Tag Archives: Jesus

Illuminated

Trent Palmer sits across from me in the back of Mrs. Patterson’s seventh-grade English-grammar class.  He is dark, unusually dark complexioned compared to almost all of the other adolescents in school.  Moving through the hallways, among a crowd of third-generation Germanic and Scandinavian immigrants, he is an exotic, ethereal and appears to be almost other worldly.

Spirituality

This trait alone could have set him apart, but he also sports a jaunty limp whenever he walks, setting him further apart from the general, middle-school crowd. When Trent is standing straight, his shoulders do not match and, at the end of the one arm held closer to his body, his right hand curls into a permanent fist. With the diplomacy missing almost universally among all seventh-graders, I tell him it is a good thing he is left handed—attempting to be positive without succeeding at being even remotely socially appropriate.

In the back of English-grammar class, while Mrs. Patterson lectures from her desk in the far, front corner, Trent and I swap one-liners under our breath.  He smirks at my quips, and I smile at his one-liners.  We have a grand time. And, though I never speak of it, something inside of me loves something inside of him. I love his audaciously rare beauty, his gently skidding speech, his intellect, his brilliant white teeth and, most especially, that we are partners in our own secret comedy club.

Unlike the time I spend in the halls between or in other classes, I actually look forward to English-grammar class and the feeling of wholeness that seems to live there when I sit alongside Trent.  No one seems the wiser about my feelings, including Trent.  Then, my sense of wholeness comes to an abrupt end when Trent and his family move away suddenly.

Community gossip has it that Trent’s family felt he had been singled out for ridicule, the town was too small and that Trent’s intellectual needs were not being met by the district’s curriculum or teachers.  I miss my friend terribly.

Yet, time has a way of gently erasing old hurts. And, the faces and names of middle-school friends become paved-over by the faces and names of those friends we make in high school and college.

Then, decades later, while reading about one of the posters put up in ancient, Roman-occupied Judea, calling for Jesus’ arrest, I read a description of Jesus as being dark, not overly tall, with uneven shoulders and that, if he is seen walking, he walks with a slight limp.  From a distant well within my heart, an image of Trent and his radiant Light flood in. At the same time, I also remember some of the most awkward things I said to Trent which must have hurt him terribly.

Recalling how Trent’s one hand formed a permanent right-handed fist, I think if I were he in seventh grade, I would have wanted to punch God full in the face for making my body something less than perfectly symmetrical—especially given the width and breadth of Trent’s  joyful Spirit and keen intellect.

My thinking at the time was this: If God had been paying attention, Trent’s whole, radiant and flawless Spirit would have been reflected in a perfectly symmetrical physical presentation for Trent.

But, as an adult, I realize that circumstances on the physical plane often do not work out that way. And, now, when I remember Trent, I know his physical presentation to be a perfect reflection of that which is most certainly of God.

God’s True Colors

There is a story about the Austrian artist, Oskar Kokoschka, who was commissioned to paint the portrait of a very prominent Viennese physician in the twentieth century. After the portrait was complete, the family was scandalized and refused to pay the artist’s fees because, instead of depicting the physician as the august sage and professional he was, at the time, Kokoschka painted the man with a vacant look and as a frail, feeble old man.  Just six months after the painting was finished, the physician suffered a devasting stroke.  It is said that the physician looked just as Kokoschka had portrayed him.

Visual artists are sometimes considered seers of sorts.

Spirituality

Jesus was a seer.  This is how he knew what would become of his body and why he was tempted to take poison the night before his death by crucifixion.  In classical, artistic representations, Jesus is given a halo, aureola or nimbus, which has stood as a symbol, in visual iconography, for the holy among us–both East and West–and has been a part of relgious portraiture for over two-thousand years.  A nimbus is a symbol which sets the person wearing it apart, telling us–as readers of the visual–that this person is something or someone extraordinary, someone unique among us.

How do we become all that we are?  How do we unsheath and grow our Light?

In India, visual depictions of the Lord Krishna, in classically painted religious iconography, show Krishna to be a robust man of blue. For most Westerners coming upon such a figure may seem surreal or other-worldly.  The reason Sri Krishna is portrayed thus is that he is, in Reality, like the water of the ocean or the air of the sky–everywhere, required for living, omnipresent, visible, yet, invisible.

