Saturday, April 16, 2011

What he is not…

Jesus’ whole life is a life that moves from action – from being in control, preaching, teaching, performing miracles – to passion, in which everything is done to him. He is arrested, whipped, crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross. All this is done to him. The fulfilment of Jesus’ life on earth is not what he did but rather in what was done to him. Passion.

Henri Nouwen, from a recorded conference

This is the essence of the Desert. The Desert is, spiritually as well as physically, a place of subtraction. In theology this is sometimes called apophasis, the process of describing God to ourselves in terms of what he is not, rather than trying to say what we conceive him to be. God is so far beyond our capacity to know him that any way we attempt to describe him to ourselves tends merely to limit our understanding still further. We cannot limit God, however we try to know him or speak of him, but we can limit ourselves. This way lies fundamentalism, religiosity and self-deception.

If we are trying to follow our Lord Jesus on the way of the Cross we must, like him, consent to being stripped of all that has defined us, all that we thought we were, all the good and useful things and talents and gifts that gave us value in our own and others’ eyes. This is a journey on which we can, truly, take nothing with us. It is a journey so like death that I’m not sure I can tell the difference. It certainly will not end except on the far side of the act of dying.

How am I worthy to follow my Lord so closely? I’m not. Only his grace leads me where I could not have conceived of walking; only his own blood can wash me clean enough to even see the stones of the path…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy one me…

1 comment:

  1. This is a journey on which we can, truly, take nothing with us.

    This is so true. It becomes obvious during Lent, but this is something I need to remember the rest of the year.

    How am I worthy to follow my Lord so closely? It seems to me that if you do it is because you answer an invitation: His...

    No one is worthy. We are all equal in unworthiness :-)

    Blessings on this Holy Week.