Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Love and Joy: Part Two

(Part One may be read by clicking here. If you would like to listen to all four episodes involving the little hibiscus, an audio version is available here.)

The little hibiscus labored long and hard in her blooming. The compassionate one regretted having to leave her alone in this state but it couldn't be helped. She had wrapped a large white towel around her friend’s pot to protect her from the chill, though they both knew that it did little good.

As she struggled, the little hibiscus wondered about her long and painful labor. It had seemed so easy to bring bud into blossom just a couple of months before. Could it be that the One who healed her was now punishing her for having turned away from Him?

When the compassionate one returned home, the beautiful red blossom was almost fully opened. The little hibiscus was spent from her effort and the two of them talked quietly that evening.

The compassionate one explained to her friend that the Holy One did not work that way. He did not punish, though sometimes He did correct. It was, however, never His desire to see any of His creatures suffer. Indeed, He had given the Way of Love to them because He knew that following it would ever bring them joy.

Suffering and toil, she explained, had come to her human kind years ago because they had turned from the Way, believing that they themselves could be gods and create a better way of their own. It ended up not being better, of course, and so suffering came to them – as will happen with any departure from Love.

Once accustomed to living their own way, the compassionate one noted, it was very hard to return to the Way of Love. Not only were there many desires and passions to distract them, oftentimes these passions masqueraded as Love so that the people did not even know the dangerous path they were on. They had even become so foolish as to believe that their way was the Way of Love.

The little hibiscus pondered all of this with deep concern and even some fear, wondering if this could happen to her or any of the other growing things. It seemed a fate too awful to bear and the telling of it had made her realize just how serious her own turning away had been.

Then there  arose many new questions in her mind. “You,” the little hibiscus said to her friend, “how did you come to know the Way, once your kind became so lost and broken? Was it terribly hard to come back? Have all returned to the Way of Love?”   

It was some time before the compassionate one responded.

"The One Who healed you," she began, searching for words to express this great mystery. "we call Him the Holy One - He did not really create the Way of Love."

She paused, again wondering how she could explain this properly to the little hibiscus who now looked at her in bewilderment.

"He did not create the Way because He is the Way," she continued, still feeling that she had not told it properly. "He is the Father of the Way," she went on, striving to articulate something she knew wordlessly in her heart.

"I do not understand," said the little hibiscus. "How can anyone be both the Way and the Father of the Way? How could He be His own Father?" 

"The Holy One," explained the compassionate one, "is not just a Being. He is Being itself. He does not just love - as I love you or you love me. He is Love within His very Being."

She paused, allowing these words to settle into the evening air.

"You asked how I came to know the Way," she began again. "I began to know the Way as many of my kind have. The Holy One longed for His foolish creatures to return to His Way - but He would not compel us. For to force us to come back would not be the Way of Love, would it?" 

The little hibiscus nodded her agreement, though she could not see where this was heading or what it could have to do with her blooming.

"What the Holy One did," the compassionate one explained, "...what He did was He came Himself into our world - as one of us - so that we could understand the Way on our small level, so that we could experience the Way of Love in His very living among us."

The little hibiscus was stunned. "You mean He became one of the tiny seeds in His own creation?" she asked incredulously. She could not imagine that One who was so great as to make the plants to grow and the sparrows to fly and the squirrels to romp and play would ever allow Himself to become so small.

"Yes!" exclaimed the compassionate one, "Yes, it is something like that. But He came as one of my kind so He came into our world as a baby. He was born into the world through one of us."

Again she paused, partly out of amazement at what she had just said. "And He helped us to understand what it meant to be love by telling us of the Love within Himself."

The little hibiscus listened with rapt attention, waiting patiently for her friend to go on.

"He knew that we had not lost all that He had implanted in us about the Way of Love. In the Love shared between fathers and mothers and sons and daughters, He knew that we still understood something of the Way, if only vaguely.

"Therefore, after He had grown into manhood in our world," the compassionate one continued, "He began talking about His Father in the heavens and how they were One. And He even said He wanted us to be in this Oneness with Them. He spoke of Spirit also and breathed this Spirit into us to help draw us into Their Oneness." 

She stopped again, knowing that her little friend was confused. "Remember when you and your brother and sister all lived together in one pot?" she asked.

The little hibiscus sighed wistfully. She had never loved any as she had loved them.

"As deep as that love was, it is not that - it is more," the compassionate one explained. "It is more like having three leaves all on one stem, or three petals all part of one flower. Each pours its love into the others and receives it back again so perfectly that their three-ness is made full in oneness."

Again she fell into silence as these words hung in the air.

"When the Holy One came, we saw Him as person, as Son. But in seeing Son, we also saw Father loving Son and Son loving Father, with Spirit pouring out love in and through Each. For the Way was never broken while He lived among us. Even though He was human, He did not turn away for an instant. And so for us, He is the Way. In Him, we are able to come back into the Way of Love."  

The compassionate one knew that she had not answered a most important part of her friend's question. And so she continued. "Those of my kind who stepped out of the Way...they did not glance away for just a moment as you did. 

"They built a world of wrong ways, teaching it to their children and their children's children. Even with the Son, Whom we call the Savior, our coming back has not been simple or easy. Most of us have not completely returned to the Way. I have not completely returned..."

The compassionate one looked now at her friend with tears in her eyes. "That is why you and I were given to walk with each other. You needed me to teach you - but I need you to teach me as well."

The little hibiscus thought deeply and, for the first time, understood the truth in this. She had never imagined that she could help the compassionate one for she had come to her in time of great weakness. It had not occurred to her that her friend might be weak too.

They sat for a while in companionable silence, pondering the Way they both longed for.

At last, the compassionate one broke the silence.

"Do you remember what I told you about the Solstice?" she asked the little hibiscus, without waiting for a reply. "It is no accident that we commemorate the Holy Birth just days after that turning in time.

"As your Beloved fights off the forces of darkness in the myths of earth and sun, when the Savior came among us, He fought off the Great Darkness, the Darkness that threatens to steal the hearts of all of the living."

The little hibiscus trembled as she absorbed this new information.

"However," the compassionate one explained, "unlike in the myths of old, the true Son does not have to fight the Dark One year after year. Indeed, He has already won that victory for all time."

The tiny plant sighed with relief. But she was shaken when she heard what the compassionate one said next.

"Each year, to celebrate the Holy Birth, some are chosen from among the plants and animals to announce His coming. For He did not come just once into our world but is ever coming in the outpouring of Love that He is.

"And you, my little one, you have been chosen, with the bloom you so labored for, to announce the feast of the Holy Birth."

"Me?" gasped the little hibiscus in astonishment. "Certainly it cannot be me! I turned away...I am not worthy..."

"And that, my friend," said the compassionate one with deep love in her heart, "is exactly why you were chosen.

"Come, it is time now..."

(Many blessings to all as we celebrate this feast of the Nativity, of the Holy Birth. May we find true joy as we walk together back into the Way of Love.)