Let us consider more in depth Rabbi Heschel’s teaching on how “the holy is an attempt to raise humanity to a higher level of existence.” To do this we will explore some understandings of the sacred or the holy.
What is a “higher level of existence” that is higher than Evil? What might that kind of existence be? How would we recognize it if we saw it—in ourselves or in others?
I think that two evident qualities of holiness today are: Joy and Courage. Let us first consider Joy.
Otto Rank talked about finding joy in spite of our “mal de siècle,” the evil of our times. He was writing in the 1930’s and died in 1939. He had plenty of suffering in his life, but he stayed committed to a path that avoided bitterness and hatred toward self or others. He learned to empty himself of anger in order to let Spirit in, Joy in.
When I find people who have lived or are living full lives in spite of profound encounters with abuse or oppression of any kind, I admire them. So many souls can be broken by the vicissitudes of living. We call them “challenges,” a word that rises often today.
But joy is considered a “gift of the spirit,” and being of Spirit, it is big in size. Joy is so big that it can embrace the whole–even the broken pieces of self and life–and still smile.
Joy is something bigger than suffering and bigger than Evil. Say the Upanishads: “Joy comes from God….From joy all beings have come and unto joy they all return.”
Indeed, the question is posed: “Who could live and who could breathe if the joy of Brahman filled not the universe? Brahman is joy (ananda, bliss).”
The Buddha said; “Waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.” How do we live joyfully? Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this simple meditation practice to bring joy alive in us:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
Heschel reminds us that humans are not alone when confronted with evil. Living in ‘the light of the face of God’ bestows upon humans a power of love that enables one to overcome the powers of evil.
We can live in the light of the face of God. How about that?
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 254f, 260.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: Basking in the Holiness. Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Are you living joyfully? Do you see holiness and Joy around you and within you?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality
Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him. He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French). He gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake