“In the Image and Likeness of God – The Human Person in Orthodox Spirituality” a Lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

MILWAUKEE–This week I had the privilege to attend a lecture at Marquette University by one of the most preeminent authors, scholars, and theologians of our generation: His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, MA, D.Phil, titular metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Great Britain.

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With his bishop’s hat, flowing robes, scraggly white beard, and distinctive British accent, this esteemed professor emeritus at Oxford could surely be mistaken for a Defense-Against-the-Dark-Arts instructor at Hogwarts. (To see what I mean, check out this interview with Metropolitan Kallistos on the Philokalia.)

A prolific theologian, many would count him a worthy candidate for eventual sainthood, possibly even of the kind called Equal-to-the-Apostles.

Like every Orthodox bishop I have ever met, his warmth, grace, and above all, humility was most noticeable. He’s very down to earth. What brought him to Milwaukee? Word has it His Eminence was drawn to view the collection housed at Marquette of the original manuscripts and writings of his esteemed Oxford predecessor, J.R.R. Tolkien. Thanks to Marquette for that! The Metropolitan gave us much to think about and mediate upon, particularly as we are about to embark upon our inner journey through Lent.

Given the state of the world “out there” today, our collective prayerful journey through the Lenten desert “in here” in 2016 may well be one of the most crucial, or perhaps most meaningful, of our lives. May our prayers bear much fruit.

Lenten Meditation: In the Image and Likeness of God

In Orthodoxy, we learn to hold our hand in a very specific way to make the sign of the Cross. Join together index, middle finger and thumb, to represent the holy Trinity. Fourth finger and pinkie, folded down into the palm, represents the dual nature of Christ as both fully God and fully human.

 

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Meditate upon this: three fingers together represent the Trinity, two fingers represent Christ’s dual nature, fully man and fully God–and our own true nature as well.

This theological symbol we make using our own hand could summarize Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s lecture.

Paradoxical Duality

Like Christ’s paradox of being both fully human and fully God, Kallistos pointed out how we human beings, too, are full of paradoxical duality. Humankind embodies both hope and disappointment, frailty and strength, beauty and ugliness, “Godlike apprehension and the quintessence of dust,” he said. We are both earthly and heavenly, temporal and immortal, spirit and flesh. In theological terms, we know from Genesis that we are made “in the image and likeness of God,” while formed out of dust. Grounded in the earth, “our personhood reaches out into infinity and into eternity.”  This paradoxical duality causes us human beings to be a mystery–to our very selves.

Even though we may know we are “‘made in the image and likeness of God,’ we understand only a very small part of our personhood,” said Kallistos. “We don’t understand ultimate fulfillment. We don’t yet know what we will be. And so we ask ‘Who am I? What am I?’” Perennially, in every generation.

Human beings are born with a sense of needing something. We are driven to find it. It is like we’re born as a puzzle with a missing piece. There is always a sense of something missing, which drives us to go out and seek for something: a yearning for fulfillment.

Kallistos’ comment parallels a core teaching in  A Course in Miracles, how there is really only one problem in life –separation from God–we often go looking in the wrong places to find the solution. It might be relationships. It might be material wealth. It might be adventure, a good time, a sense of wonder. It might be creating a life of comfort around us, in which we feel physically safe—which we do by accumulating wealth or power. Or it might be investing our lives in something more than ourselves—raising our children, or contributing to a cause.

Yet none of these truly, deeply satisfy. When we chase things and power—we always seem to need more. When we seek fulfillment in others, they all seem to leave us, eventually: if they don’t let us down, they grow up and move way, or they die. When we seek wealth and power, we find it never lasts: the more we have, the less safe and more vulnerable we feel, and we never can take it with us. And though we may devote our lives to a “cause,” often that cause is never truly fixed, but continues on past our time here.

The only way to find that missing piece of the puzzle—to fully know ourselves—is through getting to know God.

“We have within us a God-shaped hole,” Kallistos said. “Only when it is filled can we become fully human.

