Love One Another: Mystic Easter Meditation for Maundy Thursday

Welcome to this a gathering of friends for these four days of meditation over Holy Weekend. 

I believe that we’re being called to a time of real interspirituality, interbeing. In my experience in both having a sort of non-traditional exposure to Christianity, and then some Kabbalah and two decades of this deep practice of yoga and Bhakti Tantra have resulted in reintegration of the mystic Christ.

There have been some places in my studies where I have hit points of frustration at the division between the idea of embodiment (like yoga asana and the joy of dance and all of the other delightful things that are real to our senses) and ascension theology: the spirituality that asks us to move out of the body. And that “not of this world” sort of ascension theology creates a split in us too. False beliefs that spiritual person cannot also be in the world making things, or doing business, or whatever.

And so, I think we’re being called to integrate spirituality back into the body- where we experience the oneness and the fullness of feeling our body as spirit. So, that’s the kind of practice I want to be part of, and the world that I want to be a part of, where we’re living in the activity of building a life that acknowledges spirit in us, in our relatedness, in the space between us.

Because it’s Holy Weekend, and Maundy Thursday in particular, the day of the Last Supper, (which is also the Seder of the first night of Passover in the traditional calendar, although it didn’t coincide this year.)  I have a few ideas to share around what the meaning of this particular day in the traditional story of Easter means from a mystic perspective, and what it might mean in our life. 

For many Christians (and Jews) who found yoga, there was a bit of a rejection of our religion of origin for a long time. Like, there was something in the religion of origin that wanted us to be sinners or separate, that had separation at its heart, and we walked away from that. 

But I was really lucky in my early-30s to meet Brother Wayne Teasdale, who was a Jesuit monk. And he taught lectio divina, a form of mystic Christianity.  He would pick up one piece of the Bible, and he would read a line, and then he would close it. And you would just meditate on that and let it penetrate your being without any intervention or instruction.

Through these guys, I was introduced to the oldest concept of the mystic Christ, what was there before there was church and why he was such a radical MF at that time in history. Think about it: Jesus is coming into a culture where 98% of the people are living in abject poverty, and they’re still giving their money to the Roman Empire and to the religious councils of the time, and he comes to the people and he says, “Listen, you don’t need anything to access divinity. It’s right there in your heart. You don’t need an intercession.” And that radical idea, that you had a direct connection to light, is what was at the foundation of his teaching.

And then, the other component of the teaching is, “You’re all included. No matter what your behavior is, you are worthy. You are divine. And when you see it, your desire to do the kinds of behavior that we’ve been judging will diminish slowly of its own accord.” And so, there’s this also radical non-judgment that came with the core teachings of the mystic Christ.

And so, every year around Springtime, coinciding with Ostara …the pagan holiday of the time, the spring rebirth and the celebration of the Passover in the Hebrew calendar, we have this opportunity to replay the short narrative of the culmination of his teaching and his death and rebirth in a way that transcends the religious portrayal of that teaching. So, I am really excited to be able to share that with you. 

So, today, as I was saying, is Maundy Thursday. And Maundy comes from the Latin word for “Mandate.” And that’s the translation from the great commandment of the day, the Last Supper’s commandment, the mandatum. Novis Mandatum, the New Mandate is when, at the Last Supper, Jesus is saying, “I give you a new commandment: to love one another.”

So, that’s the whole name of the game, right? So, I want you to imagine if I try to do this exercise … Let’s imagine you’re Jesus of Nazareth. You’ve come into the Holy City on Palm Sunday … Here’s where we are in the story. You come into the Holy City. You’ve gathered your people. You’re sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane already, that’s already happened. They’ve come to you and they’ve attempted to arrest you. 

So, you know something’s going down, and you’re in this place of knowing, and it’s the Passover Seder, and you gather all of your close colleagues and friends around you. You gather your girlfriend and your top disciple, Mary. Let’s not forget her. Mary Magdalene. You gather your mama too. You bring all your people together and you have this feast. And you know that your bodily life is going to end, and you know that the message that you have is so vital for the culture and you want the people who have been around you to carry it on, and you don’t want them to forget what’s important, what your whole life was devoted to.

