Awakening Self in the New Testament

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Part of "The Awakening Self: The New Testament and the Poets" retreat.

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Different date on cassette case vs. cassette itself. Case date -1999.MM.DD. Using earlier date.


And Jesus says, in effect, he says, no, we've got to go down, we've got to go down to recover the fourth. And who is the fourth? The fourth is yourself. Everybody else. And particularly you, okay? That is, the one who is reading is the fourth. Peter himself is the fourth. And the only way that fourth gets integrated into that picture is through the death of Jesus, the tomb, and your baptism, okay? And at that point, the cross is fulfilled. At that point, the mystery of the cross is fulfilled, and it locks into place. And that's that mystery we were talking about yesterday, which you can't get out in front of you, okay? You can only back towards it. And when you're back and back and back, you're back into the baptismal font, and you're back into the Passion of Jesus, into the cross of Jesus, into his resurrection, okay? But we can't think it. We can only move towards it. And that's the way it should be, okay? Just like a poem, it should resist our understanding until we participate in it, until we experience it, until we are what we are seeking, okay?


When we are that, then we can understand it, but we'll understand it from inside, not as something out in front of us, okay? That's largely what Paul is talking about. So what he brings you again and again and again is that kind of archetypal image of the cross which is stamped into him, but which he doesn't try to interpret, because he can't. Or he can interpret it in ten different ways, but he doesn't have one verbal, conceptual interpretation of that cross. It's what he is. Now, with John, we don't have a lot more time, so let me say something about John, maybe by looking at the prologue of John. See, what you have in Mark is that awakening of the self, that awakening of the person, which is perfectly concealed, practically, okay, left in the mystery of baptism. It's as if Mark rolls up the whole life of Jesus and throws it into the baptismal pond, okay? And then the only way you get it, the only way you understand it and awaken to it is


through the baptismal experience, is through initiation. Now, people can get kind of wearied when we talk about baptism a lot, okay, because, well, I was baptized as an infant, and I don't remember having any experience at all, and what am I going to do about this? Well, what the Charismatics feel about it is try to re-experience their baptism, okay, with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But I think whether you experience it or not, to know that you have it inside you is the important thing. To know that you have it inside you, that that is the figure that's imprinted in you, is that fullness and that figure of the cross. And then, when you read the Gospel, know that you're reading, as it were, the Owner's Manual for your own being, okay, the Operator's Manual for what you are, and that it's telling you, it's interpreting to you what is in you and what you are and what you are to become and the way that you're to walk in order to get there, which is very simple, it's so simple that often we get bored with it. Now, in Mark, it's all concealed, except for that explosion in baptism.


In John, it seems to be out in the light all the time, okay, because Jesus is walking around and the light is just pouring out of him all the time in John, it's as if the transfiguration is there most of the time. Even when he's in a conflict and so on, he's speaking with such an authority and such a luminosity, okay, that the mystery is just right out there in front of you. But once again, the important step to make is to move from what is in Jesus to what's in us, okay? That's the essential thing, that closes the link. Now, it sounds like selfishness in some way, it sounds like an egocentric appropriation of Christianity, but actually it's what a Christianity is about, and the thing that balances it off is the cross on the other side, okay? It's balanced off by the responsibility that goes with it. You can't really balloon up into the heavens with this thing, because you've got the terrific weight of all humanity weighing you down, that's in that figure of the cross, okay? Now, John is just as sly as Mark is, but in a different way.


He doesn't even give us the account of the baptism of Jesus, and he doesn't give us the institution of the Eucharist, does he? Instead, his whole Gospel is about those things, but it's about them in another language. It's put into the narrative of the Gospel, and especially into the discourses of the Gospel. What you have in John, I believe, is the revelation of this being of Jesus, this divine being of Jesus, and its communication to us through baptism, expressed first of all in the prologue, and then expressed particularly in the I Am sayings of Jesus, which are his appropriation of the name of God, remember the name of God which was revealed at the burning bush in Exodus 3, and which is already blaspheming, because in John's Gospel it almost seems that that's why they kill him. They say, this is blaspheming at his trial, and then they take him out and crucify him. He was killed, according to John's Gospel it seems, because of his claiming to be equal


to God. This man claims he's made himself equal to God. Those are very pregnant words. This man has claimed to be equal to God. But he doesn't only do it for himself, he does it for us, okay? When he claims to be equal to God, he is the son of man, he is a human being. That's a human being who is claiming equality with God, who is claiming divinity. Now that goes beyond the individual figure of Jesus. When Jesus goes away, we're left with that. If you read the prologue of John as a baptismal text, okay? Read the prologue of John as a baptismal text in which the baptism of Jesus and our own baptism somehow are conflated, somehow are superimposed. I think it kind of reveals itself. So, to those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God. And those who were born again, remember, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor


of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen its glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father. I think that's our baptism, okay? Those who received him, who believed in his name, the name of God in John directly resonates with the I Am. I have revealed to them your name, your name. If you read the Gospel of John in the light of one baptism, baptism of Jesus and yours together, secondly in the light of that I Am, name for Jesus, name of God, it begins to click. We have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of God. Did we see that glory in Jesus? We saw it in our own baptism, that's what John is really saying, okay? That that was our birth, that was our realization of our own being, our own coming alive, our own awakening. There's a lot more I could say about John, but let's leave it at that and just try to


summarize. In Mark and in John, we have, are being revealed largely in terms of the opening up of divinity within ourselves. And in Paul, we have this opening up of divinity within ourselves with a particular direction, a particular thrust, a particular orientation given to it, which is in the direction of the Spirit, and which is moving forward in history, okay? When we talk about the poets, we'll find that their orientation is usually in this direction and in this direction. It's in this direction in terms of liberation, not only from the law, but from any structure and sometimes from any external religion, okay? Which can be very difficult to stomach for people who do have a religious tradition. They're trying to realize it all from this principle, from this point of view. They're very much like Paul in one way. Paul who is negating the law in favor of the Spirit.


