By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF –
I recently found a “new” spiritual guide – a late 6th century monk named St. Dorotheus of Gaza.
Doing a bit of research, I discovered that he’s left a considerable body of writings. He was neither a theologian nor a mystic; he didn’t quibble over theological intricacies nor did he plum the depth of our unfathomable God in his writings. In his plain-spoken, straight-forward, down-to-Earth style, he simply laid out what was necessary to do to live a good life.
But there was one story that recently seemed to catch people’s interest. Within a couple of weeks, I came across it in three very different sources. It certainly grabbed my attention. God seemed to be sending a message. It was very intriguing.
“Imagine that the world is a circle, that God is the center, and that the radii are the different ways human beings live. When those who wish to come closer to God walk towards the center of the circle, they come closer to one another at the same time as to God. The closer they come to God, the closer they come to one another. And the closer they come to one another, the closer they come to God.” (Instructions VI.)
What a great message – so simple, so powerful! Since I first read it, I’ve spent a good deal of time reflecting on various nuances, teasing out implications.
At first glance, it certainly seems to include mentors and friends – and all those who want to become closer to God, putting us all on a similar journey, though our paths may be different. But then again, there are so many other seekers, both Christian and non-Christian who have dedicated themselves to lives of justice and peace, seeking to do good in our world. The circle kept growing.
But, again, I wondered. What about “those others”? You know whom I mean, the ones who seem to be on a very different path from ours. How do they fit in? The Sermon on the Mount reminds us that God showers blessings on all, good and bad alike, so we’re all included somehow. God’s probably more lenient than I am, so I suspect they’re there on the circle somewhere. And what about those who don’t realize who/what they’re seeking? They have the same God-given longings. Shouldn’t they be included, also?
St. Dorotheus probably imagined the circle peopled with, well, people. But the New Cosmology/Universe Story and our own Franciscan tradition sees all creation as sister and brother. Doesn’t that make them likely candidates on this journey to God? St. Paul reminds us in chapter 9 of the Letter to the Romans that all creation is groaning, waiting for fulfillment in Christ.
Somehow I find it very comforting, during these difficult times, to be accompanied by hummingbirds and eagles and chickadees, cougars and giraffes and gerbils, fish and ladybugs and – dare I say it? – mosquitoes, sunflowers and dogwood trees and rhubarb. After all, we share 25% of our genes with asparagus. It feels good to be embraced by this menagerie of seekers, all of us groping our way to God on this cosmic journey that ends in Christ.
Who walks with you on your journey to God?