When I was twenty three years old I met a man named Aeldred Graham, he was a Benedictine monk, from Ampleforth Abbey, York, and had studied at St. Denis’ at Oxford. When I met him he had just retired at the Abbot of Portmouth Abbey in Rhode Island in the US. He was the author of a number of books, including one called “The Love of God, which was according to Thomas Merton, the best book on that subject. He had also written several books on the dialogue between Christians and Buddhists.
I was able to spend some time with him. He gave me some instruction on how to do zazen meditation and then we talked for some time over several days. These conversations changed my life. He said:
If you are given something good, you don’t have to protect it, because it will stay with you. This means that you don’t need to be vigilant, or preoccupied, or overly concerned with orthodoxy, because God, who has begun a good thing in you, will see it through to the finish.
You need a sense of humour for the religious life. Partly because it comes from the realm of faith, an assumption that, in the end, “all will be well.” So there is room to grow, room to breathe, room to enlighten, room to kid around, so we can take the chance to be childlike, because the one essential thing is perhaps a gift, from someone else, somewhere else. So the world is bigger than we might think. And we can trust it. “There is a God and it is not you!” So there is room for ebullience and laughter in the tension between where we are and where we think we are.
So we need to practice the religion of Jesus rather than a religion about Jesus. This is to participate in the life of God. Not with the spirit of a child, but in the spirit of an adult, a friend, where the one thing that is important is the return to the Father, the creator, the unitive source, “that we all may be one as you are one.” It is a unitive vision, where all is found in participation in the one.
For God is closer than we might think. We are created, redeemed, inspired, with every breath and every motion, by the same spirit of God, the same spirit of creativity, the same spirit that renews, the same spirit that breathes us in every instance.
I needed to remember that today.