05 April 2014

Heart Resonance

(Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Bill Champlin:  "River of Dreams."  Google the Lyrics...they are important...originally written by Billy Joel)

Each year...sometime during the season of Lent...every diocese in the Episcopal Church has a day when the clergy of that diocese gather with the Bishop to renew vows made at our ordination, to bless the oils (chrism) that are used in the sacramental initiatory and healing rites of the Church, and to enjoy collegial community.  It may be identified by various names, but it is generally known as The Chrism Mass, because it is centered on the Eucharistic liturgy at which the Bishop presides.  Thursday, 6 March, was that day for us in the Diocese of Southwest Florida.  It is a good beginning to the Lenten journey.

Our special guest for this day was Bishop Michael Curry, who is the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.  Bishop Curry is known for his gifts of preaching, teaching and his great sense of humor.  I have had the privilege of working with him on several occasions during my active career as a parish priest; so it was especially good to have this experience as a retired priest.
John, Apostle,
Late in Life

1.  Go Deep
I have an intense love for and devotion to the Gospel of John.  The Fourth Gospel (as it is known), stands out from Matthew, Mark and Luke in that John had no intention of writing another historical account.  It is the last of the four gospels to be written and was probably completed during John's exile on the isle of Patmos.  Modern scholars tend to dismiss John's gospel as being "irrelevent" insomuch as it does not parallel the historical content of the other three gospel accounts.  I could not disagree more.

The term "mystical" tends to scare modern Christians, because the Christian mystical tradition can't be contained and made literal. It was largely ignored after the dawning of the "age of reason."  John was a witness to the Transfiguration of Jesus (seeing the inner reality revealed externally).  While the others fled, John dared to remain near Jesus during this trial and crucifixion.  From the cross, Jesus said to John, "Behold your mother..."  From that time John personally cared for the well-being of Mary.  John experienced the real Jesus in a way that historical accounts cannot totally embrace.  From the earliest life of the Church, John has been regarded as the "Mystical Gospel."

The early Church had its problems with those who would want to get a "market corner" on the experiences of healing Grace, transformation and empowerment shared by the Apostolic community.  There were two specific groups:  The Gnostics and the Ebionites.   The Gnostics claimed that Jesus was a spirit who took bodily form and could only be truly experienced with a special kind of knowledge (gnosis).  There was a distinct separation from the eternity of God and the physical world.  Of course, their cultic practice was the way to gain such knowledge and access to things spiritual.  The Ebionites were Jews who claimed Jesus as the Messiah promised by the prophets.  However, in order to be a true follower, one had to maintain the strict discipline of Judaic Law and ritual.  The Apostolic community took on the Ebionites (see the first council of Jerusalem in Acts of the Apostles).  John's Gospel directly confronts the Gnostics.

Post-Reformation Christianity is, in uncomfortably large measure, practiced in gnosticism.  It is cyclical in nature.  Reform in the Middle Ages began as a confrontation with the established Church's capacity to "market" Grace (via the sales of indulgences...as one example).  The post-Reformation Church, as it has further splintered into almost uncountable groups...each claiming to hold the truth...has created marketing schemes unrivaled in history.  It is a morphed kind of gnosticism that continues to get more sophisticated.

John's Gospel is an invitation to "go deep."  Underneath the historical Jesus is the work of God's initiative.  Read the opening chapter of the Fourth Gospel.  "In the beginning was the Word....and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us,and we have seen his glory...full of grace and truth." Grace is the term used to speak of the living Love of God that John saw on the mount of Transfiguration.  Love is the essence of God made manifest in all creation...but at the very core of what it means to be human.  It is not a love that can be manufactured, bought, sold or manipulated.  It is purely the activity and presence of the Holy...the First Cause...the Breath over the waters of creation.  John systematically dismantles gnosticism in the first 18 verses of his first chapter.

Going deep within is to experience our very nature and to strike a chord that resonates with the Truth that is at the heart of all creation.

2.  Bishop Curry's Story
The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese
of North Carolina

One of the stories that Bishop Curry shared at our gathering really struck a chord with me (the play on words will soon be evident).

While on sabbatical a few years ago, he wanted to do something totally unrelated to being a bishop and theologian.  He had always wanted to play the violin, so he began taking lessons.  He had to learn to read music and then work to master the instrument.  He continues with weekly violin lessons with his 90 year old teacher.

At one lesson, Bp. Curry was asked by his teacher to make a G note on the E string.  It seems that the finger positions for making this is difficult.  As he drew the bow across the string, he heard a harmonic sound.  It startled him.  His teacher was delighted....because he had struck a perfect G on the E string.  In so doing, it resonated with the actual G string on the violin, which caused that string to vibrate in tune.  Bp. Curry realized he had truly begun to experience making music.

3.  Heart Resonance

Music is but one manifestation of the physics of sound.  All matter vibrates with its own energy.  Those vibrations can be measured and noted in units of both sound and light.  Every elemental substance has its own spectral color and corresponding frequency of vibration.  Most of that is not available to us for a variety of reasons...most having to do with the range of human sight and hearing.  However, we have long had instruments that amplify  those frequencies...or isolate them for audio/visual study.

The Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian has an exhibit that reflects the sound of the earth's movement on rotation and in space...the vibrational energy of our planet.  It vibrates at 136.1 Hz.

That is interesting (to me) in itself.  However, it is more fascinating to realize that the human heart vibration (read: energy output) is also 136.1 Hz.   Also, the chant sound for the ancient Tetragramaton (the theonym for God in Hebrew:  YHWH) is also 136.1 Hz.  The Buddhist and Hindu chant sound for the unspeakable Holy One is also 136.1 Hz.  I do not think any of this is either accidental or "happenstance."

For all cultures, the human heart has always been the locus of emotional and experiential encounter.  Post-enlightenment western cultures have worked very hard to shift that locus to the mind...the active, rational seat for assimilating physical data.  Mental/neural processes tend to separate sensory input and classify data in a variety of ways.  This does create a dualistic orientation.  The mind is also the place of judgment in that orientation.  It locates "us" as (most often) opposed to "them."  Individuation, which is a natural process of internal identity, becomes Individuality, as the mind collects data and creates larger or more rigid boundaries.  It is part of what mystics have long called the "human problem."  It is that first-order act of willfulness that we have called "original sin."  Individuality is one of the reasons the Gospel of John is so hard to, literally, "wrap our heads around."  The Gospel of John is set to the "frequency" of the heart...as is all mystical encounter.

On the mystical path of John (and Ezekiel in the Old Testament), original sin is a movement from the heart to the mind.  Resonance with the Divine is such that when we are in the heart-space of our being, the chord we strike resonates with God and creation.  Our mind is not on that frequency...nor, it seems, was it created to be.  The more we are in the ego-state, the more dissonance (harmonic separation) we experience.  We create images that seem to resonate with the rest of our life journey and ultimately call that divine experience.  This creates conflict. [example of resonance: 18th century John Wesley spoke of an experience of prayer and worship, after which he exclaimed, "my heart was strangely stirred."  Resonance!].

When we move into the heart-space of life, we lose the foci on judgment and difference.  We see ourselves as both unique but an essential part of a whole.  We are "all relations."  Life becomes a tapestry, and every other aspect of life is an essential thread.

There is, ultimately, one word for this resonance...this frequency.  Agape.  This love is the energy of creation and, thus, Creator.  Agape is the frequency and is a gift.  We can't will it....we simply have to go into it...for it is the essence of our createdness...our heart.  Seek first the Kingdom...Resonance.

Love and Blessings,


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