Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Suffering Ecstasy.

Mystic Monday

Every love causes ecstasy. To suffer ecstasy means to be placed outside oneself. - Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas says we "suffer" ecstasy; we undergo it. Ecstasy is bigger than us and that is why it affects us so deeply. It transforms us and makes us new. It makes us alive when we are feeling deadened and puts us outside ourselves, beyond our pains and woes and doubts. Where do we find such ecstasy? It comes with every love. A shocking observation! The love of a tree, of a poem, of a flower, of a bird, of a dance, of music, of strangers, of lovers, of relatives, of enemies - any love whatsoever causes ecstasy. So ecstasy is not rare, it is not rationed, it is everywhere love is. Wow! No wonder Aquinas put optimism ahead of pessimism. He found love and ecstasy everywhere. Despite the cynicism and rapaciousness of today's society, can you see the abundance of ecstasy in every love? - Matthew Fox


2 Corinthians 4:11-15
11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.


Do you hear the call to three dimensional faith - faith that lives 
"Up, In and Out" - in both Aquinas and 2 Corinthians today?  
I am drawn by Aquinas' phrase "to suffer ecstasy" just as I am intrigued by Paul's playful use of pronouns. The first suggests a longed for experience that is also costly while the second depicts an interaction between the "ins" (us) and the "outs" (you) that creates a new reality (we) to the glory of God.


I have shared here before that I often come back to stretching after long periods of avoiding it. In the process I begin in a place of dread, move through duty and finally arrive at a sense of freedom and release only to wonder at the fact that I ever stopped living in such a life giving way to start with.

For me, it is such an apt description of endeavouring to walk in faith. God pours out ample opportunities to be "surprised by grace" ... arrested by beauty ... thrown outside of ourselves in order that we might finally be delivered from the tyranny of the self. This salvation must - and, thanks be to God, does - come from outside of the self. And yet, it is so true that I often experience this deliverance as the painful first few seconds of a long neglected stretching routine now enforced by a diligent physiotherapist or trainer.

Faith is an invitation to reach beyond what we have misguidedly come to accept as reality, and so reaching, 
to experience the full range of relational motion 
for which we have been created:

1) to be cherished by and to take delight in the Living God;
2) to know and to be known by a precious few fellow creatures in intimate and vulnerable relationships of love; and,
3) to encounter the wide world of the other from a posture of wonder, hospitality and service. (And, in so doing to entertain angels unawares.)


Healer of our every ill,
I am tempted to believe that I am an autonomous whole.
Living as though that were true is cramped and lonely.
Thank you for showing me the way out of my self-inflicted affliction!
Thank you for patiently tending to my stiff-necked ways.
Grant me endurance and courage to stretch into the promise of abundant life I can only imagine in You! Amen.

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