‘You see, the two questions, ‘what is God?’ and ‘what is man?’ are intimately connected. It is only when we look into the depths of our hearts: it is there that we find God, reflected back to us. Self-knowledge and God-knowledge are utterly co-dependent. If you know yourself, you will know God. And if you know God, you will know yourself.”

In the image of God is the image of the Trinity, and the image of Christ, Kallistos explained. Quoting Charles Williams, he said: “It is not good for God to be alone.” God is three persons in relationship, loving one another, in an interpersonal way:  “not just a unit, but a union,” he said. God is communion. God is a relational being. God is social and dialogic. God is self-giving: sharing, reciprocal, responsive, and in solidarity.

We are formed in this same image and likeness. We, too, are social, relational beings, sharing, reciprocal, responsive, and in solidarity. Dialogic means two persons in communication with one another. “It means ‘I need you in order to be myself.’”

“I need you in order to be myself.”

I understand this idea very well. I was born into a wonderful, loving, kind, generous–yet flawed–family. Like so many families, mine suffered some kind of breakdown in structure long before I was born, leaving it bereft of stable emotional support structures. Emoting was just not safe. Love was conditional: fail to behave properly, and love was withheld.

For many years I suffered the consequences of conditional love: self-loathing, low esteem, self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts. Thank God, my one attempt at suicide was very lame and I failed.

Psychologist Frank Dance described growth in human communication from birth on to traverse a spiral shape like a helix. At birth we are the center of our universe: there is only us and our needs. We cry, and God in the form of our mother meets our needs. We think we cause everything. As we start to move higher and see farther, we realize we share this world and live in the context of others: family, parents, siblings, cousins, extended family, neighborhood, city, state, planet. We circle back around, reflecting upon our past experiences while moving forward, higher up in an ever-enlarging circle. We learn that are NOT the center, we are not alone, who we are affects others, they affect us, and so forth.

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With each passing experience, our circle of experience grows bigger and we rise higher. Only by interacting with others do we see ourselves: our gifts, our talents, our abilities, within a context of a social structure. As we come around to higher levels we develop the ability to empathize: to imagine ourselves in someone elses’ shoes, feel what they feel. We develop perspective, empathy, and compassion.

But for some of us who grow up with conditional love, movement forward along the growth track can feel like an electric shock. Perhaps because of abuse, neglect, or addiction, we stop moving forward. We recoil. We put on thick gloves and shields. We build a wall. We, in essence, get stuck at a developmental stage of feeling like we are at the center of the universe. The world “out there” is going to harm us, and we have to defend ourselves, put up walls.

That was the kind of family I grew up in, emotionally. Lots of walls.

Then I had the transformative experience Metropolitan Kallistos described:  “I need you in order to become myself.”

I distinctly recall the moment. I was in my mid-20s, newly married, deeply in love with my new husband. We spent a lot of time gazing into each other’s eyes, sharing our stories. And then it happened. I saw myself as he saw me: I saw what he loved in me, in myself.  Unconditional agape love: so strong and pure, no matter what I  did, how I behaved, what mistakes I made, it forgives and endures forever. I will never forget the uplifting sensation of the opening of my heart, when I was first experienced seeing my own value, my own worth, reflected in the eyes of another. To clarify: it was not that I was validated by him. My husband did not validate me. My husband was simply the mirror–not the source. What I saw was who I REALLY am–love itself. I saw the I AM that is love, that is God–reflected in his eyes. I AM, HE IS, WE ALL ARE, that LOVE. There is only One.

God’s love. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”—John 4:16   There is no love but God’s love, says A Course in Miracles.

That sensation of opening, of seeing that love, felt uplifting, as a revolution completed in the helical journey. I was up at the next level, looking back, and a whole new vista appeared. I experienced level of compassion for my own broken family that I had never been able to perceive or conceive of before. They simply were stuck back there, and did not know about this kind of love! How sad! (I won’t get into the years spent trying to share it with them. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion!)

Our society today is stuck, like I was, in a conditional love. Society needs to move along the path of growth. We have all suffered so much hurt, so much abuse, so much pain, many of us frozen in fear, are afraid to love, afraid to move on, afraid to trust, afraid to fall, afraid to let go.