And so, you put the glass down on the table, and you say, “All right, I want you to remember three things of all of my teachings. The first is, I’m going to give you a new commandment.” Not even a commandment. “A new suggestion…and that is to love one another.” And when he says, “Love one another”….The word in Latin is diligo, and the root of that is to respect and esteem one another. The fullness of seeing each other as the light of divinity. 

So, to live from this, “I see you. I respect you. I esteem you in my heart, and I love you, and because of that, I will build a culture that shows that love.” So that’s the very first meditation prompt for Thursday: If you could just sit with that in the seated meditation, what does it mean, this Novis Mandatum, to love one another? I wish I could say it in the Aramaic, but my Aramaic is sucky. So, that’s the first component.

And at the Maundy Thursday dinner at the Last Supper of Christ, at the Passover Seder, the other thing that he was doing was showing communion. Now, communion as its practiced in the Catholic Church, or whatever, is a little bit cannibalistic. Like, “Here, eat my body. Drink my blood.” But the core of that teaching was take in the life force in a conscious way, on the regular. At least once a week, come in and take in the universe. Bring me into your body. Bring it into yourself and become conscious that you are living with divinity all the time. So, the second thing that was provided at that dinner was first communion.

He’s also present at that meal with the knowledge that while he wishes it to be so, that his disciples won’t be able to carry his message forward the way that he’d hoped. Even his rock, even Peter, his solid, bestie, right hand, is going to deny him. And so, even in the hopefulness, there’s no idealism. There’s like, “It’s going to go wrong, but it’s also going to be perfectly fine in the long run.” And so, for those of us who are activists and on the front side of trying to remake a world, don’t be disappointed when people show their frailties, when you show your frailty. When you’re confronted with somebody who’s scary and they ask you, “Hey, weren’t you with that guy, Christ?” And you say, “Who? Me?” That might happen. But there’s something in this acceptance of the imperfection of carrying it forward and just doing your best that is also inherent when he’s saying goodbye to his people.

So, all of these three principles: the mandate to love, the taking communion with the universal life force, the acknowledging that you are both/and this body of human frailty and this aspiration to unity are present.

Or what the amazing spiritual teacher, Matthew Fox, a Benedictine Monk who got excommunicated from the Catholic Church for talking about these kinds of things, about how we’re the cosmos, called “Amongness.” That you are dwelling in your body and your body is dwelling in the sea of amongness, and that the translation of, “God is within you,” is actually, if you look at the Aramaic, “God is among you.” It’s right there. It’s that soupy ocean of spirit.

The last thing I wanted to share about the holiday is the Kabbalistic view of Passover. What does it have for us? The Kabbalah tradition says Egypt isn’t Egypt the land, but Egypt is Egypt the ego, and that Israel isn’t Israel the country, but it’s the state of wholeness and unity consciousness, and that the freedom that comes in the freedom from bondage is when we stop wanting to receive for ourselves alone. 

That when you begin the moment of wanting to receive the breath because it’s a gift and receive your blessings because it’s given to you, and then your desire to receive and pass it out through you happens in equal measure, that this is the freedom from your bondage.

And that the tug of Egypt and Israel, the being trapped in the ego, or being trapped in the wanting to receive for yourself alone, and the pull toward the sacred is happening all the time in us. And that we sort of have these moments of wanting to be free and in unity and in love, and then we return to these moments of closing back down and wanting it for ourselves. And that when the balance of the pull to receiving not only for the self alone happens, then the Red Sea parts and you’re on the other side. You’re in the land of love. And so, that understanding takes it beyond a geopolitical story, beyond a generational story that happened thousands of years ago, into this moment right here.

The other thing that this day usually is used for in the liturgical calendar is a cleaning. A really long bath, self-anointing, cleaning your space. The color of the day is green. So, you can put greens in your home, you might wear a little green, the color of spring and rebirth, preparing for rebirth. So, if you’re called to do that, to add a little of the ritual to the day, put a little green on your altar, take extra time in bathing yourself, do that and hold the idea of the New Mandate in your heart.

We are called to a time of interbeing, to a time of love. To spaciousness, to making more time for the things that are important, for the deep connections and experiences in this body that fade with our death. To not be distracted by the things that are not everlasting. Enjoy them, but don’t think they’re THE thing.

Love one another, wash each other’s feet.

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