They're doing something similar to that. They're doing that without this Christ experience, okay? Which makes it a very risky proposition. And very often they're also moving not in the direction of God, not upward, they're moving downward. They're not moving towards the experience of identity with the divine. Not moving in the contemplative direction, but in the creative direction, okay? So, outwards towards the world, which is also, however, an incarnational direction. So that's enough for this morning, unless there are any questions, I'm sorry to be leaving you for so long. Yes? Yes, I think when you see somebody walking around down the street with a, I don't know, with his own Walkman on and so on, oblivious to everything around him, okay, we've built


a technological world in which it's easier and easier for us to lock ourselves in, okay? We have means of communication and so on, but the other side of it is that it becomes easier and easier to close yourself into your own universe, at least if we have a certain level of prosperity, okay? Because now we've become such individualists, everybody has his own apartment, his own car, his own this, his own that, and so on. He's got a little world around himself, and we don't have to live in shared things so much anymore. The things that we share, like the things we get on television, you know, may not be all that helpful to moving out of ourselves even, okay? So, talk about the consumer society, okay, the consumer world, it's the opposite of the creative thrust of the human person, is the consuming, inward-sucking thrust of the human person, okay, which is an isolated and isolating thing, and the culture itself somehow promotes that. Now, the poets, because they have an extreme experience of subjectivity, because they seem


to be realizing the fullness, they seem to be realizing God through their inner experience, which is not just emotional, and there is divine grace there. They tend to absolutize that, okay? And they tend to set themselves off against a society which is mediocre and ignorant and so on, okay? You have a lot of isolation of poets and literary and artistic people in the 20th century from the bourgeoisie. Even like in France, you know, a hundred years ago, there were schools of poets and artists who had contempt for ordinary people, okay? They were the special people. They were not in business or anything like that, defiling, dirtying their hands, you know, they were cultivating the secret flame of aesthetic, you know, and so on. Well, that's still there. The subjectivity, the subjective realization, and the very personal nature of that can just wrap people around themselves, okay? Until they learn how to give from what they have.


Until they learn that what they have been given is essentially for communication, and not just for their self-glorification when they are communicating, okay? So that their originality becomes a higher and higher tower, you know, of singularity. One of the worst tragedies in the world must be to be so gifted, okay, that one is completely unlike everybody else, okay, and is on top of that hundred-foot pole. It's really, especially when the gift begins to fade a little bit, you know? And there's been so much of that, so much of that absolutizing of the individual gift. Yes? Can I ask you for a term to look for in all of your relations, 2-16-10? I was just in a class yesterday, it's not that consolation, and I really shunned down to you, and to you, teaching, and apparently there's a faith in Jesus, which all our translations really have Jesus Christ in them, but this tool of thought is the faith of Jesus Christ,


because Jesus himself has faith, and we are unable to have faith, and that his faith in the faith of Jesus is prior to and forms the ground, the foundation of ours, and that we can, we are justified or made whole because of the faith of Jesus Christ, not our faith in Jesus Christ. I think there are other places, though, where somehow it seems so singular, you know? It seems like that passage would stand out by itself, saying that. Well, it's the first part, it also contains the same construction, and this may be getting, I don't mean to get... Worked by faith in the Son of God, where it could be... Yes, faith of the Son of God, the virtual faith of the Son of God.


I can't quite buy it. Fitzmyer and others, don't buy it. Yeah, I can't quite buy it, because, see, what he's doing is like moving from, he's stepping from point A to point B, and that step is the step of faith in Jesus Christ, okay? And to introduce the proposal, the proposition of Jesus' own faith would be a whole different subject, it seems to me, okay? It would be something else. But the essential dynamic is moving from, let's say, law to faith, okay? Law to my faith in Jesus. His movement is from the works of the law, or from his Jewish signs of status and so on, you know, all his ways of being special, to faith in Jesus, okay? That seems to be the dynamic. So faith is the energy in him, the dynamism, the act in him that consummates this step, okay? So to speak about the faith of Jesus would seem to be almost in another area. Apparently the Greek construction is ambiguous, and it allows, or would allow, could allow


for... Well, possibly there's a resonance of that, but I would propose, I strongly feel that the first meaning is faith in Jesus, okay? Maybe there's a resonance of the other, but it would need to be confirmed by other places. Other places with different grammatical constructions so that it wasn't, they weren't subject to the same question. Yes? This is just to go in your way, to be translated in your way. And the main goal of your message was also, we're supposed to be investing our faith in Christ and how we can do that would be the epilogue. But then also this, and this would need to capture all my senses of what my faith of Christ, there is the faith of Christ, that connects us all into God, somewhat. So maybe it's playing both ends of the equation. One is Christ, and then Christ also somehow incorporates all of us into himself. I guess it's the judgment that if he did not have faith in himself, then we would not express that faith in him.


Well, somehow... See, Paul doesn't talk about the life of Jesus before his death, okay? So he's not normally interested in that. He's interested in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, and then our faith in that Jesus who has died and has risen, okay? So for him to talk about, let's say, the virtues or the particular orientation of Jesus when he was alive, would not be consistent with the rest of his writing. If he was talking about the faith of Jesus in his death and accepting his death, that would make more sense. But I've got my doubts as to whether that's close to his central concern here. Yes? I always feel that he speaks only of experience, and he has no experience or no inner experience of the life of Jesus before, only what he himself experienced in the resurrection and death, and the resurrection of himself. That's right. It's like Paul's experience is so one-pointed, because it's like he shot out of a cannon or something like that, like an explosion, because it all, as it were, happened at once.


