The second Sacred Idea of Type Two is Sacred Compassion. When human beings mediate the Sacred Grace of the Divine Presence (i.e., the first Sacred Idea of the Two) to those around them, they embody Sacred Compassion. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner briefly summarizes this awareness.
God’s eyes are now our eyes. God’s ears are now our ears. And God’s hands are ours. It is up to us, what God will see and hear, up to us, what God will do. Look at the world, you are seeing with God’s eyes. Look at your hands, they are the hands of God.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
It is important that Twos not try to help in too many places at once. If they do, they will lose the peace that is necessary to making their work Divine.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of . . . concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
Thomas Merton, Trappist monk
Untransformed Twos may manifest a lot of ego in their giving. That is, they try to make others dependent on them by becoming indispensable. However, a Two’s giving is transformed through contact with a Divine Presence who specializes in giving others – that is, in mirroring back to them – their own best self. When a Two embodies this kind of grace, he or she does similarly.
A cannibal named The-Man-Who-Kills-And-Eats-People was inside his wigwam one day, cooking his latest victim in a large pot over the fire. He planned to eat the resulting stew, and so absorb his enemy’s power into himself. Meanwhile, a spiritual being named the Peacemaker – unbeknownst to The-Man-Who-Kills-And-Eats-People – climbed up the outside walls of the wigwam and peered inside from the top. As he did so, the reflection of his peaceful face shone on the layer of grease lying on the surface of the cookpot.
Now when The-Man-Who-Kills-And-Eats-People looked into the pot to see how his stew was coming, he noticed the Peacemaker’s face reflected on its surface. Thinking this was really a reflection of his own face, he exclaimed to himself, “If this is how my face looks, then I surely must be a peaceful person. Since this is true, why am I killing and eating people? That is not who I really am.” And with this, he dragged the pot outside, dumped it, and vowed never again to practice cannibalism. When the Peacemaker came down from the top of the wigwam, the two embraced. Then the Peacemaker gave the former cannibal a new name, one of which he could be proud. He then vanished from sight.
Clare of Assisi was a thirteenth-century co-founder of the Franciscan Order. In fact, she and Francis established a convent for “Poor Clares” in Italy. One day, during one of Italy’s civil wars, the sisters realized that enemy soldiers were ready to break into the convent in order to practice their usual rape and pillaging.
Just as the soldiers were about to enter, Clare called for a mirror, one that was used in the sacred ceremonies of the liturgy. To the astonishment of the other sisters, she slid back the lock and opened the front door of the convent. There she stood, with the mirror facing the soldiers.
And as they gazed into the mirror whose glass was imbued with magical properties arising from Clare’s great holiness, they saw their own true self, a divine identity that would never engage in such destructive behavior. The soldiers also saw the faces of their loved ones in that mirror, and realized they could not disturb these sisters who were one with their own family and friends.
And so, the soldiers turned away and could not carry out their planned destruction. Clare, in her self-emptying humility, had performed a miracle in her capacity to serve as a mirror of the soldiers’ truest self.
Sacred Compassion finds great solace in transforming the desire to receive into the energy that motivates giving. In the process, giving becomes receiving. As always, mystical logic is paradoxical. The following is a well-known prayer often ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi. However, it can be traced back to 1912, written in French as an anonymous prayer. Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity would begin each day by reciting it.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may seek not so much to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Love is sufficient for itself; it gives pleasure to itself, and for its own sake. It is its own merit and its own reward. Love needs no cause beyond itself, nor does it demand fruits; it is its own purpose. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great reality, and if it returns to its beginning [in God] and goes back to its origin, seeking its source again, it will always draw afresh from it, and hereby flow freely.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th Century Cistercian monk
Perfect love indeed extends its longing beyond its merit, or rather, for perfect love longing and merit are the same thing . . . [L]ove trusts the Beloved. Great is the power of love. Love does not rely on another’s favor but is satisfied with its own deserts. Conscious that it loves, it assumes that it is always loved.
Gilbert of Hoyland, 12th Century Cistercian monk
Where there is no love, put love –
and you will find love.
St. John of the Cross
“Love is repaid by love alone” says St. John of the Cross. So what can I give you by way of thanks? I offer you your own charity, which is in you from Christ, through the Holy Spirit – and which is, insofar as it is of & from Him – my charity also & everybody’s charity, & is the same infinite & simple & eternal act of Love, in Whom we are all one, uttering Himself in one of His multitudinous utterances in time. For . . . Christ . . . is the actuality of everything that is . . .
Thomas Merton, to a friend
We might look at Sacred Compassion as a sort of love affair with the various aspects of the world around us. This may include even seemingly inanimate objects.
Time to dust again. Time to caress my house, to stroke all its surfaces. I want to think of it as a kind of lovemaking. I want to be a lover of surfaces all day today. Let this be the prayer: that my hands not be ashamed to give and to receive a passionate exchange. To luster and to be lustered.
