On Christmas Eve we will sing the mystery again with the song everyone knows and no one knows completely: Silent Night. A later verse that needs some concentration includes this line sung to the child Mary is holding: “Son of God, love’s pure light, radiant, beams from thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace.”
The line reminds me of a couple of lines from William Blake that have meant a lot to me:
And we are put on earth a little space
That we might learn to bear the beams of love. William Blake
Gerald May talks about Blake and the radiant beams of love in a book that has been important to me:
“I think William Blake was right about the purpose of humanity; we are here to learn to bear the beams of love. There are three meanings of bearing love: to endure it, to carry it, and to bring it forth. In the first, we are meant to grow in our capacity to endure love’s beauty and pain. In the second, we are meant to carry love and spread it around, as children carry laughter and measles. And in the third we are meant to bring new love into the world, to be birthers of love. This is the threefold nature of our longing….
Choosing love will open spaces of immense beauty and joy for you, but you will be hurt. You already know this. You have retreated from love countless times in your life because of it. We all have. We have been and will be hurt by the loss of loved ones, by what they have done to us and we to them. Even in the bliss of love there is a certain exquisite pain: the pain of too much beauty, of overwhelming magnificence. Further, no matter how perfect a love may be, it is never really satisfied. The very fulfillment of a desire sparks our passion for more; sooner or later we discover a deepened yearning within what felt like satisfaction. Even in their beauty, the beams of love can often seem too much to bear.” Gerald May in The Awakened Heart
Advent has me signing up for getting hurt again. Who’s with me?
I will have a lot of resolutions on my list, again, for 2015. Some of them will be the same as last year. But at the top of the list, I think I might put, “Suffer.” I mean, suffer with Jesus, the Son of God who is love.
I don’t mean that in some grandiose way, as if I were Jesus. I just want to use the capability I have, born of the capacity the Lord has patiently enlarged in my heart over years of loving me.
Oh yes, I want our church to operate effectively. I want to be successful in all the great plans we have made. I want to make good investments in buildings and business. I want to use our money efficiently. I don’t want to waste a minute. But we can do most of that and just get tired and irritable. We can do a lot of that with further arguments about justice. We can do a lot of that by exercising power and leveraging guilt and fear.
I want to act out of my heart connected to the heart of it all. I want to stay vulnerable to what Gerald May called “our passion for more…a deepened yearning within what felt like satisfaction.” That will cost us. But, at the end of the year, I want to have invested the year in eternity and to have experienced eternity invested in the year. The beams of love are shining. I want to bear them.