And it's the quantum, the quantum of the resurrection of Christ which he has received and which he's unfolding, okay? But he doesn't have the same kind of sequential walking knowledge of Christ that the disciples had in the Gospel, okay? That knew him during his life. So it's all one thing for him, you know? And that contributes to that kind of centeredness of his whole... Yeah, it's the utter simplicity of it, you know? It's not cluttered by the observations of day-to-day living, but cluttered only by the movement of time. That's right. That's right. Yes, sir? And it acts from that same base.


There's a little bit more, you can take Peter and Paul, but then Peter generally agrees with Paul and adds those couple of rules at the end, you know, just basic rules, guidelines and stuff. I wonder if that's what the Church has to do with those, has to just sort of add rules onto the light to just sort of keep us on track. Sometimes I wonder how much, sometimes personally, it's more like Paul just completely focusing on Christ and that's it, forgetting everything else. And then sometimes there's the work of the Church kind of moving across some lines and some structures and trying to make it as flexible as possible. Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, it's like the pastoral point of view and the theological point of view. Now, Paul has an absolute theological rage, doesn't he? A rage for that simplicity. You must not alienate, you must not compromise that principle of faith in Christ, okay, by


adding works and adding other things onto it. He wants to keep its purity and power. And it goes along with that centered simplicity we were talking about, okay, in Paul's own experience. The one thing which he's experienced and which just illuminates the whole universe for him, okay. Whereas then you've got the pastoral responsibility of somebody who's really dealing with people, okay, and different situations and so on, and people who are going way out and have to be reined in. And that's what you hear in the later letters, okay, Timothy and Titus, yeah. But when Paul is most inspiring, he's in this theological position where you hear the fire. And where it's all one. Yes. Sometimes I hear an impatience in him when someone takes it long. Yes, yes. You get that impatience. Oh, there is. That's the way he is. Here's what I said, but here's what you do and what I said. Okay, thank you. We'll meet this afternoon at three, all right?


Here's something, a millennium issue is in there, Sunday Magazine. So they have one which is entitled the Me Millennium. And this is the, I thought the introductory part was very good, but the whole issue is loaded with these kind of luxurious advertisements and so on, so it's sort of all plastered over with the me besides what the short articles it contains. A thousand years ago when the earth was reassuringly flat and the universe revolved around it, the ordinary person had no last name, let alone any claim to individualism. And there's truth in that, that we move out of a mentality that was dominated by the collective, dominated by either tribal or the ecclesial, the church mentality. Didn't have much room for your own consciousness or your own freedom or your own life. The self was subordinated to church and king.


Then came the renaissance explosion of scientific discovery and humanist insight, and as both cause and effect, the rise of individual self-consciousness. Well, that's putting it pretty far into the modern era, because it was already happening a long time ago. In fact, the seeds of it are already there very early. The seeds of it are there in the New Testament, and they're even before the New Testament, if you read about Socrates and so on, okay? What's going on there after all, right? But it continually gets buried beneath the collective once again. And then something happens, something pivotal, something crucial happens in the New Testament, and that's what I want to talk about. All at once it seemed man had replaced God at the center of earthly life. They're saying at the time of the renaissance. And perhaps more than any great war or invention or feat of navigation, this upheaval marked the beginning of our modern era. By and large, I think that's true. The rise of a secular world and of humanism, so that the human person sort of takes over, it takes center stage, and God is pushed out to the margins.


Now, if you think about that long enough, something begins to become obvious, doesn't it? That somehow the two have to come back together again, and you begin to feel somehow in your own bones, you begin to feel how it's happening, too, at this point in history, I believe. And perhaps, let's see, there are now 20 times as many people in the world as there were in the year 1000. Most have last names, and many of us have a personal identity or a reasonable expectation of acquiring one. So, that's just a kind of a very compact synopsis. Somewhat distorted in places, maybe, but by and large true, I think. This matter of the emergence of the individual. We're talking about, this is very, what do you call it, very distorted to make it symmetrical with what we have over here, okay? It's a kind of symbolic diagram. I found a book not long ago about the emergence of the individual, or something like that was the title of the book.


It's an excellent book, too. But guess what century it's talking about? It's talking about the 12th century. So, not the 14th, or the 15th, or the 16th, or the 18th, or the 19th, or the 20th, but in every one of those centuries you find another wave of this emergence of the person. I'll say a little more about that later. Because it's nice to be able to situate ourselves in that. Those who just came in, there are some poems here that we'll be using for the other session. Some time ago, Christians used to think of the New Testament, of the coming of Jesus, as the time when the human person, as an individual, was born in the world. That is, when Jesus says, you've heard so-and-so, and I tell you this, or when you move from law to spirit, okay, that that was the birth of the individual.


Well, the individual consciousness was born before that. As we find it in Greece, we find it in India. Now that we're in touch with the Asian traditions, you find in the Vedanta, my goodness, a tremendously deep discovery of the person, of the self, the Atman. B. Griffiths will write about that and call that the peak, as it were, of the emergence of the self. And yet it's not quite the same as the Western self, and it's not quite the same as what you find in Christianity. That's a very important puzzle for us to wrestle with, I think. The difference between that kind of primordial, deep contemplative unit of self, which you find in the Eastern traditions, in Hinduism and Buddhism and Taoism, whether they call it a self or whatever they call it, and sometimes they won't even speak of it as in Buddhism, but that's where they are. And the self that emerges in the West, and the self that appears in the New Testament, it demands a lot of attention to find out what's happening, because there's a different energy and there's a different orientation


in that self that emerges in the New Testament. It's not only the individual self, it's not only the deep self, it's not only the self which is one with God, but it's a self with a certain energy in it which is moving forward in history, and which generates a history, okay? And we're the heirs of that history after 2,000 years. Remember, Jaspers came up with the idea of the Axial Period, about 500 years before Christ, when actually the personal consciousness breaks through, in about four different places, major breakthroughs in the world. Not only in Greece, but in India, and in China, and in Persia, and so on. So, Jesus didn't bring it, he did something a little more subtle. He came into a world in which the individual had already emerged, individual consciousness was already surfacing. He came into the world, he, as it were, gave it an energy which makes it creative, and he also gave it a body.