A wonderful anthem for this generation:  Let It Go!  Good Lord: help us let it go! (Queue up Disney.)

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Let It Go

Here is the point: as tightly as we cling to our fears, that does not stop the unconditional love from being there, right here, right now, right before our eyes. Love is eternal. It has and always will exists. Remember: death was overcome! John 8:51. Why hold on to fear? What is needed is to open our eyes, to simply be able to perceive God which is love. In order to perceive it, we must seek mirrors — those who reflect that love back to us. We must become mirrors ourselves: we must look deeply and with love into the eyes of anyone and everyone with whom we interact, and reflect that love to them, and act upon our love.

An inner work

People make mistakes all the time, every day of the week. Whether surrounded by unloving people, terrorists, or conditional love, many in this broken world go through life alone, with conditional love. We withdraw our love for them, put them in prison, and leave them to suffer alone.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem.

“One human being in solitude is no human being,” Kallistos said.

We are not being fully human when we are like abused children, hiding alone in the closet. We all need to come out of the closet.

The answer, of course, is that we are never actually alone in the closet at all. So long as one child hides in a closet, we need to rescue them, get them out, look into their eyes, reassure them of the truth: What is real is Christ God within us, complete man and complete God, a relational being–that’s Who is real. He is right here, inside our hearts, ready for us to find him. He promised and he keeps his promises. A heart that seeks Him, finds Him.

This message is arguably the most profound truth in all of human history. This message represented a re-setting of our reality as human beings: an entirely new paradigm. It was so profound, back in the day, that it reset our consensus calendar to begin retroactively with Christ’s birth. Look at the calendar we all share. We are in the Year of Our Lord, 2016.

“Christ’s birth,” Metropolitan Kallistos said, “was the birthday of the whole human race. Not until then were the full dimensions of human personhood revealed.”

“Theology is actually a branch of Christology,” Kallistos said, not the other way around. Above all else, “we are to be faithful imitators of Jesus Christ.”

Kallistos issued a challenge to all Christians: we must go beyond simply imitating Christ. “We will greatly err unless we take it further.”

“Let us not forget Hamlet, who reminded us: ‘I have bad dreams,’” he said. “Human beings reside midway between majesty and lowliness. While we are flawed icons, always remember: Christ is our constant companion until the end of days.”

Freedom, Self-Knowledge, Creativity, Growth and Cosmic Dominion or Priesthood

Metropolitan Kallistos encouraged us to consider five points: freedom, self-knowledge, creativity, growth, and cosmic dominion or priesthood.

With regards to freedom, he challenged us to recognize that God’s freedom is absolute and unlimited, while human freedom is limited. It is within our limitations that our freedom is to be found. Don’t worry about shackles and injustice and prison bars. They mean nothing.”You must change your mind about the purpose of the world, if you would find escape,”as A Course In Miracles so eloquently states.

Self-knowledge

Knowledge of self arises out of knowledge of God. What is He always telling us? “God says: become your true self,” Kallistos said. That’s it. Everyone can become their true self. Everyone. “Recognize that nobody is dispensable, unnecessary, or useless. It is tragic that anyone ever feel that no one would notice if they died.”

Creativity

It is in our own creativity that we “bless the Lord….for in wisdom hast thou made them all.” (Psalm 103-104)  All of us are made in His wisdom.

Recognize that we humans are sub-creators, as Tolkien said. “God creates out of nothing, we create out of what God has given us.”  It is in offering what we make of the world, and giving it back to God, that we become truly ourselves. We transfigure, revealing in glory, what was hidden.

For example, God gives us wheat which we transform into bread and give back to him. Likewise, He gives us the gift of the vine, we transform it into wine, and give it back to him. He receives our offering, transforms both, and gives them back to us in the Eucharist. He told us to do this to re-call him back to us. Western Christianity translates it “do this in memory of me,” but the correct translation from the Greek is “do this to call me back.” It is in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, prayerfully made by our own hands, in a circle of giving, that He comes back into us: his sacrifice was not just on the Cross. His sacrifice continues every week Divine Liturgy–a Eucharistic mystical supper of his body and blood transformed mystically–to keep us alive, spiritually.

