Without passion there’s no compassion. In the same way there has to be eros in the mixture if there is to be agape as well. If there’s no force of attraction there’s nothing to propel us into transcendence.
Passion can however break loose of this formula and become autonomous – just serving its own appetite and self-interest. It morphs into a rogue force in our psyche that causes devastation in the world around us. We bounce wildly from desire to exhaustion before we start looking for another object to desire.
Our Holy Week retreat began on Bere Island yesterday. There are people here from different parts of the world as well as locals from the island and the Beara Peninsula which is an area of great natural beauty, both gentle and rugged.
Many around the world will also be participating by internet. To a great degree today space has been conquered by technology. There’s a difference of course between virtual and physical presence, but presence it is either way. What really matters is attention. A person physically present can be absent because they doze through a talk and a listener from the other side of the world can be fully present because they are listening with full attention.
Time is more difficult to conquer. We can speed up the process of travel but we cannot physically be in two places at once. The time it takes to pass between them reveals an inescapable aspect of basic human existence. To be human is to be limited. Only in the spiritual dimension are we fully here and now.
We enter the spiritual through the power of pure attention transcending the ego’s limitations. For us, during these days, the story of the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord is the portal to this realm. The power of attention is the key that opens it. In the spirit, the power of all limitations is lifted. ‘Where the spirit is there is liberty’. Certain mental states can mimic this freedom of the spirit. Many people crave for the freedom of these states and use artificial means to induce them. But by these means the limitations of space and time are weakened or bent, not transcended. The way to the spiritual respects the laws of nature.
When the spiritual dimension opens to us – in us – it throws a new light onto the worlds of space and time in whose limitations we still live. We remain human – limited – but the limitations do not prevent the full aperture of our being to the divine. We become divinely human.
The Easter mysteries are like what the ancient world called initiation rituals. The ultimate transformation is yet to come. But here and now – if we don’t doze off, if we take the attention off our limitations and the suffering they cause – we begin the process and taste the new wine that Jesus drinks with us in the Kingdom.
The first step is to enter the story and let it work on us. Meditation helps us to listen to it but also opens us to the unlimited realm of the spirit which is the meaning and purpose of the story.
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