And he gave it a name, and he made it one. And he made it a continuing embodiment in the world, in some way, and he put a fire into it that begins to transform the world, begins to gather humanity together, and begins to transform the world. I remember yesterday we left at the end with a few points. We talked, one of them was the Christ mystery as being cross-formed, as being quaternary. And that's what's represented by this monolithic figure, with the Father, and the Word, and the Spirit, and the creation. With God, and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and humanity. But this is also, after closing, an image of the person. And if, in the beginning of Christianity, you find this in the New Testament, implicitly, not explicitly, but implicitly, if you find this in the beginning to represent the Christ mystery,


it also, in a hidden way, in a cryptic way, represents what you are, okay? And we find that in Paul. When he says, I bear the marks of Christ, I bear the marks of, as it were, the cross in my body, it's almost, he's got that image of the cross imprinted in his consciousness, okay? It's imprinted in his very body. There's an archetypal imprint in him, which is before any physical marks or physical wounds he might have formed. And that's coming out of his writings all the time. The human person is that form in Christ. And that's why that symbol of the cross is so powerful for us, okay? So you find two things in the beginning. You find the discovery of this fullness of your being, which is actually the fullness of God in this world. God embodied in this world. You find that fullness, which is incredible. But at the same time, you find another fullness. And that's the fullness of the cross. The fact that that integration, the fact that growing into that fullness is the way of the cross, is the road of the cross. So the cross is the shape of your being,


both in terms of fullness and in terms of bearing the burden of that. Both in terms of enlightenment or birth or realization or awakening, and in terms of responsibility, okay? And that's what we find in the gospels. We find that double message. The good news often sounds like bad news, doesn't it? I mean, it sounds so heavy, but it does. When Jesus says... Some of these parables of Jesus are that the one who has had a lot given to him, remember, and who is unfaithful to it will receive a severe beating. The one who hasn't received so much will receive less of a beating. But everybody's going to get a beating. Now, what kind of good news is that? What other options are there? Have you looked around at the other religions? There must be something a little gentler. But inside of that is this other revelation.


Inside of that, because there's an irony in it, there's a tremendous humor at the heart of the gospel, okay? And inside of that thing is a kind of solar explosion of the being of God in you. And we already have that in our consciousness. If we have a kind of unlimited demand, if we have a kind of unlimited sense of self, we're going to find that equipment, you know, sometimes in a funny way. But if we've got that sense of infinity in ourselves, a sense of insatiability, a sense that nothing is enough, and somehow I know everything, and somehow everything is in me, and there isn't anybody else but me. If we have that ridiculous sense, why? Because there's a truth to it, okay? Because God is in us. And because God is that unity. God is that single being, that single infinite being, who is also in us, and not only as God, but as us, okay? So our very being, our very identity is the awakening of that, is the discovery of that. The other side of it is the same way that Jesus walked on, the same shape of the cross, okay? Which we gradually discover. Okay, so we're looking at the emerging person,


first in the New Testament, and then in the modern poets. Sometimes it will be comically different in the two sources. Let's look at Paul first. Inside the New Testament, Paul is a great example of what would you call it? Autobiography? He's the great case of the personal realization of what Jesus brings in an individual, okay? Who has then written about him, who has then spoken about him. It's the only case that we have like that, practically, in the New Testament, isn't it? Somebody has experienced Christ in himself, that is the Christ reality, and then has written about it, as powerfully and copiously as that. So it's a singular testimony that we have of Paul, and that's why it's there, I suppose. It's not only because of what Paul teaches us, but because of what we see and hear in Paul, which is the same thing that's given to us. And what that is, is first of all, this emergence of the fullness, the emergence of the fullness of the person.


Now, you find it in practically all of his letters. Some of the, what do you call them, pastoral letters at the end, which are apparently dubiously Pauline authorship, sound, you know, you don't hear that so clearly in those, because what's being given is teaching, sometimes rather heavy teaching, okay? At the beginning, it sounds very institutional. But in the other letters, in the beginning particularly, you find this kind of explosion of experience, explosion of realization, which is the basis of everything else that Paul says. Because it works like this, you are this, therefore you must behave in this way, okay? That's the logic of Paul's letters, is you have become this, you have received this, you have experienced this. The responsibility for that is to live it out. To live it out is to live it in the pattern of Jesus, okay? Which turns out to be the pattern of the cross. The cross which is both fullness and burden. The cross which is both divine life, and it's also death, isn't it? It's the symbol of death, the symbol of transformation. It's both wisdom and suffering.


Remember, and Paul, which is one, we talked about these principles in terms of the interpretation of scripture. Well, the law, let us say, is over here. The law is this two principle, this principle of the word which has been closed into itself. What Paul represents, first of all, as a Pharisee, is this point here. Is the law. But the law closes up from the fullness of the figure, as it were. Paul will say that the Judaizers, the ones who are persecuting him, and want everybody to be circumcised and so on, strangely, are resisting the cross of Christ. In some way, they're resisting the, what would you call it? Resisting the pain of having to move into this fullness, okay? By hanging on to some external things. He says that at the end of Galatians and so on. I don't know exactly what that means, but that much is obvious. That by clinging to the law, you refuse to make the journey into the fullness, okay? Now, what Paul represents, besides the fullness,


is this point over here, which is the spirit liberated from the law, or grace, which has been liberated from the law. We talked about that in answer to a question yesterday, remember, the question about dualism. You're moving from a dualistic religion, which is the law and you, or God and you, to a unitive religion in which there's also a law, but the law is secondary. Why? Because the human person is Lord of the Sabbath. Remember, Jesus says that in the gospel. Because there's a principle in you, which is somehow superior to the law. Even though it doesn't cancel the law, the law is still there, but the law is essentially what you have. The law is essentially what is in you. So spontaneously, somehow, you move in the way of the law. And the living law, which is in you, in some way transcends and is able to discern the written law, which is fixed, because the living law, the living law, which is the Holy Spirit, the divine spirit, is somehow superior and more whole, more integral


than the written law can ever be. The spirit of God liberates you from the fixed external code. And so you move from this principle to this principle. But to say that is to speak in the violence of Paul, because Paul often speaks violently, doesn't he? In other words, he doesn't speak in integral language. He speaks in the language of a revolution. He speaks in the language of a break, a breakthrough and a breakaway, a breakaway from the enclosure of that written code, that domination by externals, and a breakthrough into the center, into the interior, where God is in you in such a way that God becomes the principle of your life and the energy of your life. Let's take a look at Philippians, chapter 3. Anybody need a Bible? I've got one extra here. Philippians is a letter... This part, chapter 3, is one of the places where Paul is most personal, I think, about his own experience.


Starting around verse 7, he's been bragging here about his, all his, what would you call them, prerogatives and his claims to superiority as a Pharisee and as a Jew. He was an elite Hebrew. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. That knowledge actually is identity in some way, okay? To know Christ means to be reborn. So when people discover Jesus in the Gospel, even before baptism, before the gift of the Holy Spirit, as it were, what's really awakening is their own self, okay? And it's not just their self encountering Jesus, it's the self which is one with Jesus already, okay? You can say that Christ is awakening within you, but when Christ awakens within you, you awaken. You awaken, it's your awakening. It's your awakening to your being in Christ.


It's your awakening to your divinity, ultimately, which is the thing that can't even be said, okay? You're awakening to your divinity, to the divinity in you. That's the message of the New Testament. So the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Now, what can be more valuable than anything else? I mean, what can be the thing that makes everything else seem like trash to you? And here Paul is talking in a violent way. He says he threw everything away as rubbish. What can be worth that much? Only yourself, right? Only yourself coming alive. Only the center of yourself coming alive. Only your being liberated at the core of your being to be what you really are, okay? And that's why Paul sings. That's the power and the joy that's in Paul's writings. Whatever blind sides you may seem to have, that's there. It's because he's really come alive. Because he's really experienced the opening of the core of his own being. And at that center of his own being, he and God are not two but one. That's true in Christ.


It's true in the Holy Spirit. That's how he can say, in Christ, you're in Christ. For his sake I've suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse. In order that I may gain Christ and be found in him. Now it's not as if he just dissolves into Christ and loses himself. He finds himself. That isn't about losing the self and finding the self. It's happened here in Paul. And so as he sings and boasts sort of about this new being in Christ, it's that self on the other side after one has died to oneself. And his death to himself was what? Was letting go of all of that that he had. Was turning around 180 degrees from being a Pharisee, the elitist in Israel, and the persecutor of the Christians. Turning around all the way to become the preacher of the Spirit. Having the humiliation of having to eat his own words. The humiliation of having to completely disown what he was doing before. And yet he doesn't completely disown it because it's the same tradition somehow.


But he's turned around completely. He said, I was a fool. I was blind. And that's his death somehow. The death of that strong ego, that strong personality which is Paul, so that he can live with this life which is beyond him. He found in him not having a righteousness of my own and so on. I may know him and the power of his resurrection may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. So there's something that's already happened and that's an identity with Christ in him. There's something that has yet to happen and that's an identity with Christ, isn't it? So you move from identity with Christ to identity with Christ. You move from that new birth to the conformity of your life to Christ, which is what he's talking about here, okay? And which you'll often express in terms of the cross. I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Then a little later he says,


many of whom I have often told you he's complaining about sinners in their community. And I'll tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. So somehow the cross of Christ is the imprint which marks the Christian, in one way or another. Both as the sign of Christ in whom he believes but also as the shape of one's life. That's the shape of human life whether we like it or not. But the cross is not just suffering, the cross is not just death. It's also this other side and that's the paradox, the kind of paradox of the gleaming inside and the hard outside, which runs through all of our life, but especially our Christian life, which somehow goes into the core of it. In Romans, I'm just going to mention this without commenting the text. In one place, remember, Paul will talk about the fight between the flesh and the spirit. Remember, there's that fight between the law of God


and the law that's in my members, remember, in Romans 7. Then in Romans 8, he talks about the fight between the flesh and the spirit. Well, the flesh is not exactly the flesh, is it? The flesh is the whole human being upside down, okay? The whole human being, as it were, with its center of gravity at too low a level. The whole being under the power, under the magnetism of some principle that pulls it away from God, which he calls the flesh. But he's not saying that the spirit wars against the body because he says the body is the temple of the spirit. He says the spirit comes into the body, transforms the body and brings it into the glory of Christ. So the war is not between the spirit and the body, between the spirit and that principle of negativity, that contrary principle which Paul speaks of as the flesh. That confusion has caused a lot of trouble in our tradition, right? That is making Christians believe that somehow their spirituality involves a war against their own being, a war against their own body,


because what we are is body, there's no way out of it. So one of the tensions that he's talking about is that vertical tension between the spirit and the flesh, let's say, okay, or the law of God and the law that's in my members. The other tension later in Romans is the one that he's caught in because of the, what do you call it, the earthquake fault between Israel and Christianity, between his people and the new Israel, okay? That's the horizontal axis of this cross, okay? He is directly at the center of that conflict between Judaism and Christianity, isn't it? Because he's the traitor to Israel who's turned around to become the preacher of the gospel. So naturally he's the one on whom they jump. He's a traitor among the Pharisees, okay? Now that's the historical axis. And you see, Paul in preaching his gospel of freedom from the law, his gospel of the spirit, has directly opposed himself to this principle over here.


