Fr. Thomas Keating, the Benedictine monk who founded the Centering Prayer Movement, writes: “The acceptance of our basic goodness is a quantum leap in the spiritual journey. . . God and our true Self are not separate. Though we are not God, God and our true Self are the same thing.”* The more I ponder those amazing words the more I want to know the mystery. The fundamental goodness of human nature is an “essential element of Christian faith,” Fr. Keating asserts, like the mystery of the Trinity, the Grace, and the Incarnation.*
I remember seeing “Immortal Beloved,” a fictional about Ludwig von Beethoven movie that came out some twenty years ago. It is based on the composer’s actual letters to his mysterious lover he called his “Immortal Beloved.” The movie weaves in and out of Beethoven’s tumultuous life and musical career as a friend of his tries to track down the secret lover after Beethoven’s death. Toward the end of the movie is the scene of the premiere performance of the Ninth Symphony. As the performance moves into the fourth movement and into the “Ode to Joy” choral, Beethoven, by now totally deaf, walks onto the stage and stands there, his head droop. The imaginary scene takes him backward to his teenage years. He flees from his drunken, abusive father and runs to a pond in the woods. Young Beethoven takes off his clothes and wades into the water naked. As the choral hits its climax, Beethoven’s eyes gaze the night sky filled with stars. Slowly he drifts upwards and gets lost among the myriad of stars.
This year’s Season of Lent begins February 18th (Ash Wednesday). Many Christians think of what to restrain from, what to deprive of themselves, out of penance. I want us to think of what immortal beauty we embrace despite our broken memories and life contexts unbecoming of the divine images we all are. We might have to do some shedding and taking off clothes but always, the aim is to know our true Self and reclaim joy and beauty of our being.
May the Creator embrace and bless your Lenten journey!
* Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, © 1986 The Continuum International Publishing Group, New York, NY, p. 127