READ: Psalm 85:8-13
“Let me hear what the Lord God says, because He speaks peace to His people and to His faithful ones. Do not let them return to foolish ways. God’s salvation is very close to those who honor Him so that His glory can flourish in our land. Faithful love and truth have met; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth springs up from the ground; righteousness gazes down from heaven. Yes, the Lord gives what is good, and our land yields its harvest. Righteousness walks before God, making a road for his steps.” – Psalm 85:8-13
Among my most cherished passages in the Scriptures is this one found in Psalm 85. I find it to be so pregnant with meaning and meaning-upon-meaning … “Faithful love and truth have met; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth springs up from the ground; righteousness gazes down from heaven.” It all speaks of the contemplative (and I believe, also Christian) spiritual practice of The Embracing, a practice still emphasized within the Benedictine community (when we are at our best!).
At Greyfriars’ Abbey, guests are embraced as if the guests were Christ Himself. At Greyfriars’ Abbey, sinners forgiven are embraced in intimate reconciliation. At Greyfriars’ Abbey, Christians are asked to “embrace” the teachings and spirit of Christ. At Greyfriars’ Abbey, novices are asked to “embrace” the Rule of Saint Benedict as well as to “embrace” the oneness of the Community. And even in our approach to our theological understanding, we often speak of the Embracing.
Yes, even our theological study emphasizes the spiritual practice of embracing . For example, in our Christian understanding, we must allow the justice of God to embrace the mercy of God; we must allow the practice of loving to embrace the pursuit of truth; we must allow the quest for righteousness to embrace the quest for peace. The Embracing is the spiritual practice of bringing two seemingly disparate things together and making them a mysterious Whole, a Oneness.
The Embracing … what possibly could we mean? Hot fudge and cold ice cream come together in an embrace known as a hot fudge sundae. Sweet and sour sauce … to be what it was meant to be, the sweet and the sour must embrace. For God to be God, divine holiness and divine love must somehow embrace; for Christ to be Christ, the divine and the human must somehow embrace.
I do believe that the Christmas story is the story of God embracing the earth, bringing together heaven and earth into a Oneness, the Realm of God. It began at Christmas and it was activated at Easter and now is being fulfilled in the ongoing miracle of Pentecost. Heaven and earth are coming together … and where they embrace, the Realm of God appears.
So much of our human thought is based on either/or logic. Something must be … either this or that … it can’t be both. Our moral and spiritual thinking tends to act like an off and on switch, either right or wrong, either good or bad. We find it difficult to hold two countering virtues such as justice and mercy in our thinking at any one moment. So difficult it is to live with a God who is righteousness and holy, and yet, at the very same time, to live with a God who is gracious and merciful. At times, though certainly not always, we need to break free from the false restraint of either/or thinking and embrace the mystery of both/and thinking. God is holy; God is love; Christ is divine; Christ is human; God demands justice; God demands grace.
The Embracing is the spiritual practice of allowing the “meeting of love and truth” and the allowing of “righteousness and peace to kiss“. To keep love and truth from meeting and to keep righteousness and peace from kissing is to fall short of understanding the heart of God.
Brother Elias spoke it well the other night. He said at the time of our evening act of mutual forgiveness, the time of reconciliation among and between Brothers before we slip off into the Quiet Hours of the Great Silence … “The more I seek to live as Christ, the more I am aware of my need for His mercy.” And we find this theme expressed throughout all Christian history … especially monastic history. You would think that monks and nuns would consider themselves as especially godly … but I have found the opposite to be most often true … the holier the life, the humbler it becomes.
On the one hand, we ARE called to walk the straight and narrow path … yet, at the same time, we ARE to throw open wide the doors. Holiness matters, but so also does Grace; Righteousness matters, but so also does Peace.
I find it so mysterious that we Christians are called saints filled with grace, yet reminded that we are sinners so in need of grace.
Brother Anthony of the Cross