Scoop up a handful of water from the ocean or catch a jar full of air and what do you see?  Nothing.  And, in concentration, Everything.  Plugging into and lighting up our own Divine spark means connecting to Source, through one of the world’s tried and true traditions.  Allow Grace to lead the way.

Spiritual Raiment

The concept of transfiguration appears both in Christianity and Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).  In modernity, Christian discussions regarding Jesus’ transfiguration generally focus on his garments turning white as snow–whether figurative or literal.

Spirituality

But, it is not Jesus’ garments that became changed; it was the manner in which He wore pure Spirit.  His luminosity permeated and encompassed Him in an even more radiantly brilliant and pronounced manner with his transfiguration.  The shift in Jesus’ visual presentation allowed the disciples accompanying him to see Jesus’ Divine Spirit more readily and clearly.

Spirituality & Speech

As a child, I was introduced to a fairytale, based upon a story most probably from the Brothers Grimm, in which a beautiful young woman—with a true and kind heart—was required to attend to the chores for her entire household.

Spirituality

This girl, like Cinderella, lives in her birth home, but exists under the “tyrannical rule” of her selfish stepmother and two uncharitable and insincere stepsisters, due to her parents’ premature deaths.

As the story goes, our unfortunate heroine is at the well one day fetching water for the household, when an elderly, beggar woman asks her for a drink of water.  The girl obliges.  And, because of the girl’s kindess, the beggar woman grants her an unusual gift.  Each time the girl opens her mouth to speak, she produces diamonds, fresh rose buds and small trinkets of gold.

Now, when the girl’s stepmother finds out what has happened, she commands her own two daughters to take charge of fetching the water, requiring that they serve the beggar woman when she returns, in the hope that they too might receive such a gift.

A week passes, without the beggar woman returning. Then, on the seventh day, a young boy walking with a limp and the aid of a staff approaches the sisters, asking for a drink of water.

One sister, throws the dipper at the lad, telling him that he should fetch the water for himself, while the other sister turns her back on the boy in earnest disgust.  Upon returning home, the two sisters begin to speak, learning that they too have been granted a gift in honor of their behavior.

Each stepsister, when she speaks, gasps in horror as small snakes, tiny toads and prickly burrs come from her mouth.  It is said that the two sisters go screaming into the woods, never to be seen or heard from again.

Tibetan Buddhism puts forth four out of seven “commandments” concerning speech: No lying; No harsh speech; No divisive speech; No meaningless speech.  (The remaining three “commandments” are as follows: No killing; No stealing; No sexual misconduct.)  In Christianity, Jesus is said to have counseled his followers to say only, “yes” or “no,” unless guided to speak further on a topic with a clear statement and wording granted by the Holy Spirit.

Yet, despite the many guidelines and helpful recommendations from a variety of traditions, authentic and constructive speech remains one of the most difficult of traits to cultivate and maintain–even as a seeker works diligently to purify the heart. My experiental sense is that we have all spent some time in the woods for our inappropriate use of speech or that maybe–culturally–we should.

Christ Like

“How Christ like can we become?”  This was the question posed to a group of us attending a program being lead by an Orthodox Christian Priest.

Before even being able to seriously entertain the question, I ran—SMACK—right into issues within my own theological baggage compartment.  Who knew my luggage car had become so overfull?  My train of thought ran along the lines of, “How dare he even entertain the idea that any of us could ever attempt to become perfected—as Jesus was.”

Spirituality

I had been taught to revere Jesus and his work from a formal distance, walking a full three spare feet behind him in deference to his status.  Jesus was someone of mythic proportions, an extraordinary god-human-being who walked an earth in and of the past.  In my mind, I always maintained a respectful distance, as one would grant royalty, from the person of Jesus, his life and his ministry.  Jesus had become Other.  I had to open the door on my mind’s rolling train to boot some ancient luggage from the car, so that I could even think about the proposed question.

What would it mean to become Christ like?  In truth, it would mean embracing some of the East’s most cherished spiritual principles.  Non-attachment:  Drop your nets, follow me.  Take my cloak, for I have two, and you have none.  Non-harming:  What you do to the least of these, you do to me.  Or, appropriate placement of one’s vital energy:  Leave the kitchen, listen to me.  Do not speak, until the words are given to you.  Selfless service:  Heal the sick.  Feed the hungry.  And, ultimately, surrender to a higher power (dedicating the merit—of one’s life):  If required, release the cup of poison, and take the cross.  This is living of a different order.