EXERCISES IN GRACE
READ: II Corinthians 3:17-18
“And all of us who are open unto God and gaze upon Him are like mirrors reflecting the radiant glory of the Lord, and in our so doing, are also being transformed into the image that we are reflecting with clearer and clearer radiance; this is the working of the Lord whom we know as the Spirit.” – II Corinthians 3:17-18
Across the way, in the mists of early dawn, some souls are doing their morning exercise in a most graceful way, moving ever so slowly yet intently through the various positions of Tai Chi. In Asia, this ancient form of exercise is especially popular among the older souls. And so a number of the older yet bolder Sisters at Sacred Heart, -in an effort to maintain good health – have taken to make their way to this wide lawn by the river, three early mornings a week and practice this ancient art. They are led by a Sister who was a missionary in Japan for nearly forty years, Sister Fidelia. All of the other sisters watch every move made by Sister Fidelia, matching her every movement in both form and pace. In the early light and in the misty air, it is really quite lovely to behold. It is as if these souls were awakening in a ballet of praise. One day, as one of the Sisters was making her way back to the Convent, I asked her about her Tai Chi exercises. In her answer, she mentioned this …”They seem to help me to become like the gracefulness of God.”
“They seem to help me to become like the gracefulness of God.” Like a message from the lips of an angel that phrase settled within my soul. “They seem to help me to become like the gracefulness of God.” I had never thought of God Almighty, God the Father, as being graceful … yet theologically, I must agree that God must surely be grace-filled, even to overflowing. And I suppose the ideas of graceful and grace-full are understandings that are somehow akin.
Most of us know and speak of the grace of God, that unmerited love that God bestows upon us, that freely given mercy that seeks to save us before we ever seek to be saved. Yet, if grace is something of God and we are to be godly people; if grace is of Christ and we are to be Christ-like persons, then how does the grace of God become part-and-parcel with our own souls? How do we, as Christian disciples, become grace-full as God is grace-full?
To be sure, God’s grace may be directly placed into us by God’s Spirit, the incoming of God’s Spirit changing the nature of our humanity. But I do believe the apostle Paul, here in our passage today, may be providing us an insight into the ways of this transfer of grace from the divine realm into the human realm. Paul writes, “And all of us who are open unto God and gaze upon Him are like mirrors reflecting the radiant glory of the Lord, and in our so doing, are also being transformed into the image that we are reflecting with clearer and clear radiance; this is the working of the Lord whom we know as the Spirit.”
Back to those Sisters who so intently watched the every movement of Sister Fidelia. As they watched the one before them, the one before them became more and more within them. They learned Tai Chi by watching … but not only by watching but also by reflecting in themselves what they saw before them. They gained greater mastery of Tai Chi by carefully following their Master. Somehow this is at the heart of how we become Christian disciples, or so it would seem. By watching carefully the person of Christ and then following His every way, His every manner, His every mission and then by reflecting Him by following His glorious ways, His glorious ways become more a part of us. But yet … how little do we seem to participate in such practice ourselves?
In my young days I played baseball. I remember one excellent coach teaching us that baseball is about “seeing” the baseball. The better you see the baseball, its rotation, its pace, the better you will be able to hit the baseball. And I think … the better we can “see” Christ … the better we can become more Christ-like.
So … we must read the Gospels over and over … observing with intensity the person of Christ presented there. Listening to the tone of His words; observing the places He went and noting the work that He did and the manner in which He did it; witnessing how he related to and with other people; discovering how He practiced His own spiritual disciplines; studying how He loved; searching for the divinity present within His humanity and the humanity present within His divinity.
Also … as we mature we learn how to see the Christ who is present within other human souls … we observe how Christ has enhanced their lives … we behold how Christ somehow appears in the spirit of their living … we see how Christ is reflected in their lives and how that reflection has become more and more a part of them.
And finally … we see Christ in the doing of Christ’s work … we intentionally seek to follow Christ in doing what Christ did and what Christ still wants to be doing through us … and in so faithfully doing, Christ becomes more and more of who we were meant to be.
Do these exercises and do them over time, and I do believe they will “help you to become like the grace-fullness of God.”
Brother Anthony of the Cross