A message from our rector… (from May Keystone)

Posted on Apr 28, 2013

Over the last few months I have given talks on Genesis 1:2. It is generally read with a focus on the creation of the material world though I honed in specifically on the dynamics of God and the soul. My approach is a meditation in Silence, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and English (silence being God’s first language). After working mostly with Silence and the Hebrew I rendered this bit of scripture:

The Ground
was Formless
and Void
and Darkness
was upon the Face
of the Abyss
and the Spirit
of God
Moved
Together with
The Face
of the Water

The first thing I may need to put into perspective is that among a number of Contemplative Christian writers, the terms Ground and Abyss are synonymous for the soul as it is in God. In the first few lines you have the soul, formless and void. These are two different aspects of the soul. The formless quality is hard to imagine since everything we know through ordinary consciousness and even the higher states of consciousness are based in some way on form. If there is a witness, a perspective or point of view that has an experience of Jesus or the Holy Spirit or even your closest friend, let’s say, then already you have the form of subject (the me that is experiencing) and object (Jesus or the Spirit or friend). Already you have the sense of a separate self, a you as distinct from Jesus or the Spirit or your buddy. The formlessness of the soul is usually only spoken about by saying what it is not. And Genesis goes on to differentiate formlessness by mentioning the voidness of the soul. Void is when something is empty, to use a metaphor, like a cup without any tea or as an experience of prayer, a period that does not have anything in it, no thoughts, no memories, no movement at all, just this vastness. If you have ever been aware of your dreaming state, the dream is the thing that is in your experience, it is the tea in your cup so to speak. If you have ever been aware of your dreamless state, you are aware of nothing except perhaps being aware that you are aware. Meister Eckhart calls this void; “distinctive isness” or we might say it is the “form of formlessness”; it is empty of anything but has the most subtle form, a basis of the separate self sense, it’s still a cup even if empty.
From here, Genesis adds that Darkness was upon the Face of the Abyss (or the soul). Darkness is often used to talk about the unknowing of the soul, where the rational mind is silent and the imagination is stilled. Even the desire of the heart is quieted. Now all of this sounds so impersonal and even bleak, but then there is this aspect of the Face of the soul. The face is generally the most personal, often times the most memorable. I think of the famous picture by Steve McCurry of Sharbat Gula, simply known as “Afghan Girl”, on the cover of the June, 1985, National Geographic magazine. To see her face is to meet her in some way, to know her yet not know anything about her. Her own story was not known until some 17 years later. The soul defies the ideas of being “personal” or “impersonal”. The Spirit of God Moves upon the Face of the Water. The sense of Moved in Hebrew can be read like a mother being Moved to snuggle her child. The use of both “metaphysical” and “earthy” language to talk about the dynamics of God and the soul subtly dislodges our own fixed ways of thinking about God and our selves. It may also dislodge our fixed way of being in relation to God, instigating a deeper union, unraveling our feeling that we are isolated and separated from God. The Paschal Mystery that we are celebrating during this Easter-tide boldly proclaims that we have been taken directly into the heart of God by the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. It is no wonder the Greeks are looking for wisdom and the Israelites signs in our scriptures…God’s dynamics are more than we could imagine.

Now if none of this makes any sense to you, do not fret. We don’t really need to understand the dynamics of God in order to be transformed and grow in the life of God. We simply consent to God’s presence that is working in every little nook and cranny of our lives, saying yes to that great I Am. This is belief, like when Christ says, believe in me. A blessed Eastertide!

Fr. Justin