Of course, Kallistos pointed out, human beings are not the only creatures to whom God loves and gives his fruits and seeds.

“Squirrels collect nuts,” Kallistos said, “but they don’t transform them into liqueur!” Only human beings can transform, transfigure, and transmute what God gives us into something else.

Growth

“To be human,” Kallistos said concerning growth, “is to be a pilgrim, a journey from the image to the likeness.” The image is essentially our equipment, whereas the likeness is holiness. The journey is “the act of reaching forward,” or as I describe, moving along that path of growth, in an ever widening spiral, higher up, seeing more.

And through all of eternity, Kallistos assured us, “God will always remain a God of surprises.”

Cosmic Dominion and Priesthood

Regarding cosmic dominion and priesthood, “dominion does not meant domination,” Kallistos said. It is always to good to “remember the gentle service of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.

“Christ said ‘I am the One who serves.’ We in modern times have forgotten this.”

“Reflect on the contemporary ecological disaster. To say ‘environmental crisis’ is not strictly accurate. The crisis is not ‘out there,’ but in the human heart. The ecological disaster is a spiritual problem. We have lost sight of our true relationship to the world God has given us. Our human image is grievously distorted. What we need is an ecological change of mind.”

It is important, he said, to bear in mind the distinction between the king, the steward, and the priest. The concept of a king is not popular and is widely misunderstood today.

Many Christian ecologists, Kallistos said, call upon us to be “stewards,” for the world belongs to God, not us. But there is a disadvantage in that view. By taking on a managerial or utilitarian point of view, our egos inflate and we succumb to the temptation to elevate ourselves above creation. How do we prevent this?

“See nature not as an ‘it’ but as a ‘thou,’” he said. “Act as priests of the Creation. We are ordained, through the laying on of hands, to a natural, intrinsic priesthood, that is both eucharistic and doxological. How we become our true selves is to be who we are: Man the Offerer.”

“We must turn the world itself into a eucharistic offering—requiring, on the one hand, sacrifice, and on the other, love,” said Kallistos. “Love is at the heart of the Trinity.”

A commandment of God not written down, Kallistos said, is:  “Love the trees.”

Many criticize organized religion for how it causes us to have to worship God, and to believe blindly. But God does not need us to worship Him. Nor does He need us to believe in Him. He exists whether we worship or believe in Him or not.

The fact is, it is us human beings who need to worship. That is our nature. Whether we worship money and stuff, logic and science, sports figures or movie stars, political heroes or villains–the truth of the matter is, we are eschatological beings: we have a need to worship. Why? Because we are designed with that missing puzzle piece that is God; we are designed to come into union with Him. That is what worship is. Worship is about opening ourselves to Him.

The truth of the matter is, “the human person is a mystery,” Kallistos said, “an inexhaustible mystery.”

A day without prayer is a wasted day.”—Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

“Today is all that we have. Pray every day,” he said. “A day without prayer is a wasted day. Today, make a fresh start in all these things. Show compassion. Show practical help to the people around you. Then you will be a true person.”

I am so grateful I got to hear him speak, particularly now, at the beginning of Lent.

And particularly this year, this Lent, in the year of our Lord, 2016, let us all meditate upon our hand and who we really are: you and I are both made in the image and likeness of God. Fully man and fully God;  relational, dialogical beings. In our hearts we find God who is love. We find ourselves, we who are love, and we become true selves: mirrors, divine sub-creators.

May your prayer bear much fruit this Lent, and may the Good Lord have mercy on us.

Amen.

The Kitchen Sink

Do not take for granted the kitchen sink
Bath water it once held to clean baby’s soapy feet
Repository of crumbs and water to wash
the plates off which we eat.

Although stained dirty with soap scum and coffee
and must be scrubbed for the white to shine anew
the kitchen sink is a luxury
our ancestors never knew.

