Therefore, look to the dog!
Should every member of the family
Hide in fear and terror
The dog does not hesitate
To lay down his life
For those he loves
As he has done for us
Let us do for one another
When I was young I thought there was nothing so vain and unnecessary as bringing children into this world. Now, mid-way through my journey in this life, I have understood that there is nothing more beautiful and more important than passing on the life we have received so that others may know it and so it may endure. Now, life arises quite easily across the Universe but it endures only with great difficulty. We who inhabit a place of abundant life, bounteous nourishing fruits of the Earth, and dependable natural conditions that favor our form of life forget that we live in a paradise.
But as the poet says, Et in Arcadia ego. One day our world be no more and already in this moment all things have begun to change. We do well to remember who we are and where we are. Once, when contemplating a future which has not yet arrived, I perhaps mistakenly declared that in the worlds to come there will be no need for many of the roles of service that we dedicate our lives to. It was foolish of me insult bankers, lawyers, generals, fashionistas, and cardinals. In the past these human beings (and many others) failed to understand just how important and useful they could be to the entire world and to those who are yet to pass through this world. You and I dwell in this world, not in some world to come. Contemplating the future, I do well to remember that in this moment I am here, with you. Nothing else matters in this moment — we are here together and we love each other. May our fears of some apocalyptic end that might befall our world give way to this present moment and those who dwell with us in the present.
Recall the revelation vision of Saint John the Divine (who was known to Jesus as the true and beloved disciple):
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. … And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them
Our world is passing away but in this moment we are here, together, and our hearts are filled with love for every member of the spiritual family, not discriminating toward the unworthy (of which we ourselves are chief!) and understanding the merits of those few truly righteous people as benefiting and transforming all of us. Those who are wicked do not make the spiritual family less perfect or beautiful — they couldn’t debase the spiritual family even if they wanted to, for in its origin, in its purpose, and in its goal the spiritual family is like a rare flower, a raging river, or the first light of day piercing the veil of darkness.
Recall that it is said: A single noble tree makes the entire grove sacred.
Does the noble tree regard itself as set apart from the other trees of the grove? Of course not — it doesn’t even regard itself as noble. For the noble tree, existence finds meaning and beauty dwelling among the many other trees. The grovekeeper knows that each tree has purpose and each tree is useful. We are the trees and our lives are more beautiful than we know. You and I cannot see ourselves as we really are. But there are others who understand how rare, precious, and necessary we are. Our great gift to them will be the magnificence and wonder we discover in our own lives and in our world.
Therefore, look to the family:
The son admires and loves his father, but often a son does not understand that his father looks to him in the same way. The dedicated student finds in her teacher wisdom and inspiration, but student and teacher experience the same reality from different places and therefore each has something to offer the other. Sovereign and subject need and serve each other. Soldier and general trust each other and never abandon each other.
Somewhere I wrote that dog and master regard each other as something like a god or like the sun shining brightly in the sky, without which life makes no sense. But in truth, the dog more closely resembles a god than we do, for the dog continues to love us even when we are unlovable. He sits at our feet even when the whole world has given up on us. He keeps guard over us in our rest and brings us back to the place of joy we knew in childhood. The dog is teacher and friend even in his compassionate silence. Would that we were more like dog!
When I was 15 years old I understood with unusual clarity that I wanted and needed to serve the world as a priest. Though my life has taken many unexpected turns across the years, I never for a moment regarded myself as anything other than priest. By means of his own body, mind, life, and blood the priest becomes pontifex — bridge maker between that which is seen and that which is not yet seen, between the place where we dwell in this moment and a place which is beyond our imagining, between our small experience of life and the fuller purpose and meaning present to all life, between that which we call human and that which we call divine. Some mistakenly believe that the priest exists for the sake of God — as if God has need of anything! Rather, the priest exists for the sake of human beings, setting himself apart and living a life that seems seems odd or even useless. But in the moment of trial, in the time of crisis, in the place of great difficulty we find that nothing in the priest’s life was useless and no sacrifice he made was too great. His many years of study, his countless night vigils, his dedicated celebration of sacred rituals, the people and path and home he renounced — all these served a purpose that even the priest himself could not have imagined. When the entire world is lost in fear, the priest arises and becomes bridge between despair and hope. In his very person the transit from darkness to light occurs in the lives of countless human beings.
The same is true for any man or woman who chooses to hold fast to love in a world gone mad. Love is the source of greatest joy and the place of deepest suffering. At times the burden of love seems too great and the pain we experience because of love seems useless and unbearable. But in moments like this present moment, we find that no sacrifice is too great when it is an act of love. Nothing is without meaning or purpose when love serves as gate, path, and destination.
You and I understand very little of these things, but the dog … the dog understands from the beginning that which you and I are only slowly and of late discovering.
May we be like the dog to every being who passes through this world.
May we be like the dog to the person who needs love. May we be like the dog to the person who has has lost all hope. May we be like the dog to the person who sees no beauty in the mirror. May we be like the dog to the person who is all alone in this world. May we be like the dog to the person who has never known the abiding and most powerful transformative love of family.
May the family of blood become a spiritual family that stretches across the Universe, reaching backward and forward across time. May our spiritual family be more wondrous than all the dreams in the world!
July 25, 2017