In our active, daily lives, we should find time to slow down and embrace silence.
We should silence our minds. We should try to throw out all thoughts, all self-centered perceptions, all engagement in and of the world which holds to ourselves as the center of our being. If we want to experience the truth outside of ourselves, me must silence ourselves, and all the distractions which would otherwise divert us from the truth. We must pause from our actions as we find ourselves embraced by all that is, hoping that in and through that embrace, we will get in touch with the absolute. If we are truly open to it, then we shall encounter the absolute, find ourselves in awe with it, and all that has not yet been silenced will be silenced, so that all we will know is our embrace of the absolute in and
So long as we remain in the world of change, in temporal existence, our time of silence will be as if but a moment before we must return once again to the world of action and sound, engaging it, bringing to it the graces which we have hopefully gained in and through our experience of the transcendence beyond ourselves. We are changed by the silence, we get a glimpse of eternity in and of that silence, and so we understand more of our being in the eschaton as we have experienced it, even if we have not yet achieved full and final unity with the eschaton itself.
Those who know the awe of the absolute found in the silence, will know the love which remained in them, the love which shows that even in the absolute, even after having lost themselves, they find themselves reborn – there is no annihilation, no absorption, in the absolute, but a unity of love which brings persons together while remaining true to their relative personal distinctions. Love remains, and that love flows through all things, through the great chain of being and the many likenesses of that love reflecting the greater love of the absolute itself.
In silence, love remains, whether it is in the silent meditation of those who experience in partiality the eschatological glory to come, or those who have entered their final rest and have fully realized the eschaton as they have found their place in the kingdom of heaven.
This, then, is the key to understanding some of the most famous words of the Apostle Paul. He found himself in that silence. Then, he was able to encounter the absolute, God, in Christ, and in that engagement with Christ, found himself lost in love for Christ. He was able to take all the love which he felt and all the love which came to him from Christ into his own person. He was transformed, and had become a great spiritual being who then returned to the world in order to help spread the grace of God’s love to all. Thus, when Paul wrote of his encounter with Christ in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, he showed how he had been taken out of his normal experience of the world, out of his own normal centering of his being upon himself, by the way he wrote of himself in the third person. He had transcended himself, and knew and experienced the silence beyond any and all form of self-attachment. Paul encountered Christ and became a new man. He experienced who and what he was to be in Christ, as the person God intended him to be. He was caught up in an experience which transcended the divisions between heaven and earth, overcoming the dualistic experience of the egotism on which he thrived, so that he came face to face with Christ and knew Christ in a way which transcended all such dualism itself:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter (2 Cor. 12:2-4 RSV).
Paul knew a man was caught up in the kingdom of heaven, and in that experience, was given a mystical encounter with Christ. All that he knew, all that he believed, all his fallen mode of thinking was taken away from him – so that he lived and experienced this encounter with Christ in an unknowing that awakened him and enlightened him to the truth which he had at once long sought but yet fought against by the way he had lived. He came to Christ and was silenced. He no longer thought of himself in dualistic terms; he no longer saw himself as an active participant in the world separate from the kingdom of heaven. He knew himself only as he had become in his unity with Christ. He could be said to no longer know himself as himself but rather found the true meaning of being dead to the self, dead to having the self as the center of all his thought and expectations, as he came to know all things including his own person in God. What he came to know transcended human speech, so that whatever he could have said would have been less than the truth. He knew that he could not utter all of what he beheld in such glory.Paul was silenced. His thoughts were silenced. As long as he encountered God, all that was normal for him had vanished; there was nothing left for him to do but to be united in and Christ, and that unity was managed in and through love. Paul became, as it were, a reflection of love, and so in that love he was able to be united to Christ and to see for himself that God is indeed love. To be in the image of God is to be in the image of love. Everything else vanishes in the sight of God’s transcendent love. Everything else is shown to pass away – in that eternal moment with God, there is no doing, there is being; there is no tongues, there is just the Word speaking to us and in us, speaking in a way which the human tongue cannot repeat. Knowledge itself, human knowledge which is imperfect and partial, human knowledge which is based upon memorization, speculation, and limited forms of experience, itself shall pass away because of the experience with the divine will lead to a knowing beyond such knowledge, a knowing which will be knowledge reveals itself to be love itself.
Paul, therefore, experienced, in his mystical encounter with God, what he was able to later express in words, not by stating what he heard, but by stating what became of him in that encounter:
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away (1 Cor. 13: 8- 10 RSV).
Paul’s beautiful words are the result of his encounter with Christ. He had been taken up to the third heaven and was silenced. Words, thoughts, speech, prophecies, tongues, actions, all stopped as he encountered the transcendence of Christ. What was left was love. The perfect came into his life, and all that was impermanent vanished so that he could and would see himself united in Christ, to know nothing other than Christ, to know life only in Christ, and therefore, to know only love. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 RSV). He died to the self, he saw the death of who he was, the death of Saul, so that now all that lived was Christ in him. He lived on in Christ as a person in Christ, as Paul. He speaks of himself as another person, as a third person, to reveal the death of the sin-laden self, the fallen mode of self-existence, which all must experience in order to come to union with Christ. He experienced it, and so he could and would speak of himself in the light of that death to the self which all of us must face.
Yet, after his enlightenment, after his encounter with Christ, he came back to the world, and found he had to live out his salvation with fear and trembling, taking what he learned and experienced as the foundation for his work in the world. He experienced enlightenment, he experienced the silence which is to come for all in eternity as all become united with God in the form of love which ever remains, but then he had to come out of that experience, out of that silence, and back to the world to preach Christ.
He knew that what he said and did in the world would last insofar as it came out of love, and so all he did should be done in love and sought after in love. He remembered his experience with Christ; it stayed with him, but as with all things in the realm of becoming, it was a thing of his past and his mind was able to recollect but a dim reflection of what he experienced. He knew that what he experienced he could experience again; he could realize his personal potential as it was demonstrated to him in his silent encounter with Christ. He was to live out his life remembering in part the love which he felt, perhaps from time to time in silent mediation experiencing that transcendent love. For it was through such love he found his direction in life. Through such love, he found his faith which gave him hope, hope of attaining that love which knows no bounds:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1. Cor. 13:12-13 RSV).
Love is the greatest because God is love. Faith and hope abides with us as we live in the world. Love, however, transcends the world, and as we encounter the God who is love, we find that this love transcends all things; it silences all that is unlove. In that silence, we find ourselves with the peace, joy, and happiness which can only be had in the union of love with love, of ourselves with God. There is nothing more to be said. Nothing more to be done. God will be all in all, for love, the greatest of these, shall remain.
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