Running water from a spiggot still remains a dream
for millions who trek after rising from their beds
a mile or more with 40 pounds of dirty water
sloshing and perched atop their dusty heads.

Pavement instead of mud we have.
Blankets and soft beds instead of stone we have.
Endless entertainment at button’s touch instead of painful toil we have.

Yet, what do we appreciate?
Our voices, our hands, our papers and ink?
Do we live in gratitude for this and more?
Or do we disdain and take for granted the dirty kitchen sink?

Would our ancestors approve our slothful despair
and ever-yearning lust for more? Our annoyance at not having enough?
Would they, schooled in the rich biography and teachings
and practiced in the worship and in true communion
with Him who gave His life for us,
shake their heads, wag their fingers, and cluck their tongues
at our childish tirades when we judge and cannot share with neighbors
at our sleeping in on Sundays
at our amassing of wealth
at our poisoning of drinking wells and swimming holes
at our irreverence and forgetfulness of THEIR graves
and our OWN souls?

Do they pray for us now?
How long has it been since we prayed for them?
How long has it been since we remembered with gratitude and humilty
the blessed souls on whose shoulders we all stand?

And what of our fear?

My daughter brought home from the fair last week
a tiny creature with sharp seeing eyes in a shell
and put it in a plastic box no bigger than a shoe.
Unable to turn round in its tiny prison
Unable to stretch and climb and dig and seek
It retreats in fear and sits sadly in a corner
depressed.
Instead of crawling happily on our hands
It pinches our fingers with fear when we draw near.
We’ve lost its trust by making it prisoner.

Yet what else can we teach but what we ourselves know?
We who have imprisoned ourselves in fear?

Each day we put on fear when we put on the news.
Each day we put on fear when we lock our doors.
Each day we put on fear when we judge our neighbors as different than us.
Each day we put on fear when we judge ourselves as not having enough.
Each day we put on fear when we arm ourselves with guns.
Each day we put on fear when we rely upon ourselves for our daily bread
instead of thanking Him.

Each day we lather our lawns with poison in fear of a little yellow flower.
Each day we lather our sinks with poison in fear of a few invisible lifeforms.
Each day we entrust corporations to pasteurize and lather with chemicals our food in fear of disease.
Each day our bodies choke with fat inflamed to protect us from the toxic poisonous chemicals we spread in fear and which we now breathe and wallow in.
Each day our bodies choke with fat inflamed to protect us from the dead and sterilized and non-digested fermenting slop in our guts which the corporations call food and with which we stuff ourselves insatiably.
Each day we hate ourselves for being fat.

Each day we trade bravery for comfort
wisdom for entertainment
freedom for security
gratitude for disdain
love for fear.

Our ancestors who trekked alone, thousands of miles over sea and land,
with little more than the clothes on their backs,
they put on faith instead of fear.
Our elders who walked miles in the snow and wind and rain to school each day, and
endured the droughts, and picked the fields, and faced the straw bosses, and accepted the draft and enemy gunfire–
they knew how, each day, to put on faith instead of fear.

It takes courage to shake off this cloak of fear, this false security, and replace it with His shroud.
To put on Christ.

All this I ponder this morning, washing dishes, at the kitchen sink.

Thoughts on the massacre in Colorado

I AM TRULY BLESSED to have many dear and beloved friends, many of whom favor expansion of gun-carrying rights. These friends suggest that the massacre in Colorado proves the need for right-to-carry laws, that if only there had been someone in that theater packing a gun, they could have taken down this crazy man and saved lives.

The underlying premise is that we need to be vigilant to dangers like this, “out there” in the world, and that we need to protect ourselves. And guided by this premise, this belief, we keep erecting insane systems of protection…airport “security”  with random strip searches, campus “security” with metal detectors, and now, expansion of gun laws, vigilante laws, and “concealed carry” — all designed for our “security.”

Yet — do we feel safer?  Are we actually any safer? And what is the consequence, the logical extension of this thinking?  Will we now have to endure metal detectors and be frisked when we go into a movie theater?

The traditional American ideal of justice, “innocent until proven guilty,” has been replaced. More and more the world assumes the guilt of all, and the results are bars. Bars to our freedom, to move, to speak, to associate.

