mystic


The Window of God

By: Brian Robertson


Window of God Christian Mystics

 

If I may, I'd like to offer up a small bit of "poetic understanding" that came to me. By that, I mean it wasn't a particular fact that my brain learned, but rather, a kind of "vision" (and I stress I use that word in a very gentle as opposed to crashing thunder bush-of-fire Old Testament way, thank God!) The insight is solely based on my own experiences and came in a particular moment in a way I can only point towards.

As such, I do not in any way suggest this is the answer, but it certainly has become my answer or way of seeing things. What makes this all so frustrating is that this is a sensation regarding the meaning of Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, in 30 years of spiritual ponderings in a variety of traditions, I've always found one goal -- to have an ongoing sense of God's Presence. That goal takes tools -- meditation and contemplation and prayer, for instance, and as much practice as I can muster and more failure than I can tell you!

Another such tool is a "mantra." A mantra is a short, spiritually charged phrase which calms the mind and points beyond this concrete, known world by reminding one of the Infinite, of the Unseen. Rather than let my mind be filled with nervous or scattered thoughts or things such as fear, I find it centers me and focuses me and shuts down some of the chattering on one hand and reassures me on the other.

I've used various mantras or short "holy word" prayers in my life. I think that rather than have one, I've used several in different periods becuase I think on a big level it celebrates and indicates the variety of ways that God can be approached. Most people, I think, find one and stick with it for years which is admirable. For me, I would find different ones popping into my head and I found it easy to think of it like I would think of sensing God in this tree or that flower or that person's face. Requiring God to appear in only one vehicle is, frankly, silly and limiting.

For me, a mantra has to make sense. I'm never been very good with blind faith. I want experience and I want also to be able to dissect the words and know what and why I say something. Is it comfortable? Any stumbling blocks or rough edges that could snag me?

In the Christian mode, as it were, I've always liked "Not I, but Christ in me..." as a mantra, which in that tradition I think of as "constant prayer on the lips or in the heart." I've taken those words one by one and thought on them until I know in my heart what I feel they mean. It makes it more powerful, comforting, and deepening.

Now, there is a famous "mantra" known as the Jesus Prayer -- "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" is a very pleasing form of that prayer, for instance. To get glimpse of how a person can use that particular phrase, the classic book The Way of the Pilgrim is simply one of my favorite books of all time. It is the story written by an unknown Russian who traveled his country with a heart steeped in God through his use of "The Jesus Prayer."

Confession time. I've stayed away from that Prayer because of the word Jesus. Why? I think Jesus was concerned with moving people not to him but to God, and perhaps the phrase brought to me more distracting questions than it answered. Who was Jesus? What do I mean when I say the name? Am I, frankly, buying into some limited, fundamentalist mindset?

To alter Thoreau's advice, "Clarify, clarify."

So, and I apologize for all the setup, I was thinking on the Jesus Prayer and pondering it. I walked through the word Jesus in roughly this way:

(1) Jesus lived transparent to the Transcendent. Through him one can learn what it is to live totally in God's Presence and in a state of Trust and Love.

(2) In doing that, Jesus was like a window that shows us an astonishing landscape.

(3) That window has constantly be mistaken for the view itself. In Zen, the example is given that people often focus on the finger instead of the moon it points to! Jesus roundly rejected this -- "Why do you call me good? There is none good but the father." -- countless times.

(4) So, I asked a very pointed question of myself about this little metaphorf: What happened to the window when Jesus died?

For some, the window became so important that it became worshipped and the spirit of the view it showed became more obscure. Some hung draperies to hnor the window, perhaps putting up shutters or, worse yet, burgler bars.

Others say that it's like remodeling a house. During that process, sometimes windows become walls. And the window is gone. We agree it was a nice, wise window to show us such a view, but windows do disappear, often in the name of progress.

But I wanted to know the answer for me, and I continued along my way of thought, wondering, "If I feel that Jesus was the window, what happened to the window?"

I focused down on this (as thoughts sometime demand attention) as I walked along on a winter's day when there was enough chill in the air make you feel brisk and alive.

It was then I had my answer. I'm not suggesting some cosmic vision, I'm far too fragile and cautious for that, thanks be to God. What I've told you so far are concrete steps I took in thinking. What I "saw" is a leap, one that was rooted in experience and words don't really work. But I will try.

The answer, for me? The window opened.

I have to leave it at that. I can't, and don't really want to, try to explain it. That would be words to describe something wordless. I can say this much. It was not a thought arrived at with great logic or a creative stab at coming up with a cute analogy.

Instead, it was a moment of insight that the three words -- the window opened -- can't really begin to capture. I didn't think of them on my own. Their experience was given to me.

And several days later, sitting alone in a darkened Cathedral that I find to me infused with prayers and Presence, I looked at the image of Jesus and that experience came back to me. For a moment, clearly, I didn't see the person of Jesus at all, but, rather, the Window of God.