Gunilla Norris, contemplative writer
When we are cleaning the kitchen or washing our dishes, we do it as if we are cleaning the altar or washing the baby Buddha. Washing in this way, we feel joy and peace radiate within and around us.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen teacher
Buddhism has a tremendous amount to say about Sacred Compassion. The passages offered below are a sampling of the wealth of Buddhist wisdom on this subject.
Compassion can be roughly defined in terms of a state of mind that is nonviolent, nonharming, and nonaggressive. It is a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility, and respect towards the other.
In discussing the definition of compassion, the Tibetan word Tse-wa, there is also a sense to the word of its being a state of mind that can include a wish for good things for oneself. In developing compassion, perhaps one could begin with the wish that oneself be free of suffering, and then take that natural feeling towards oneself and cultivate it, enhance it, and extend it out to include and embrace others . . .
[G]enuine compassion . . . isn’t so much based on the fact that this person or that person is dear to me. Rather, genuine compassion is based on the rationale that all human beings have an innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering, just like myself. And, just like myself, they have the natural right to fulfill this fundamental aspiration. On the basis of the recognition of this equality and commonality, you develop a sense of affinity and closeness with others. With this as a foundation, you can feel compassion regardless of whether you view the other person as a friend or an enemy. It is based on the other’s fundamental rights rather than your own mental projection. Upon this basis, then, you will generate love and compassion. That’s genuine compassion.
The Dalai Lama of Tibet
“May you be free from danger.”
“May you have mental happiness.”
“May you have physical happiness.”
“May you have ease of well-being.”
Buddhist metta practice
We so often in our lives serve as mirrors for one another. We look to others to find out if we ourselves are lovable; we look to others to find out if we are capable of feeling love; we look to others for a reflection of our innate radiance. What a tremendous gift, to enable someone’s return to the awareness of their own loveliness! When we see the goodness in others, we are enabling them to “flower from within, of self-blessing” . . . This mirroring quality, whereby we “reteach a thing its loveliness,” is one of the greatest attributes of metta . . .
[M]etta practice proceeds in a very structured and specific way. After we have spent some time directing metta to ourselves, we then move on to someone who has been very good to us, for whom we feel gratitude and respect . . . , a “benefactor.” Later we move to someone who is a beloved friend . . . [W]e next direct lovingkindness to someone toward whom we feel neutral . . . After this, we are ready for the next step: directing metta toward someone with whom we have experienced conflict, someone toward whom we feel lack of forgiveness, or anger, or fear. In the Buddhist scriptures this person is somewhat dramatically known as “the enemy” . . .
As we come to sending metta to a person with whom we experience conflict, fear, or anger . . . , we can reflect on this line from Rainer Maria Rilke: “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something that needs our love” . . . It is important to approach increasingly difficult people gradually . . .
Perhaps you can most easily feel metta for a difficult person if you imagine them as a vulnerable infant . . . You should turn your attention to the difficult person only after spending some time sending metta toward yourself and to those you find it relatively easy to feel metta for. Imagine the difficult person in any situation you wish . . . If you can, contemplate one good thing about them. If you can’t remember that this person, just like ourselves, wishes to be happy, and makes mistakes out of ignorance . . . , you can go back and forth between yourself, a friend, the reflections, and the difficult person . . .
Sharon Salzberg, Buddhist teacher
The Bodhisattva Vow
Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them all.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them all.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them all.
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable; I vow to always become it.
Transformed contemplatives understand that other people are not the only beings who need their Sacred Compassion. The Divine Presence is a recipient of our compassion as well. Mother Teresa is an exceptional example of a person who ministered Sacred Compassion both to people and to the Divine present in the form of the suffering Christ. However, she received strength to offer Sacred Compassion from Sacred Grace. Indeed, it was God who empowered her giving, just as it was God who was the recipient of her compassion, both in himself and within the poor in whom he indwelled.
“I thirst,” Jesus said on the Cross when He was deprived of every consolation and left alone, despised and afflicted in body and soul. As Missionaries of Charity we are called to quench the infinite thirst of Christ-God made Man who suffered, died, yet rose again and is now at the right hand of the Father as well as fully present in the Eucharist, making intercession for us – by a deep life of prayer, contemplation, and penance; accepting all suffering, renunciation, and even death; as means to understanding better our special call to love and serve Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor . . .
As St. Paul has said, “I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” Christ prays in me, Christ works in me, Christ thinks in me, Christ looks through my eyes, Christ speaks through my words, Christ works with my hands, Christ walks with my feet, Christ loves with my heart. As St. Paul’s prayer was, “I belong to Christ, and nothing will separate me from the love of Christ.” It was that oneness: oneness with God, oneness with the Master in the Holy Spirit . . .
The world is hungry for God, and when Jesus came into the world He wanted to satisfy that hunger. He made himself the Bread of Life, so small, so fragile, so helpless, and as if that were not enough, He made himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, so that we can satisfy His hunger for love – for our human love, not something extraordinary but our human love . . .
Love must come from within – from our union with Christ . . .
