Click here to listen to How to Gain the Vision of God if you do not see the player above. The podcast length is 20:34 minutes.
When I was very young there was a television program called The Big Picture. Most people live in The Little Picture with small ideas and small goals, all short term.
But some live in The Big Picture, considering their life as a whole extending through many years, realizing that the small aspects will be forgotten, but the overall character of their life will determine their future beyond this world as well as within it.
Having this perspective, I wanted to be a living sacrifice, a living offering to God! I wanted to be able to stand unashamedly before the face of God and truthfully say: “Behold, I have forsaken all and followed Thee.” To be like Christ, not just in glory but in living sacrifice, like him, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” This was my aspiration–the aspiration of monastics throughout the ages.
An undivided heart
Monastic life is a life of undivided loyalty to the One. Jesus Himself warns us that “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” The religious egotist considers himself wiser than Christ, Whose words he tactfully ignores utterly. He knows better! He can certainly please himself and please God. (Ah, but Jesus spoke about serving!)
Those who love cannot run the risk of despising their Beloved and clinging to their own egoic god. How often we hear statements about what God “does not expect” of us and what “does not matter” to God. The problem is, when most people say “God” they really mean their ego “god,” that of course expects and cares about nothing that does not serve its own desires.
There is a very revealing incident in the Gospel of Saint John. It says:
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Because spikenard was extremely costly, it was kept in a stone flask with only a tiny hole through which it could be shaken out a drop at a time to avoid using any more than was exactly desired. But like Saint Mary Magdalene, the lovers of God cannot endure to shake out the perfume of their love drop by grudging drop. Rather, they break the stone of egoic “thrift” and pour out their life unreservedly as an offering to him of their soul’s love.
The Judases, who through their keeping of “the bag” of material life have come to despise the master of spirit and cling to the lordship of this world, have always raised a fuss about the “waste” of monastic life, accusing its adherents of being extremists, fanatics, and even worse. There is a lot of talk on their part about “helping others” and “doing good to the world” as the opposing ideal, but as Saint John points out, the real motive of their protest is the fact that they steal from God that sacrifice which is their reasonable duty, as well.
Just as the worldings make their choice of service, so also do the monastics. Above all the rationalizing protests of their opponents they raise the song of victory: “I am my Beloved’s and he is mine.”
This is just the beginning of a transcription of this podcast. Listen to The Big Picture: How to Gain the Vision of God to hear more about the dedicated life. The podcast length is 20:34 minutes.