As it were, he says the law is dead because you're living in the spirit. Well, that makes him an enemy of Israel, at least for his own kind of Israelites, okay? So he's living in that tension. And meanwhile, he writes about this tension between the spirit and the flesh. But you get the idea that for Paul, a war between the spirit and the flesh is not the principal war, because the spirit somehow has raised him up high enough or centered him well enough. So he talks about the sting for the flesh, whatever that means, okay? But those are the two axes somehow. We're going to run into this tomorrow in our Sunday gospel. Remember, the Sunday gospel is a great commandment, and it's clearer and fuller in Mark's gospel. Remember, the lawyer asks Jesus the question, what's the great commandment? After Jesus kind of silenced the other questioners. And Jesus says, the great commandment is this. Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole strength, your whole might, your whole everything, okay?


And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. That's the second commandment like it. Do you see those two axes? You see that shape once again in Christian life? You shall love the Lord your God with everything that you are. That means somehow, practically, everything that you are has to be elevated into God, doesn't it? It has to be on fire with God. So that's the vertical axis. How can everything that I am, the whole of me, love God, okay? It's an impossible transformation, an impossible elevation that can only happen if God comes to me somehow. The commandment implies the gift. The other one, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, is this one here, all right? The horizontal one, the commandment, as it were, of community, the commandment of fraternal love. You shall do the impossible thing of loving God as a whole of yourself, and then you shall do the equally impossible thing of loving your fellow as yourself. The commandment requires incarnation. The commandment requires divinization.


But remember what came first. The Lord your God is one. Do you sort of hear and feel the connection between those two things? You become one by the effort to do that. You become one. You become pulled into unity by that effort to follow the commandment, the impossible double commandment of loving God in that way, and loving your neighbor as yourself. You are pulled into a unity which is beyond yourself. You're pulled into a unity which is the unity of God, and which is ultimately also the unity of humanity, which is, you might say, the church, the body of Christ. So, what I'm trying to say is that that figure appears again and again as the image, as the paradigm of human life. It's the figure of our fullness. It's also the figure of our way of the cross, the figure of our burden. See what we're doing for time. I don't want to spend all the time on Paul this morning,


but he's a marvelous example. As I said, the principal example of what we're talking about, the birth of the self, is not only what he says, it's where it's coming from, all right? It's the source of that fire that's in his words. That's the self we're talking about, the person we're talking about. And notice that it's not just an acquisition. It's not the acquisition of a philosopher who has arrived, and who can tell you how to arrive, who's sitting on top of a Himalaya somewhere, like me, can tell you how to arrive at the same realization. No, the realization is at the beginning. What he tells you is what you are, and he exemplifies it because of what he is. You just know it's authentic. And then he tells you what that means. He tells you what does it mean when you unfold that which you've been given? What does it mean when that which you are in Christ has to be lived out in time? And then he explains that. Let's look at Galatians. This one is the kind of Magna Carta of what we're talking about.


And this one is really caught in this riptide between the law and the spirit, between Israel, the old Israel and the new Israel, between Judaism and Christianity. The Galatians are being solicited by these Judaizers, as they're called, who want them to go back and obey the whole law, in addition to believing in Christ. And Paul says you can't do it. If you go back and you take up the law again, you'll sacrifice Christ, you'll let go of Christ. He's an absolutist on that point. I don't know, maybe he exaggerates, but at any rate, he feels it very strongly that you can't have the spirit, and at the same time lean on those externals. You can have the externals, but you can't lean on them. You can't feel that you have to have them. You can't feel that they're the source of your justification. To the extent that you do, you're not leaning on Christ. You're not leaning on that faith which transforms you, which makes you new. Galatians 3. O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?


Now notice this. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ is publicly portrayed as crucified. Sometimes you wonder why he brings the cross in, all right? It's not immediately obvious here, I think, why he brings the cross in. He brings it in because that's the image that's stamped in him, and somehow that contains everything. I don't know, it's like opening the door of the sanctuary or something like that. It's like raising the flag. It's the one figure somehow which says the whole thing. That's the gospel that was preached to them, and that's the image somehow which is implanted in them. But the connection with what follows is curious. Let me ask you only this. Did you receive the spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? The cross and the spirit, all right? Those are the two sides. It's almost as if the spirit had the shape of the cross. You find the same thing in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, where he says, I've decided to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified. I'm going to preach only the word of the cross, he says, okay?


And he says, by the way, we do have a wisdom. He's just disowned having any wisdom. We do have a wisdom, and that's the spirit of God, which knows the deep things of God. So one side is the cross and the other side is the spirit. One side of this birth that you've had, one side of what you are now is the cross, and one side is the spirit. It's like one is the form and the other is the energy. Okay? One is the soul, that's the spirit, and the other, in a sense, is the body, is the shape of the body, which you have to fill out. As if the body itself, the human body, were cruciformed, as it is in Jesus' ultimate. 3.23 Now, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint till faith should be revealed. See, the law, as your pedagogue was leading you by the hand, why? Because you weren't an adult yet you were a child. What does that mean? It means you weren't yourself, right? It means you weren't yet yourself. You hadn't come into possession of yourself.


