After a rich, young man walked sadly away from following Jesus because Jesus asked him to give all he had to the poor … Jesus then said to His disciples …“In truth, I tell you, it is most difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a person of wealth to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” When the disciples heard this they were astonished. They said, Then, who CAN be saved?” Jesus gazed at them and said, “By human resources, this is impossible; but for God,all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:23-26
In His challenge to the rich, young man to give his riches to the poor so that he might be free to follow Him, Jesus uses a most intriguing image to emphasize His point. He says, “Why, it is is easier for a “camel” to pass through the eye of a needle than for a person of wealth to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” To which the disciples accidentally grasp the point of the teaching image. “That’s an impossibility … “camels” cannot pass through the eyes of needles!” Which then leads Jesus to His very point of His conversation with the wealthy, young man. “This wealthy man wanted to know what HE could do to possess eternal life? Well, he as well as you can make such a thing happen … it is impossible by human effort to live eternally … only God can do what must done to enable you to possess eternal life in this realm of Heaven.”
It is so essential, this understanding that we must allow God to bring us into the eternal realms. But today, I wish to consider that intriguing image of that “camel” passing through that eye of the needle.
Scholars have conjectured a number of origins for the idiom used by Jesus. Some conjecture that it is referring to the small door that was placed within the far larger door of the city gates. Some conjecture it has to do with camels or sinners needing to kneel in entering certain places of penitence. Some conjecture it has to do with the large “gimel” knot used in rope trying to pass through the eye of a small tailor’s needle. All these and others have their arguments for their possibility … but, whatever is the etymology of the idiom, Jesus uses it to communicate … “How impossible would that be?”
Today, I contemplate upon the metaphor itself … the impossibility of getting a camel through the eye of a needle. And in so doing I bring to you the contemplative practice known as The Passing Through.
As I sit on the porch of my hermitage, I hold a sewing needle between my thumb and forefinger. I close my left eye and then with my right, try to look through the eye of that needle. It is not easy to do … but with time, I was able. Through that tiny eye of the needle, I was able to see a distant, spreading oak tree. As I dwelt in that moment … I began to realize … that in a certain way, that “oak tree” has had passed through that eye of the needle and had entered into my own eye and into the memory of my soul.
As I reflected upon that experience … the Spirit brought to my mind a moment I had with Brother Elias the other day. We were sharing about days gone by. He mentioned his boyhood home in Germany and the view he had from his bedroom window of the far distant mountains. I asked him to describe those mountains to me … and then Brother Elias did something … almost subconsciously- but, then again, possibly quite consciously – … he closed his eyes yet lifted them higher … as if he were gazing at those mountains … with the eyes of his soul. Those mountains were – in a certain way- now residing in the soul of Brother Elias. This is an aspect of the Benedictine approach to Christian discipleship, the Beholding, the prayerful gaze … that can take distant mountains and make them part of your soul. A certain Native American culture characterizes a spiritual soul as “one who has the Sky in his heart.”
Now, when contemplatives refer to The Passing Through, they are speaking of our beholding life through the lens of the Holy, the Holy Life of Christ, the Holy Light of the Spirit, the Holy Love of God. It is the process of taking the far distant mountains, allowing them to pass through the Holy and then placing their majesty within our own soul. It is the daily practice of allowing God to transform our human experience into something more, a divinely enhanced experience. As an ancient monk once wrote, “Through our life of prayer, Christ places windows before us so that we can finally behold the kingdom of God once hidden within both the world all about us and the world deep within us.”
My Loved Ones, when you read Scripture, don’t merely see words needing to be studied, defined and collated. Rather, look “through” the words on the page and behold with the eyes of your soul, Jesus speaking the words on a hillside. Look “through” those letters on the paper and behold Paul writing a heartfelt letter to a distant church or see a congregation listening to their pastor reading Paul’s letter to them in their being gathered as a church. Look “through” those lines of poetry and hear the Psalmist sing them to the sound of harp and flute. Look “through” those historical accounts of the people of Israel and experience the conscience of God at work in the affairs of their world.
My Loved Ones, and when you encounter another human being … take the time to behold them … and then allow them to pass through the lens of the Holy … so that they might be seen as with the eyes of God. And when you pray for another soul … do not merely say words … rather bring them vividly to mind … place them within your own soul … and love them.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).