Good Lord, and dear friends, is this legacy of a prison we are creating for our children, for our world, what You want for us, what we truly want?  And how is this happening, that we keep trading our freedom for insanity? How can we find true security, in a world which grows less secure by the minute?

As a person who strives to find truth, the bottom line in all things, I suggest examining this need for protection. I am reminded of a powerful lesson from A Course in Miracles. Well, they are all powerful, but this one speaks so clearly to this issue. It is called “In defenselessness my safety lies.”  Below I have copied the lesson in full for you to ponder.

Please note that this is lesson 153, about five months into a year-long Course. For more information, find a complete copy of ACIM at  http://acim-search.miraclevision.com/std-second-edition-and-supps/index.html.   I found its search engine not working so well but you can scroll down the hyper-linked Table of Contents on the left to find your way through. Click Workbook Part I for the numbered daily lessons. I’ve found the Workbook Lessons easier to grasp than the headier Text, which is recommended for group discussion. Visit also the Foundation for Inner Peace, the non-profit which holds the copyright to A Course in Miracleshttp://acim.org

Anyway, here it is. [Note the the emphasis on certain thoughts shown below is my own.]

Lesson 153  (beginning day 153)

In my defenselessness my safety lies.

You who feel threatened by this changing world, its twists of fortune and its bitter jests, its brief relationships and all the “gifts” it merely lends to take away again; attend this lesson well. The world provides no safety. It is rooted in attack, and all its “gifts” of seeming safety are illusory deceptions. It attacks, and then attacks again. No peace of mind is possible where danger threatens thus.

The world gives rise but to defensiveness. For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable, honestly provoked, and righteous in the name of self-defense. Yet is defensiveness a double threat. For it attests to weakness, and sets up a system of defense that cannot work. Now are the weak still further undermined, for there is treachery without and still a greater treachery within. The mind is now confused, and knows not where to turn to find escape from its imaginings.

It is as if a circle held it fast, wherein another circle bound it and another one in that, until escape no longer can be hoped for nor obtained. Attack, defense; defense, attack, become the circles of the hours and the days that bind the mind in heavy bands of steel with iron overlaid, returning but to start again. There seems to be no break nor ending in the ever-tightening grip of the imprisonment upon the mind.

Defenses are the costliest of all the prices which the ego would exact. In them lies madness in a form so grim that hope of sanity seems but to be an idle dream, beyond the possible. The sense of threat the world encourages is so much deeper, and so far beyond the frenzy and intensity of which you can conceive, that you have no idea of all the devastation it has wrought.

You are its slave. You know not what you do, in fear of it. You do not understand how much you have been made to sacrifice, who feel its iron grip upon your heart. You do not realize what you have done to sabotage the holy peace of God by your defensiveness. For you behold the Son of God as but a victim to attack by fantasies, by dreams, and by illusions he has made; yet helpless in their presence, needful only of defense by still more fantasies, and dreams by which illusions of his safety comfort him.

Defenselessness is strength. It testifies to recognition of the Christ in you. Perhaps you will recall, the text maintains that choice is always made between Christ’s strength and your own weakness, seen apart from Him.

Defenselessness can never be attacked, because it recognizes strength so great attack is folly, or a silly game a tired child might play, when he becomes too sleepy to remember what he wants.

Defensiveness is weakness. It proclaims you have denied the Christ and come to fear His Father’s anger. What can save you now from your delusion of an angry god, whose fearful image you believe you see at work in all the evils of the world? What but illusions could defend you now, when it is but illusions that you fight?

We will not play such childish games today. For our true purpose is to save the world, and we would not exchange for foolishness the endless joy our function offers us. We would not let our happiness slip by because a fragment of a senseless dream happened to cross our minds, and we mistook the figures in it for the Son of God; its tiny instant for eternity.

We look past dreams today, and recognize that we need no defense because we are created unassailable, without all thought or wish or dream in which attack has any meaning. Now we cannot fear, for we have left all fearful thoughts behind. And in defenselessness we stand secure, serenely certain of our safety now, sure of salvation; sure we will fulfill our chosen purpose, as our ministry extends its holy blessing through the world.

