have done something to keep Lazarus from dying?” Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.) Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” (John 11:34-44)

Jesus was close to Lazarus, he loved him. We can see this as Jesus weeps and is “intensely moved”. In raising Lazarus Jesus shows us that our relationships also transcend death. The depth of closeness with someone experienced on earth can continue after their death. And not only this: the closeness can deepen. Those tensions of character and personality that may have come between us and our loved ones are no more. Our ego has nothing to rub against. All that is left is the truth of who our loved ones are. At our depths and in Truth this truth is free to commune with the truth of who we are. There is no fear in Truth.

During meditation we practice attention off the ego. As we deepen in this practice we encounter and live into the truth of who we are and the truth of life.

The gift of this song and video from David Bowie could be seen as a participation in the spiritual reality of communion at the heart of relationship. Bowie lives on not only in his music, but in the relationship that his music fosters between us and him and especially in the relationship he has with those who were closest to him. Just like those Bluebirds he is free, free to be in the freedom given to us all; free from fear and free to be.

The cupboard in this video is the tomb of the Lazarus story. But who is it that comes out of the cupboard at the beginning of this video; that reaches out from under the bed enabling Bowie to float; hiding under the desk, touching and empowering him in his final moments? His muse; an angel; an embodiment of the Divine; a variation on the Grim Reaper? And what is Bowie writing? Is creativity bursting from him in his final moments?

Later, as Bowie dances and sings in front of his ‘tomb cupboard’ we can see the bandages of Lazarus in the white lines on Bowie’s black clothing. The final scene seems to have Bowie doing a ‘Lazarus in reverse’. While the Gospel Lazarus comes back to earthly life from death, Bowie seems to reverse into death from earthly life. His entry into the ‘tomb cupboard’ is a reverse replay of a ‘tomb cupboard’ exiting. He exits and enters the tomb at the same time. Death and life, at least on this earthly plane, are a part of each other. And if we can embrace death, be unafraid of it, we discover in our hearts that death is the way to into life, both temporal and eternal. Christians call this ‘dying and rising in Christ’.


Meditatio House: Growing in the God-human’s Yes.

We are living in an age when the possibilities for the development of human consciousness have been radically transformed by the resurrection of Christ. Every human consciousness has undergone this transformation because in his risen and universal consciousness we have access to the Father, the source and goal of human life and indeed all creation. We live in an age of the infinite mystery realised in Christ and in us. Meditation is simply openness to that reality. (John Main, Word Made Flesh, 3. Italics added).

In Christ Jesus (the God human) humanity can now be a full human participant in the divine life. This is the startling gift and message of Easter.

Jesus’ full yes to God (in his life, death and resurrection) can be our yes to God happening within God and us now.

The fullness of divine Love as transformative of the human condition resides in our human consciousness waiting for our acceptance of Jesus’ yes to his Father as our yes. This yes of Christ is what the Christian grows into over a lifetime.

All that stands in the way of what God can do in us (and with us) is our unbelief in what God can do. All other impediment is gone, dissolved in the yes of Jesus.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, that is, by me and by Silvanus and Timothy, was never Yes-and-No; his nature is all Yes. For in him is found the Yes to all God’s promises and therefore it is ‘through him’ that we answer ‘Amen’ to give praise to God. It is God who gives us, with you, a sure place in Christ and has both anointed us and marked us with his seal, giving us as pledge the Spirit in our hearts. (2Cor1:19-22).

In the depths of our being we already are what our egos desire to be of themselves. This is what the Reality of Christ consciousness reveals and makes possible in our human lives. Humility and faithfulness (part of any yes of the human creature to its Creator) are the foundations of the realisation of this revelation in human development. Our deepening acceptance of this (as we grow in the yes of Jesus) is perhaps the key to any ongoing human and Christian transformation in this material part of life. With humility and faith Divine Love transforms us into love here and now.

The resurrection appearances of the Gospels are God’s imprimatur on all of this.

In meditation, as we  give attention to the mantra, we grow in openness to what God has done in Jesus and what God wants to do in us through Jesus. And what is this doing of God? It is nothing less than the transcendence of ego consciousness. Ego consciousness is transcended as we grow in this openness. This transcending of the ego is “the hinge that allows us to swing into the Mind of Christ” (Laurence Freeman). In meditation we transcend into the yes of Christ. Our yes to Jesus and the yes of Jesus to God become one. We then experience ourselves in the divine life and discover this life as Home.

This growing openness is a pilgrimage in itself. It is why we are always beginners in meditation. We are always beginning humbly and faithfully from any point on the way.

The Easter season, Eastertide, is a time to reflect on just what the divine life can do in and for human consciousness and human life. We need more than one day (Easter Sunday) for it all to begin to sink in. It is profoundly and radically freeing. Psychologically, it is the integration of our conscious selves (ego) and the unconscious (where the source of Self and God are at our depths).

Internal and external growth in self-forgetting is key to this process of integration. Meditation and community (where ever we find it) can be where the external and the internal work together for integration, for salvation. Our life at Meditatio House is where we are experiencing this working together – often in ‘fear and trembling’.

Eastertide, as the ongoing celebration of the Risen Christ, is also a celebration of what we have become in this Christ and what we are becoming because of this Christ: Beloved Daughters and Sons of God. In one way or another, Love will have its way.

Waiting for the Sun 6

 


Meditatio House: Incarnation and Divinisation

During the Christmas season the words of Meister Eckhart are never far from my mind. Eckhart (1260 – 1327/8) was born in Erfurt in Thuringia (Germany). He is one of the better known Rhineland Mystics. A recurring theme in his work is that of the eternal Word of God not only being born in time and humanity through Jesus – it is also that this Word is born in time and humanity through us. Eckhart’s German Sermons in particular highlight this birth of the Word in the world through Jesus and us. For example:

Here in time we are celebrating the eternal birth which God the Father bore and unceasingly bears in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature.

What does it avail me that the birth is always happening, if it does not happen to me? That it should happen in me is what matters.

The Christmas tree at Meditatio House

The Christmas tree at Meditatio House

In Christian theology, the eternal Word, this creative movement of the divine life, is that manifestation of the divine life that brings all of Creation into being and existence, and which eventually became incarnate (personified, embodied) in the humanity of Jesus. This Word, as a manifestation of the divine life, is uncreated Love creating.

For Eckhart this Word is always seeking birth and expression within Creation. It did not stop in Jesus. It is a condition of our humanity to have this Word in us seeking a conscious birthing in the world through us. It is a condition of the Word as Love (other-centred and giving) that it be always seeking this expression.

What is in us that can stop this birthing of Love did not stifle Love’s reality in Jesus. As a result Jesus, both within himself and in his actions, lived a radically human and loving life. In this, Jesus shows us that to be human is to be loving. And in Jesus humanity has become a full participant in the divine Love-life of God. The resurrection of Jesus is the Gospel witnessing to this full participation.

God now “unceasingly bears” the both human and divine Word in God’s own life and in us. And so, this human and divine Word can now be birthed in us – if we want it. God can be birthed in us because God was born in Jesus.

This is how, in effect, Christianity ‘gets around’ the creature/Creator distinction that is so important to its theology, while still maintaining the integrity of this distinction. With the human and divine Word of Jesus God unifies this distinction in God’s own life. This ‘unified distinction-in-God’ then becomes the catalyst through which the divine life can deify our earthly human nature. Divinity can make us divine because Divinity became human in Jesus.

To be deified, or divinised, is to have the life of God already in us be born in us. It is to allow this Word, this Christ, this Love in creative action, to transform our whole humanity so that the image of God that we each uniquely and mysteriously are can be lived by us and clearly seen by others. This is the process of a lifetime. It is Eckhart who says: ‘The more and more clearly God’s image shows in us, the more evidently God is born in us.’

It is our lack of faith and belief that this deifying can actually happen to us that stops this divinisation from happening.

Christmas, for me, as well as being the celebration of this Word incarnate in the birth of Jesus, is also about the potentialities of this creative Word in us. In the Incarnation our divinisation here and now becomes possible. It is this divinisation that makes possible the revealing of this Word, this Christ, in the world through us. In the words of Peter:

By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion. (2Pet 1:3,4).

Disordered passion in this sense can be the way in which we attach and cling to the material and the temporary of life as if these were God. To be both deified and material is to walk through the world consciously sharing in God’s immortality, being sensitive to that of us which transcends the material of life. The temporary of life is no longer a divine surrogate for us because we are living in Divinity as deified and earthly humanity.

In the simplicity and stillness of our meditation practice the promise of our earthly human nature becoming divine is quietly being realised. The discipline of our gentle returning to the mantra after distraction is the prayerful way through which we are deified. As the mantra sinks with attention deeply into our heart and being, we grow in a silence that resonates with God’s life in us. In this resonating our humanity and Christ become one. It is in this way that all the desires of life become a divine and human expression of the Love life of God (that is, not disordered).

The internal conditions for our divine birthing described by Eckhart share a striking similarity to the conditions promoted by meditation:

The soul in which this birth is to take place must keep absolutely pure and must live in noble fashion, quite collected, and turned entirely inward: not running out through the five senses into the multiplicity of creatures, but all inturned and collected and in the purest part: there is His place; He disdains anything else. (Eckhart, German Sermon 1).

Meditation, as contemplative prayer, is the practice of inturning and recollecting our senses towards God. The more we can turn attention inward and live life inwardly turned towards God, the more this birthing, this deifying, takes place.

May Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word we carry in our hearts, continue to be the catalyst for our divinisation in the year to come. His Spirit, God’s Spirit, is with us. We already are God’s children. Divinisation is the birthing of this reality in the material of our life.


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