If the person is seeking God, much more is her Beloved seeking her.
(St. John of the Cross, Living Flame)
Did you know that way before this new age and even before the 17th century the word enlightenment had a very different meaning than how it later came to be used? I bring this up because in my last post I accused my ego of trying to take charge of and derail my own enlightenment. I was using the word in the new age sense of becoming spiritually awakened. In the 17th century enlightenment came to mean the intellectual movement that developed in Western Europe that highlighted the need for (and the capacity of) human reason to clear away ancient superstition, prejudice, dogma, and injustice.
Today, however, in my reading I came across an altogether different usage of the word. “It has been said that ‘a person is enlightened’, not when they get an idea’, but ‘when someone looks at them’. A person is enlightened when another loves them. The eyes are windows on to the heart; they search the person out and have the power to elicit life.” (Iaian Matthew, The Impact of God)
I was reminded of a story I heard once that explained the reason there are so many temples and ashrams in India. You see in India, it is necessary that the faithful have access to sacred places to sit and receive the gaze of the Divine One. It seems that God needs to give Godself away in Love. This is also what the Christian mystics know. They have received God’s penetrating gaze and it has given them life and given them back to themselves. St. John of the Cross puts it beautifully when he writes:
You looked with love upon me
and deep within your eyes imprinted grace
this mercy set me free,
held in your love’s embrace,
to lift my eyes adoring to your face
(Canticle, stanza 32)
This understanding is new…I am used to thinking I am the doer…and, yet somehow it feels old to me….like some part of me knew it all along. For a long moment I feel the incredible freedom that comes with this kind of enlightenment. I can almost feel my heart expanding. I can’t grow my own heart…but God can. I can’t give myself back to me…but God can. For me it is to sit still and hold the divine gaze.