The Cross: Living at the Center of Vulnerability
When I, Alana Levandoski, wrote Behold, I Make all Things New (WATCH VIDEO ABOVE), I was imagining the big bang and the beauty and pain of transformation. I also imagined Christ on the cross… the firstborn of all creation, pinned there… keeping love steady, pouring it out… as he looked his executioners in the eyes.
In his talks on Thomas Merton, James Finley describes the cross as the horizontal line representing all that is and ever was in creation... and the vertical line as Divine Reality. The center point of that cross, where the lines intersect, is where all of life flows out.
I wonder if it is as simple as this: our inability to be vulnerable is what keeps us from drawing closer to that center point in our consciousness, and is the very cause of suffering.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin , the great Jesuit revolutionary (or will be seen as revolutionary before this century has fully played out), spoke about love only being able to happen at "this density".
In other words, this level of matter that we are at, is where love is able to manifest. It is where I can hold my child. Put my hand on my husband's back to send a message of love. It is where my sister and I were able to rub my grandma's aching legs as she died of cancer.
If we lived at an esoteric level, we couldn't do stuff like that.
I have a friend who lives near Beirut who wrote a poem after the Beirut and Paris bombings, which seem like a millennia ago after all that has happened since, on our very fragile, beautiful planet. In the poem she spoke about God as Touch:
Where is God
when violence hits the world?!
Indifferent?! Or plunged in creation
And feeling the pain
Of bleeding flesh
Taking the hellfire of broken lives,
Of every deprived soul
so desperate for the warmth of life
It prefers to touch with harm
Than not to touch at all.
Perhaps God is Touch,
The friction and the warmth.
One day he is a strike of despair
Blowing up a market place
Somewhere in the forgotten world,
To earn the caress of a charming maiden.
On another day, the cold skin laying in a café
One winter night in Paris,
Secretly waiting for a stranger's hand
To grab it by the hips and light it up with fire.
If God is Touch,
he cannot take a stand.
For he is everywhere
Mingling sweat and blood
In different ways,
- Gisele Njeim
Madeleine L'Engle said "to be alive is to be vulnerable."
This is where it happens... God unseen, is taking form. The First and Last is surging forth.
Although I wrote Behold, I Make all Things New (Alpha) as an Advent of Creation song, it has been used for the Advent of Jesus, and now it is fitting in nicely as an Easter song too . In light of Jesus's radical receptivity, to the point of being called 'the Christ', the son of God, the son of man.
There is that intersection of the cross again. I see his life as the example for living utterly in that center point. He totally embodied that place where all of life flows out of, (even in death). And asked us to follow.
To be alive is to be vulnerable.
Perhaps God is Touch.
Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.
The Son can do nothing by himself, he can only do what he sees his Father doing.
Even as we weep, when mosques are being bombed here. When coptic churches are being bombed in Egypt. When we see our leaders choosing the short term and Mammon, over our children. When, when, when.
See, the veneer of the goodwill of western privilege has blown its cover and we don’t know which way is up. Vulnerability is creeping closer and the common prayer might be to ask for protection. Which isn’t such a bad thing, so long as our protection is not at the expense of other people. And so far, let’s be honest, it has been.
As Gisele Njeim says in her beautiful poem: If God is Touch, he cannot take a stand.
If God were to take a stand and separate from this heartbreaking misunderstanding we find ourselves in, this, we, would all disappear. God is our very breath. Without God, we do not exist.
If the trees are still producing oxygen, God is still here. If the geese have flown north again (and they have), God is still here. If anyone, anywhere on this planet, is still able to breathe in and out, God is still here. But that means, there must be unfathomable sorrow in God who is in us. And unfathomable joy.
James Finley and I made an album on healing last year called Sanctuary, and in one of the songs, he says in spoken word:
Now, how can I become like the hero of the human spirit, who looks out on a sometimes cruel but always beautiful and mysterious world, and offers myself?
What does it feel like to walk consciously holding that very center point of the cross in our hearts? Perhaps the reason why Ghandi, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr. and others, were seen as so dangerous, is because they were in harmony with who we really are, as they looked at their oppressors with love. Their love was looking at the love in the other person, and to have our love touched is unbearable when we don’t believe love is who we are, or where we come from.
Like you, I hesitate to even write this, because I wonder what vulnerability will ask of me… but even so… may we choose vulnerability, which is to be fully alive, and just by virtue of doing so, participate in making all things new.
“Then the moment came when I could make out at the apex of the developing movement a marvellous conjunction, no longer a simple and vague conjunction between Christ and Matter - but rather a union between a Christ distinctly perceived as "the evolutioner" and a cosmic Source positively recognized as "Evolution."
The universalized Heart of Christ coincides with the heart of Matter transformed by love.”
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin