A Gift

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 — Week of 3 Advent , Year Two

Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross), Mystic, 1591

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 939)

Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) 49, [53] (evening)

Zechariah 3:1-10

Revelation 4:1-8

Matthew 24:45-51

There is something wonderfully passive about the vision of heaven John is given at the opening of chapter 4 of his Revelation. A door opens; a voice invites: “at once I was in the spirit,” he says. Moving inward, downward — he ascends into heaven. But he is doing nothing. He’s only watching. All is given.

That which is given is a universal harmony. There is the throne, the rainbow, the elders and angels — thunder, lightning, torches and creatures — a sea of glass like crystal. It all centers on the divine presence, and at the center is the eternal hymn, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

It’s all about God. John just watches, in awe. There’s nothing for him to do. Nothing to add. The vision is a gift. He didn’t have to increase his spiritual discipline to earn it. It was just given to him. A glimpse of the deepest reality — universal harmony centered upon God.

I recently visited with a friend who was about to go into a surgery that was so life-threatening that two clinics and every doctor but one refused to perform it. Her odds for surviving weren’t good.

But she was fine. She was bullet-proof. She’d been there before. Some time back she had coded. She died on the table. She was brought back. And she returned with a memory. She was in heaven, and there she met the dearest friends she had ever had. They loved her more than anyone else had ever loved her, and they knew her better than even her beloved family did. And she knew she loved them, more than anyone, even family. But, she wondered, she didn’t know their names. It was as if she couldn’t remember the names of the most important, most beloved friends of her life.

They were “her angels,” she said. Before going into the risky surgery she said, with peace and confidence — “They will be with me in there. They will be with the doctor.”

Nothing to do. All is given. All is ultimate harmony, peace and praise at the center of everything.

Oh, she survived. She’s got a long, tough road ahead, with no guarantees. Except. She’s got her angels. She’s seen something that makes everything else subordinate. She didn’t have to do anything for the gift of that vision. Except die. That seems to be the way it is.

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