Thursday, May 9, 2013

At a Distance

the desert mountains reaching up the the heavens

On the Christian calendar, today is Ascension Day - Jesus up on a high mountain where he rises above the earth into the heavens. He lived long ago and now he's up there,  far away and at a distance.

Many people like to believe that God (by whatever name God is called) dwells up there - at a distance. Somehow it seems safer that way -  God is less obtrusive and more controllable if God is at a distance. 

And so, people may go to church or temple or mosque and pay God the occasional visit. If they need God's help, they can file a petition; and one day when they die they hope to see God up there in paradise. But as for now, in the everyday affairs of everyday life, God is out of sight and out of mind in the routine of life.  

For me, the opposite is true. I don't think of God as some "other" human-like person living in the clouds on top of the mountain,  or taking up residence in a church or temple or mosque.  God is the Presence at the very core of all that "is." God is the Holy Abiding Presence at the very core of everything and everyone who was, who is and who is yet to come. 

And so, we can't be separated from God even if we want to be,  or even if we don't believe in God,  because humanity and divinity are perpetually joined as one.  

Saint Augustine, the famous third century Christian theologian put it this way: "God is more intimate to me than my most intimate thought." Or to put it another way, "God is more intimate to me than I am to my self." 

On this Ascension Day when I look to the mountains and the heaves, I reflect upon the intimate presence of the Holy One - not up there at a distance,  but more intimate to me than I am to myself.

I came across this wisdom saying from the writings  of Rumi, the Islamic mystic poet. It seems to be a perfect sentiment for the day:

By day I sang with you,
and at night we slept together -
night or day, I was not sure.
I thought I knew who I was,
but it was You!

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