Tuesday, March 29, 2011



Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the human heart is never completely born. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you. It brings to birth within you new territories of the heart. Patrick Kavanagh captures this sense of the benediction of happening: ‘Praise, praise, praise/ The way it happened and the way it is.’ In the Christian tradition one of the most beautiful sacraments is baptism. It includes a special anointing of the baby’s heart. Baptism comes from the Jewish tradition. For the Jewish people, the heart was the centre of all the emotions. The heart is anointed as a main organ of the baby’s heath but also as the place where all its feelings will nest. The prayer intends that the new child will never become trapped, caught or entangled in false inner networks of negativity, resentment or destruction towards itself. The blessings also intend that the child will have a fluency of feeling in its life, that its feelings may flow freely and carry its soul out to the world and gather from the world delight and peace.

Against the infinity of the cosmos and the silent depths of nature, the human face shines out as the icon of intimacy. It is here, in this icon of human presence, that divinity in creation comes nearest to itself. The human face is the icon of creation. Each person also has an inner face which is always sensed but never seen. The heart is the inner face of your life. The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful. It is here that love gathers within you. Love is absolutely vital for a human life. For love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to your self. When you learn to love and to let your self be loved, you come home to the hearth of your own spirit. You are warm and sheltered. You are completely at one in the house of your own longing and belonging. In that growth and homecoming is the unlooked-for bonus in the act of loving another. Love begins with paying attention to others, with an act of gracious self-forgetting. This is the condition in which we grow.

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing which will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfilment. When this spiritual path opens, you can bring an incredible generosity to the world and to the lives of others. Sometimes it is easy to be generous outwardly, to give and give and give and yet remain ungenerous to your self. You lose the balance of your soul if you do not learn to take care of yourself. You need to be generous to your self in order to receive the love that surrounds you. You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search long years in lonely places, far outside your self. Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you. It is at the edge of your soul but you have been blind to its presence. Through some hurt, a door has slammed shut within the heart and you are powerless to unlock it and receive the love. We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive. Boris Pasternak said: ‘When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.’

It is strangely ironic that the world loves power and possessions. You can be very successful in this world, be admired by everyone, have endless possessions, a lovely family, success in your work and have everything the world can give, but behind it all you can be completely lost and miserable. If you have everything the world has to offer you, but you do not have love, then you are the poorest of the poorest of the poor. Every human heart hungers for love. If you do not have the warmth of love in your heart, there is no possibility of real celebration and enjoyment. No matter how hard, competent, self-assured or respected you are, no matter what you think of your self or what others think of you, the one thing you deeply long for is love. No matter where we are, who we are or what we are, or what kind of journey we are on, we all need love.

In his Ethics Aristotle devotes several chapters to reflections on friendship. He grounds friendship on the idea of goodness and beauty. A friend is someone who wishes what is good for the other. Aristotle acknowledges how the complexity of individual interiority is mirrored and fulfilled in the discovery and activity of friendship: ‘Our feelings towards our friends reflect our feelings towards ourselves.’ He acknowledges the patience required to develop real friendship: ‘The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but friendship does not.’ Friendship is the grace which warms and sweetens our lives: ‘Nobody would choose to live without friends even if he had all other good things.’

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