You hadn't awakened to what you are. And because you didn't have the spirit in you in that way, you weren't what you are. In other words, you weren't yourself until you received the spirit. And before you received the spirit, somebody else led you by the hand. Somebody else was your custodian, your teacher, and so on. When you receive the spirit, that's no longer true. You know who you are, and you are who you are, and the law is inside you. Now, that's incredible. That is so bold that Christianity, of course, has never been able really to live it, has never been able, really. You can't institutionalize it. You can't write a code for it, because it merely transcends any code, doesn't it? But that's the revelation of Christianity, is that birth of autonomy, that birth of God in you, of you in God, which means that the law is in you. And it's very dangerous, isn't it? It's extremely dangerous. And people have misinterpreted this in every conceivable way. There have been so many religious wars around this point,


especially at the time of the Reformation and since then. And yet there it is, that dangerous, that unbelievable truth at the heart of the gospel, which is nothing but yourself, that God is in you, all right? God is in you. And because God is in you, you're the center of the universe, all right? The other truth is that you're not the only one, all right? One thing is you're the center of the universe. The other thing is that there are 40 billion of you, okay? And that's what we're talking about here, okay? That kind of Promethean fullness that comes into the human person, and then the fact that there's one person in whom all these persons are one, okay? That incredible burden of the thing. And Paul and so many other saints have burned themselves out, okay? Moving from one to the other. Moving from that fullness that they had realized in them as an individual human person, like a fire that's just too big for one human body to contain. And so what does it do?


It burns itself out into humanity, doesn't it? Transforming others. Simply enkindling others with the same flame. It's this birth of the person, you see? And it can't be ultimately put into words. It relies on experience. So what Paul does here, writing to the Philippians, is to call upon their own experience, the Galatians, excuse me, is to say, well, how did you receive the Spirit? And they know very well what that experience of the Spirit was. Because that was the difference between not being alive and being alive. It was the difference between not being themselves and being themselves. And most of us know the difference between those two, at least to some extent, don't we? It's as if our life could be interpreted in some sense in terms of the depth from which we live. The depth at which we really are ourselves. The degree to which we really are ourselves. And if we read poetry, and especially modern poetry, I think it's largely for that purpose that it somehow breaks the surface and gives us an inkling of a depth which we're not quite living at, doesn't it?


That somehow there's a spark there that resonates with a deeper part of ourself than we're ordinarily coming from. It reminds us of who we are, that's what it does. It tells us who we are, once again. And that's why we love it. That's why we love poetry, I think. It's not just about poetry. It's not just ornament. It's not just the frosting on the cake. It's a glimpse of who we are. It's a little ray from that deeper self of ourselves. And that's why it relates to the Gospel. And then he goes on about this new being. The heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave. When we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. Now, remember we were talking about moving into objectification, or objectivation, however you want to put it. There's a dynamism in the New Testament. There's a dynamism in this Christ event, in this Big Bang, which puts an energy in the human person which is superior to anything in the world, as it were, okay? Which is superior.


The deep ecologists, of course, would be scandalized by this. But it's true, you see. The Christ event brings into the human person a kind of sovereign energy and sovereign light within the world, okay? And this is something that's transforming. It's something that's dynamic. And it can't be quieted. It can't be contained. It's insatiable, okay? It's a fire. But what happens? After a while, we objectify the fire. We objectify Christianity. We objectify the Gospel, our religion, the faith, and so on. And what happens? It gets set into those fixed forms which are the old order, which are the poor elements of the world, okay? Now, we have to do it. We have to build schools. We have to build churches and so on. We have to do that. But what we do is we misinterpret and we take the external somehow for the internal. We take the external for the whole thing. I don't mean just in terms of visible churches, but in terms of everything else which is an externalization, an objectification of Christianity. What it really is at its core is that insatiable divine energy, okay,


which has been given to us and which is a transforming thing. And it's always trying to burn its way through those objectifications and to say, wait a minute, you haven't quite got it because the flame, the life is superior to those poor and simple elements of the world. We're always going back to those poor and simple elements of the world because they're easier, because they give us security. But the fire, the energy that's in us is more than that. There are all kinds of symbolizings of that in the New Testament. But I particularly like the one out in the desert in Exodus 3, that burning bush, okay. The fire in that bush, which is more than anything else. The fire which is more than everything else. It burns up everything else. And the name of God that goes with it, I am, all right. The name of God which is also somehow incredibly our name. That burns everything else up, okay. And you're left with your own being, your own identity and the responsibility for that being. Now the poets, the modern poets, Emerson for instance, you know,


he's got a good realization of that transcendent human being, that transcendent human core, that flame, that I am that's at the center of the person. The only trouble is that most of the poets don't have a sense of the responsibility that goes with it. They don't have the whole picture, okay. They specialize in the awakening. They specialize in the birth, as it were, the initiation, that realization, the coming forth in the experience of the person. And they may remain children all their lives for that reason, okay. Because they've had that, but it's never become anything. It's never taken its full shape. It's never integrated into a full person. So paradoxically, a lot of the poets give you the sense and the taste of the person at a deep level, and then exactly what they lack is what? The person, the fullness of the person, okay. The integral fullness of the person, which involves this figure of the cross, okay. And especially which involves more than just the individual, more than just the isolated self,


