Sometimes it seems as if we want to achieve what even heaven cannot give us – perfection created by our own efforts. Heaven is given, graced reality, perfect merely as it is deeply rooted in the One who is perfect Himself. By perfect I mean ‘He cannot be better than He is’, so the reality of heaven carries that ingrained in itself also.
As I sit in the kitchen, the view spreads before me in all its splendour. Green field, houses, trees, mountain in the background, tower of the church, falling leaves, birds enjoying their flight; all that crowned in the glory of the autumn Sun. Gazing at it I start to sense that I can glimpse what heaven will be like. This sense spreads out of the deep knowledge that God ‘is’, knowledge embedded in my being beyond words and concepts, knowledge not so much of the mind but of the heart, no not even of the heart but of the essence of my existence. The centre of my being knows that He ‘is’ as if it is He who inhabits that centre and speaks of His presence…silently. When I look through the window or anywhere I look all I can see and think about is ‘He is’. And that is what heaven will be like, I think. Somehow, it does not matter whether I sit in my kitchen or in heaven itself, it would not be much different. For if He is heaven then this deep communion with Him is the start of it, here and now.
To my amazement, it’s even beginning to make sense how earth is the way to heaven, and how it is not that we reach heaven when we escape the earth and its reality, which we often might wish to do, but when we embrace it like Jesus did and accept that only through it we will reach heaven. If God could become part of that imperfect reality of earth, imperfect cause we all know that ‘it can be better than it is’, than we know there is no better way for us than to follow His steps. All the ‘lacks’ of the earth together with my own insecurities and imperfections, started to appear not only as a void and frustration but as opportunity for Him to fill that ‘emptiness’ with His presence and inhabit the earth with Him, with heaven. That is the mystery of incarnation.
This all led my thoughts turn to Jesus. I went to my room and took the weekly reflection called Soul Space as in it Fr. John Trenchard wrote about what it means for Jesus to be fully human. I am not going to argue here that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, I will presume we agree on that or if not, that those who question or doubt it will investigate it and not simply reject it. What I wish to do is to go deeper and learn from Jesus. I often wondered about my humanity, I mean, surely I belong to the human race but since that race is full of contradictions and has to battle with sin, I wondered how to know what was ‘good’ about us, even though limited, and what had to be redeemed so we can be more like Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, was identified with us in everything but in sin, so He was redeeming our humanity through His life, death and resurrection showing us what it meant to be ‘truly human’. Through becoming human, He traced the path towards heaven; path that goes through was is most truly human and earthly.
I find incarnation deeply humbling, as He who knew how universe was created as He created it, who knew the mysteries of all that is and will be, decided to submit Himself to ‘nothingness’. I mean, becoming a baby and later growing up as a boy, He became dependant on Mary and Joseph and others and had to grow, in stature and in knowledge. Fr. John says how that is what makes Jesus fully human, the fact He had to grow. I find it very moving thinking of this God who loved this earth so much, who loved us in such a way that He became like us in order to show us that Love. Interesting how I came to speak about that, as that was not on my mind as I started to write this.
Maybe I was writing about it because I am so aware of the frustrations and pains this earth brings in our lives. Definitely, ‘it can be better than it is’, life here is far from being perfect. Yet I know of His love, of His desire to show us that love, to love us to redemption. I do not find contradiction in these two. The latter gives me hope as He dwells in the reality of the earth, even if sometimes not as evident as we would wish Him to appear. It seems to me that there is an urgent need to join Christ in the work of redemption of this earth, here and now. There is no time for timidity. But where do we start? How do we do it? Maybe we have already started by letting Christ inhabit our reality and reshape our values, bit by bit, drop by drop of His grace will achieve that in us so we can be signs of His presence in this world, ‘instruments of His love and peace’. Maybe He is calling us to something new, maybe He is calling me, I do not yet fully know. However, I do sense its urgency and need for commitment.
“I think that what I need to learn is an almost infinite tolerance and compassion because negative thought gets nowhere. I am beginning to think that in our time we will correct almost nothing, and get almost nowhere: but if we can just prepare a compassionate and receptive soil for the future, we will have done a great work. I feel at least that this is the turn my own life ought to take.” (Thomas Merton)
* Celts had a notion of thin places, places where heaven and earth meet, places where distance between heaven and earth was paper-thin.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, October 2008)
Photo by © Iva Beranek