Richard Rohr – What Is Intimacy?

intimacy

Intimacy could be described as our capacity for closeness and tenderness toward things. It is often revealed in moments of risky self-disclosure. Intimacy lets itself out and lets the other in. It makes all love possible, and yet it also reveals our utter incapacity to love back as the other deserves. None of us can go there without letting down our walls, manifesting our deeper self to another, and allowing the flow to happen.

True human intimacy or divine intimacy is somewhat rare and very hard for all of us, but particularly for men and for all who deem themselves important people, that is, those who are trained to protect their boundaries, to take the offensive, and to avoid all signs of weakness or neediness. God seems to have begun thawing this glacial barrier by coming precisely in male form as Jesus, who exposes maleness itself as also naked, needy, and vulnerable. The transmission of the inner mystery of God continues in space and time primarily through what Jesus calls again and again “the little ones” and “the poor in spirit,” which he himself became.

I think that many of us are afraid of intimacy, of baring our deepest identity to another human or even to God. Yet people who risk intimacy are invariably happier and much more real people. They feel like they have lots of “handles” that allow others to hold onto them and that allow them to hold onto themselves. People who avoid such intimacy are imprisoned in a small and circumscribed world. Soulful intimacy is a gateway into the sacred realm of human and divine love.

Therapists Jett Psaris and Marlena Lyons have found that our longing for intimacy can only be met when we soften the guardedness around our hearts:

We long to love from the fullness of our undefended hearts and we long to be loved unconditionally and without reservation. . . . The dual yearning of the human heart finds its satisfaction in the struggle to know ourselves at our most vulnerable levels. The deeper we know ourselves, the deeper is our capacity to know others intimately. . . . It is our deep hunger for this level of loving that moves us beyond our resistance, fear, and shortcomings to see what is special and unique about us. It allows us to see the profound core of another and to have that core be fully seen in ourselves. [1]

Father Richard concludes: We all desire true and intimate love. This longing seems to be hardwired into our beings. We have to want very strongly to love and to be loved—or we will never go to this strange place, and we will never find our True Selves. So, God obliges and creates us in just that way, with a bottomless and endless need to be loved and to love.

Richard Rohr – First Sunday of Advent – Darkness

Advent [meaning “coming”], to the Church Fathers, was the right naming of the season when light and life are fading. They urged the faithful to set aside four weeks to fast, give, and pray—all ways to strip down, to let the bared soul recall what it knows beneath its fear of the dark, to know what Jesus called “the one thing necessary”: that there is One who is the source of all life, One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in darkness and death. One who brings a new beginning. —Gayle Boss [1]

I hope it isn’t difficult to understand why I’m beginning the Advent season reflecting on darkness. [2] I’m not trying to be a spoilsport, but once Thanksgiving is over, we in the United States are rushed headlong into the Christmas season. Yet Advent was once (and still can be) a time of waiting, a time of hoping without knowing, a time of emptying so that we can be filled by the divine Presence. Though you may be wrapping gifts, planning special meals, and spending time with family and friends, I hope you will also take time to allow the Advent darkness to do its work as well. 

Not knowing or uncertainty is a kind of darkness that many people find unbearable. Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts. Logic and truth have nothing to do with it. If you require certitude, you will surround yourself with your own conclusions and dismiss or ignore any evidence to the contrary.

The very meaning of faith stands in stark contrast to this mindset. We have to live in exquisite, terrible humility before reality. In this space, God gives us a spirit of questing, a desire for understanding. In some ways it is like learning to “see in the dark.” We can’t be certain of what’s in front of us, but with some time and patience, our eyes adjust, and we can make the next right move.

The Gospel doesn’t promise us complete clarity. If God wanted us to have irrefutable proof, the incarnation of Jesus would have been delayed until technology and science could confirm it.Scriptures do not offer rational certitude. They offer us something much better, an entirely different way of knowing: an intimate relationship, a dark journey, a path where we must discover for ourselves that grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness are absolutely necessary for survival in an uncertain world. You only need enough clarity to know how to live without certitude! Yes, we really are saved by faith. People who live in this way never stop growing, are not easily defeated, are wise and compassionate, and frankly, are fun to live with. They have a quiet and confident joy. Infantile religion insists on certainty every step of the way and thus is not very happy.

[1] Gayle Boss, All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, illus. by David G. Klein (Paraclete Press: 2016), xi-xii.

[2] For those readers unfamiliar with the Christian liturgical calendar, Advent is the period of four Sundays before Christmas. It is intended to be a time of preparation, through prayer and reflection, on the coming of Christ at the Nativity (Christmas), in worship and community today, and at the end times.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 100-101; and

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 120.

Richard Rohr – Art. Imagination

The imagination retains a passion for freedom. There are no rules for the imagination. It never wants to stay trapped in the expected territories. The old maps never satisfy it. It wants to press ahead beyond the accepted frontiers and bring back reports of regions no mapmaker has yet visited. —John O’Donohue [1]
Being made in the image and likeness of the Creator isn’t about “getting it right” or rationally understanding God. Jesus taught us that being “perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) is more about loving than having correct beliefs or following the rules. How do we grow into such loving likeness?
Each of us has our own unique imaginarium, an unconscious worldview constructed by our individual and group’s experiences, symbols, archetypes, and memories. For example, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, and Protestants live in quite different imaginaria. God comes to us in images that we can trust and believe, that have the inherent power to open our hearts. Spirituality tries to move beyond words to evoke our imaginaria at the unconscious level, where real change must first happen. Continue reading “Richard Rohr – Art. Imagination”

Richard Rohr on ‘Incarnational Mysticism’

Years ago, someone asked if I could sum up all my teachings in two words. My response was “incarnational mysticism.” The first word, “incarnational,” is Christianity’s specialty and should always be our essential theme. We believe God became incarnate. The early Fathers of the Church professed that God, by taking on human flesh, said yes to all that was physical, material, and earthly. Unfortunately, Christianity lost this full understanding.

Many Christians are scared of the word “mysticism.” But a mystic is simply one who has moved from mere belief or belonging systems to actual inner experience of God. Mysticism is more represented in John’s Gospel than in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) which give us the basic story line of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In fact, the primary reason many are not moved or attracted to John’s Gospel is because they were never taught the mystical mind. Continue reading “Richard Rohr on ‘Incarnational Mysticism’”

Richard Rohr on Nonviolence – Taking Jesus Seriously

How is it that after two thousand years of meditation on Jesus Christ we’ve managed to avoid everything that he taught so unequivocally? This is true of every Christian denomination, even those who call themselves orthodox or doctrinally pure.  We are all “cafeteria Christians.” All of us have evaded some major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies being the most obvious. Jesus has always been too much for us. He is the only true “orthodoxy” as far as I can see.

In fact, I have gone so far as to say, if Jesus never talked about it once, the churches will tend to be preoccupied with it (abortion, birth control, and homosexuality are current examples), and if Jesus made an unequivocal statement about it (for example, the rich, the camel, and the eye of a needle), we tend to quietly shelve it and forget it. This is not even hard to prove. Continue reading “Richard Rohr on Nonviolence – Taking Jesus Seriously”

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