which is the trap of our modern American culture, our individualistic culture. And it's the trap especially of our poets, I think, because they have an especially strong subjectivity, okay. And you can very easily become such a specialist in that subjectivity that you lock yourself in to yourself, and then you're dead, okay. So there have been plenty of suicides, if I come on. Okay, this whole Galatians letter is, I think, right on the subject of the emergence of this self in all of its violence. Where he talks about the fruit of the spirit, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Why? Because these things are what you are, okay. What are these things? Are these things special gifts, supernatural gifts that come to you from the spirit? Yes, they are. But really, they're simply your human person


when it's been freed from the encumbrances and all those compulsions and things that beset it. Isn't that what they are? It's just what it is to be human beings, these fruits of the spirit. And those that belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Right, there's the spirit and there's the cross, once again, okay. The two sides. That peaceful, loving, gentle, infinitely joyful fullness. And then, right away, the mention of the cross, which is simply the other side of the same thing, the other side of the gift. Now, I want to say something about Mark and something about John. Now, Mark's the first of the Gospels, and that's why I get so much attention today, it's the first of the Gospels, apparently, to be written, okay. And if you want the emergence of the person, you seem to be doomed to disappointment and failure in Mark's Gospel. Because nothing much seems to emerge.


What you end up with is the death of Jesus in an empty tomb, right, okay. And you get a few kind of signals of recognition along the way, where Peter recognizes Jesus and says, you are the Christ, where the centurion at the cross says, truly, this is the Son of God. But you don't get a lot more satisfaction in Mark's Gospel. But the whole of Mark's Gospel is a paradox. The whole of Mark's Gospel is ironic. Part of the irony is this, that who recognizes Jesus? The demons. It's the demons who say, we know you're the Holy One of God, you're the Son of God, you know, don't torment us, don't cast us out. But the disciples don't. I mean, the disciples, by and large, are really dumb in Mark's Gospel. You've got what you call this messianic secret there, okay, as if Jesus is trying to hush up who he is. When anybody says, you're the Christ, or something like that, he says, okay, don't tell anybody. You'll heal somebody, and they say, don't tell anybody. How can you hide your healing, and so on, you know. It's a messianic secret. And the dummy factor, I would call it, okay, about the disciples.


It's taken 200 years for biblical scholars to discover the dummy factor. Because they just don't get it. They'll say to them, have you still not understood, you know? Do you remember the multiplication of the bread, and how many we fed? And have you still not understood? And they don't understand. And why is that? Because the understanding, actually, the awakening is our awakening. The awakening is our baptismal awakening, okay. And I think the whole of Mark's Gospel is slanted towards that. What's the end of Mark's Gospel? What's that empty tomb? Some of you have heard this before, and some of you know this. But the end of Mark's Gospel is the empty tomb, and the women who don't even see Jesus there, they see an angel. Is it one angel or two? One angel, dressed in white, sitting in the tomb. And then the angel tells them Jesus is risen, and then they go away. They don't even tell anybody, Mark says, because they were afraid. Now talk about an anticlimax. But the empty tomb is actually your baptism.


The empty tomb is your awakening, okay. Paul says, you have been baptized, buried with him in his death, that you might rise with him to new life. Catch that in those couple of words. You've been buried with him in a death like his. That's your baptism, okay. Your baptism is a burial. Therefore, the baptismal font is a tomb. The baptismal font is a tomb. It's your tomb and the tomb of Jesus. Therefore, that empty tomb at the end of Mark's Gospel is really your baptism, is really your awakening. Now that goes with the beginning of the Gospel. Mark's Gospel is symmetrical, and the end resonates directly with the beginning. The beginning of the Gospel is the baptism of Jesus. Where the heavens are opened and the voice is heard, you are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Now what we're to understand is that that is the termination of the Gospel, not as the baptism of Jesus, but as our baptism. At that point, the whole Gospel turns around.


The whole Gospel, as it were, rotates on an axis, okay. And you're back at the beginning, and then you read the Gospel in the light of that enlightenment. Because it's very probable that Mark's Gospel was designed to be read before baptism, okay, at the Easter vigil. Which means that that was the reading which led up to baptism. So you have the Gospel, not of the Jesus seen in his risen body, the resurrected Jesus seen, but rather just to the anticlimax of the open tomb. And the next thing you've got is the baptismal font, practically speaking, okay. So that you descend into those waters, you descend into that tomb, and then your eyes are opened, okay. And then you understand the Gospel. And then you understand why those two blind men are healed, around the center of the Gospel of Mark. And you understand so many things in the Gospel. You understand the secret and the concealment involved, because the only way that can be understood is in your own awakening, the awakening of your own person. At the beginning, you have the baptism of Jesus. At the end, you have the open tomb.


What have you got in the middle? You've got a couple of things in the middle. Transfiguration, okay. What's the meaning of the transfiguration? It's a singular moment, isn't it? It's like a mountain peak, which is lighted by the sun, okay, whereas everything else remains in darkness, practically, except for the healings and the things like that. What's the meaning of that? Do you remember the words at the transfiguration? There are words from heaven, aren't there? This is my beloved son, listen to him. Same words as at the baptism, aren't there? Now, what happens if you relate those three texts to one another, okay? The baptism of Jesus, the empty tomb, and the transfiguration in the middle. That means that not only is our baptism the baptism of Jesus, in those words, you are my beloved son, but the transfiguration also is ours, okay? I remember Fr. Albert Squire's book, Asking the Fathers, he said that, well, where do you start to understand a human person?


You start with the transfiguration. You start with the transfiguration. That's our divinization. That's the picture of what you are, okay? And it's curious that there are three there, and there are always three. There are three disciples, you remember, Peter, James, and John, and then there's Jesus, and Moses, and Elijah, and Peter wants to stay there. He says, let's build three tabernacles here.