When times come when we can’t pray, it is very simple: If Jesus is in my heart, let Him pray, let me allow Him to pray in me, talk to His Father in the silence of my heart. Since I cannot speak – He will speak; since I cannot pray – He will pray . . . And often we should be in that unity with Him and allow him, and when we have nothing to give – let us give Him that nothingness. When we cannot pray – let us give that inability to Him . . .
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Reporter: “What is your purpose in picking up dying people?”
Mother Teresa: “Each one is the homeless Christ, no?”
Reporter: “Is Christ partial to the poor, Mother Teresa?”
Mother Teresa: “Christ is not partial. He is hungry for our love, and to give us the chance to put our love into a living action, He makes Himself the poor one, the hungry one, the naked one. He said it clearly, ‘I was hungry and you fed Me; I was naked and you clothed Me. You did it to Me.’” . . .
Faith is a gift of God,
But God does not force himself.
Christians, Muslims, Hindus, believers and nonbelievers
have the opportunity with us to do works of love,
have the opportunity with us to share the joy of
loving and come to realize God’s presence.
Hindus become better Hindus.
Catholics become better Catholics.
Muslims become better Muslims . . .
Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Let us preach the peace of Christ as He did. He went about doing good. If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we should still need tanks and generals?
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Thich Nhat Hanh reveals how both Buddhists and Christians are needed to help the presence of their founders continue on the Earth.
We know that our body is the continuation of the Buddha’s body and is a member of the mystical body of Christ. We have a wonderful opportunity to help the Buddha and Jesus Christ continue . . . Please don’t waste a single moment. Every moment is an opportunity to breathe life into the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Every moment is an opportunity to manifest the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“There is a person whose appearance on earth is for the well-being and happiness of all. Who is that person?” This is a question from the Anguttara Nikaya. For Buddhist, that person is the Buddha. For Christians, that person is Jesus Christ. Through your daily life, you can help that person continue. You only need to walk in mindfulness, making peaceful, happy steps on our planet. Breathe deeply, and enjoy your breathing. Be aware that the sky is blue and the birds’ songs are beautiful. Enjoy being alive and you will help the living Christ and the living Buddha continue for a long, long time . . . It is not only true that Christians need Jesus, but Jesus needs Christians for his energy to continue in the world . . .
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen teacher
Even some medieval Christian mystics realized that God needs us to offer him Sacred Compassion in order to be fulfilled. Mechthild of Magdeburg was one of these.
Then God praised the loving soul in which He delighted, thus: “Thou art a light before My eyes, a lyre to My ears, a voice for My words, a meaning for My joy, an honour of My wisdom, a love in My life” . . .
Then our Lord spoke to me: “Grant Me that I may cool the glow of My Godhead, the desire of My humanity and the delight of My Holy Spirit in thee.”
God: “Never could you give Me more precious healing than that I might soar ceaselessly in your soul!”
Soul: “Lord! If I might ever abide in Thee I would always be Thy physician!”
Mechthild of Magdeburg, 13th Century Beguine
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was especially effective in communicating the tenderness that a person manifesting Type Two energy feels when they realize that even God needs their Sacred Compassion.
You, God, who live next door –
If at times, through the long night, I trouble you
with my urgent knocking –
this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom.
I know you’re all alone in that room.
If you should be thirsty, there’s no one
to get you a glass of water.
I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!
I’m right here . . .
What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher (when I shatter?)
I am your drink (when I go bitter?)
I, your garment; I, your craft.
Without me what reason have you?
Without me what house
where intimate words await you?
I, velvet sandal that falls from your foot.
I, cloak dropping from your shoulder.
Your gaze, which I welcome now
as it warms my cheek,
will search for me hour after hour
and lie at sunset, spent,
on an empty beach
among unfamiliar stones.
What will you do, God? I am afraid.
The poets have scattered you.
A storm ripped through their stammering.
I want to gather you up again
In a vessel that makes you glad.
I wander in your winds
And bring back everything I find . . .
You see, I like to look for things.
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in . . .
Give me your hand.
Unending one, you’ve shown yourself to me.
I love you as I would love a son
who long since went from me,
because his fate called him
to a high place
where he could see out
over all things . . .
I tremble sometimes for your happiness,
that ventures abroad on so many ships.
I wish sometimes that you were back inside me,
in this darkness that grew you . . .
I am the father, but the son is more.
He is all the father was, and what the father was not
grows great in him. He is the future
and the return. He is the womb, he is the sea . . .
So God, you are the one
who comes after.
It is sons who inherit,
while fathers die.
Sons stand and bloom.
You are my heir.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian poet
Etty Hillesum, a Jewish Holocaust victim, realized that God needed her to help Him help her maintain her strength. She also understood that it was up to her to maintain God’s dwelling place within her during the trying circumstances of Nazi Germany.
And if God does not help me to go on, then I shall have to help God . . . I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength ebbing away . . . But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that You cannot help us, that we must help You to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days, and it is also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last.
Etty Hillesum, Jewish Holocaust victim