Saturday, October 20, 2012

Abraham Joshua Heschel: My Jewish Saint of Ecumenism

He exploded into my scene and the chemistry was bombastic!  Pure awesome wonder!
He is one Jewish spiritual writer who is not timid in alluding to other religions in his prolific writings.

As the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I nondescriptly came across a small book entitled "I Asked For Wonder" A Spiritual Anthology (of the writings of) Abraham Joshua Heschel  edited by Samuel H. Dresner.  Within the breath-stalling moment of a few pithy Words, I fell in love.  And in the space of a few more rich lines of prose, so unbelievably soul-caressing they were, I declared him my new saint.  I instantly became unashamedly possessive of him.  But next thing I do, within several hours of what I consider one of the seminal discoveries of my lifetime, I helplessly shared him with a friend who I knew without a doubt would appreciate him as I did.  Such is the nature of Love  - it is uncontainable.  Joy! Joy! Joy! (You would have thought I came across a 10-figure bounty of seductive wealth.)  

To take Heschel's genius, his thought, his unique civic responses to the violent unrests that marked the history of his time, his ecumenical spirit, his prayers, his mysticism, his God - to take all these into my heart - is to enfold them in meditation and to ultimately unfurl them in synthesis with all that I already believe in as I physically live out the day-to-day of my ordinary life.  True ecumenism is a discipline of mind, body and soul to enlarge the heart to as big as is required of it in order to accommodate the world. This is how I choose to celebrate the wisdom of ecumenism embodied by Vatican II.  It is not by happenstance that the saint I proclaimed to be my own during the naivete of my formative years in the Philippines was John XXIII - the pope who braveheartedly presided over the Second Vatican Council.  I remember how immature I was in all matters philosophy and religion that I painstakingly struggled through his small book of biography.  That book was one of the few indulgent treasures of my childhood - I loved him with the biggest love I could muster as a young girl.  And his book "Journal of A Soul" is today one of the cherished gems of my personal library.

These illustrious personages that illuminate our lives whether they are within our awareness or not attest to the triumph of unification of spirit over religious literalism.  Indeed, it is all about the inalienable right and freedom of a soul to meet its truths in kindness, an absolute universal need of human intuition.  It is all about me.  it is all about you.  And it is all about the overarching and interpenetrating Love of God of you and me.