These final chapters of “The Wisdom Jesus” is where the rubber really hits the road. Since January more than ninety of us have been traveling along together with this important book. We’ve been invited to imaginatively alter our paradigms of thinking, to really question the foundation on which we live our lives. In a sense, to reconsider Christianity, from a place of inner recognition, inner receptivity and inner authority. We’ve had an opportunity to deconstruct and reconstruct some of our perhaps outdated, unhelpful or fuzzy theology that we’ve been accustomed to living inside of. I love the questions Cynthia poses right at the beginning of the book: What do we even mean by Christianity? What is the filter we’re looking through? To what extent are we sleep-walking through our own version of Christianity, versus actually having a sense of direct knowing and lived experience of the Wisdom Jesus? Do we sense that mutual loving? Do we know who Jesus is? Do we experience that heart-to- heart connection, that inter-abiding?
It’s so interesting to me how we’ve been approaching Jesus both as a historical “moshel moshelim” or master of transformation – a kind of two-dimensional exploration of who and how he was, in his time and place – yet realizing simultaneously, as we delve in to his life and teaching, that the very Jesus we are talking about IS the very same Presence filling us, guiding us, animating our conversation, giving us insights, bringing a sense of inner quiet, love and wonder. At this point Jesus is no longer just the subject matter, but the very subjectivity of our experience. The dynamic Life and Presence inside us. How amazing to realize – to recognize – this Jesus as the very substance and reality of our being together, and of the lives we are all living. Even as I sit here writing, I am aware of this Dynamism inside me and around me – or at least I get enough of a hint of this wonderful Reality, this accompanying Presence – that makes me want to give my entire life and being to this Mystery. To the Wisdom Jesus.
Cynthia points out in Chapter 3 that in order to cultivate this relationship, what’s important is not so much right belief, but right practice. The final chapters of the book give us practical ways of living more deeply into this relationship, this heart knowing. Ways to help us actually “put on the mind of Christ” – the “how” of moving beyond our minds to a greater heart knowingness. As we’ve been reading, Jesus was always inviting people to live into deeper layers of consciousness, really to acquire his consciousness, and these chapters are an essential tool kit to help us on this journey, leading us to deepen into our being, to increase our capacity for loving and knowing. This, after all, is what Jesus was all about. Beckoning everyone he came in to contact with – and now us – to a more abundant, empowered, generative, fulfilling, loving way of living. So what practices are we already engaged in? What new practices could we try out? A more committed centering prayer practice? Individual or group lectio divina? Chanting – discovering our own voice, finding new chants bubbling up from inside us? Perhaps next time we have the opportunity to experience a Eucharist we’ll experience it with a new depth and understanding and ability to hear.
As we conclude (for now!) our exploration with this book, let’s ask ourselves: what is it that has most impacted each of us? What impressions are we left with? What do we want to live in to more fully? How is our relationship with the Wisdom Jesus different now to ten years ago, twenty years ago, and to when we were a kid? Do we experience Jesus inviting us to more subtle insights or ways of seeing? To what extent do we hear him lovingly saying, “and who do you say I am?”. Do we feel beckoned to a life of deeper intimacy with the Wisdom Jesus? Where and how are we recognizing him in our lives, in the world? What mirror is Jesus holding up before each of us? What might be standing in our way to knowing him more?
For myself, I notice how my heart is stirred and beckoned by the “singleness” of Jesus. “Ihidaya” – the “Single One”. The pure and unwavering commitment of Jesus to his path of descent. Self-emptying love – throughout both his life and death. Kenosis. Non-clinging. His willingness to extravagantly give his life away, to respond to the challenges and circumstances of his life by humbly entrusting himself to his Father. “Abba Father”. This relationship with his Father was his Source and strength. There he found the ability to remain connected, and to stay the course. “I and the Father are one”. We too are invited into this relationship, this union, this dance. “I am in you and you are in me. We are all one.”
I am also so struck by Cynthia’s words on page 106, that Jesus could so easily have “put his teachings out there” by being given an easier career path: chief priest, political leader, the Messiah, that people expected him to be. But no. “The path he did walk is precisely the one that would most fully unleash the transformative power of his teaching”. Now this I can trust. His humility. This is why I love Jesus the way I do, and why my heart overflows with such love and gratitude.
“Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us. There is nothing to be renounced or resisted. Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing. You let it go. You go through life clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing. And grounded in that fundamental chastity of your being, you can then throw yourself out, pour yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself. That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell. Very very simple. It only costs everything.” Page 70.
Are we willing to pay that cost? To what extent? How far are we willing or able to take kenotic love – in our lives, in our circumstances, in our world in 2021? As Cynthia points out in the last chapter, “although the failures of human vision and nerve can obscure the reality that Jesus exemplified for us, nothing can obliterate it” (page 188). The living water still flows. Christ Consciousness is forever unfurling, and we get to participate in it and as it. What a mystery. What an invitation. What practices do we want to take on in service of this? I cannot think of a more important question for us to consider.
A Note from Northeast Wisdom:
Welcome to a monthly series of posts from the friends and leaders of the Northeast Wisdom/Wisdom Waypoints Book Circle Series on: The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His message by Cynthia Bourgeault.
Check out the other posts in the series here:
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circle & Opening to the Slow Work of God
by Jeanine Siler Jones Chapters 1, 2 & 8;
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circle: What Did Jesus Teach?
by Matthew Wright, Chapters 3~5;
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circle: How Did He—How Do We—Get Here?
by Laura Ruth, Chapters 6, 7 & 12
You may also be interested in the Inner Task to accompany your study:
Wisdom Jesus Inner Task Month I by Jeanine Siler Jones;
Wisdom Jesus Inner Task Month II by Heather Ruce;
Wisdom Jesus Inner Task Month III by Heather Ruce.
We encourage individuals and groups of all kinds to take up this study, and follow along with these monthly postings, and would love to hear your reflections about this post and the book in the comments below. Thank you!
Our next Wisdom book practice circle will begin in August 2021 and will focus on Cynthia Bourgeault’s book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. We would love for you to join us! Stay tuned for details.
Image credits in order of appearance: Miguel A. Padrinan, Kelley Lacy, Simon Berger, Felix Mittermeier, Cams Unltd, and Sebastian Voortman.