Be still a moment, and in silence think how holy is your purpose, how secure you rest, untouchable within its light. God’s ministers have chosen that the truth be with them. Who is holier than they? Who could be surer that his happiness is fully guaranteed? And who could be more mightily protected? What defense could possibly be needed by the ones who are among the chosen ones of God, by His election and their own as well?

It is the function of God’s ministers to help their brothers choose as they have done. God has elected all, but few have come to realize His Will is but their own. And while you fail to teach what you have learned, salvation waits and darkness holds the world in grim imprisonment. Nor will you learn that light has come to you, and your escape has been accomplished. For you will not see the light, until you offer it to all your brothers. As they take it from your hands, so will you recognize it as your own.

Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play. It was designed by One Who loves His children, and Who would replace their fearful toys with joyous games, which teach them that the game of fear is gone. His game instructs in happiness because there is no loser. Everyone who plays must win, and in his winning is the gain to everyone ensured. The game of fear is gladly laid aside, when children come to see the benefits salvation brings.

You who have played that you are lost to hope, abandoned by your Father, left alone in terror in a fearful world made mad by sin and guilt; be happy now. That game is over. Now a quiet time has come, in which we put away the toys of guilt, and lock our quaint and childish thoughts of sin forever from the pure and holy minds of Heaven’s children and the Son of God.

We pause but for a moment more, to play our final, happy game upon this earth. And then we go to take our rightful place where truth abides and games are meaningless. So is the story ended. Let this day bring the last chapter closer to the world, that everyone may learn the tale he reads of terrifying destiny, defeat of all his hopes, his pitiful defense against a vengeance he can not escape, is but his own deluded fantasy. God’s ministers have come to waken him from the dark dreams this story has evoked in his confused, bewildered memory of this distorted tale. God’s Son can smile at last, on learning that it is not true.

Today we practice in a form we will maintain for quite a while. We will begin each day by giving our attention to the daily thought as long as possible. Five minutes now becomes the least we give to preparation for a day in which salvation is the only goal we have. Ten would be better; fifteen better still. And as distraction ceases to arise to turn us from our purpose, we will find that half an hour is too short a time to spend with God. Nor will we willingly give less at night, in gratitude and joy.

Each hour adds to our increasing peace, as we remember to be faithful to the Will we share with God. At times, perhaps, a minute, even less, will be the most that we can offer as the hour strikes. Sometimes we will forget. At other times the business of the world will close on us, and we will be unable to withdraw a little while, and turn our thoughts to God.

Yet when we can, we will observe our trust as ministers of God, in hourly remembrance of our mission and His Love. And we will quietly sit by and wait on Him and listen to His Voice, and learn what He would have us do the hour that is yet to come; while thanking Him for all the gifts He gave us in the one gone by.

In time, with practice, you will never cease to think of Him, and hear His loving Voice guiding your footsteps into quiet ways, where you will walk in true defenselessness. For you will know that Heaven goes with you. Nor would you keep your mind away from Him a moment, even though your time is spent in offering salvation to the world. Think you He will not make this possible, for you who chose to carry out His plan for the salvation of the world and yours?

Today our theme is our defenselessness. We clothe ourselves in it, as we prepare to meet the day. We rise up strong in Christ, and let our weakness disappear, as we remember that His strength abides in us. We will remind ourselves that He remains beside us through the day, and never leaves our weakness unsupported by His strength. We call upon His strength each time we feel the threat of our defenses undermine our certainty of purpose. We will pause a moment, as He tells us, “I am here.”

Your practicing will now begin to take the earnestness of love, to help you keep your mind from wandering from its intent. Be not afraid nor timid. There can be no doubt that you will reach your final goal. The ministers of God can never fail, because the love and strength and peace that shine from them to all their brothers come from Him. These are His gifts to you. Defenselessness is all you need to give Him in return. You lay aside but what was never real, to look on Christ and see His sinlessness.