In one of his talks, Richard described an encounter with a monk who was living as a recluse at Thomas Merton’s Gethsemane monastery. They met on a pathway in the woods, and the monk said to Richard, “I have a message I want you to take to the people.” He pointed up at the wide expanse of blue sky. “Please tell them,” said the monk, “GOD IS NOT OUT THERE!”
Richard takes up Julian’s mystical vision and preaches about the intimate Abba of Jesus, a God whose love is always and everywhere available, closer to us than our breathing. It is also the mighty Yahweh of our Jewish ancestors, who forbade the name of God to be spoken outside the context of religious ceremony. “Once you think you understand the Great Mystery,” said Richard, “religion becomes idolatrous.”
He led a meditation which showed how the construction of the word ‘Yahweh’ embodies the Jewish understanding of the nature of God as both ultimate mystery and absolute presence. “There were people in tears as a result of that meditation,” said Annette, “it released something very deep within them.” For another participant, Richard’s demonstration of ‘YHWH’ (no syllables) as the ‘breath’ – our first, our last and our truest prayer – was a key to uniting the Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. (See below for audio clip of Richard on ‘Yahweh – breath of God’).
Richard’s simple but revolutionary gospel message is that God is with us, among us and, ultimately, deep within us. He reminds us, with urgency and authority, that we are invited to make the pilgrimage within in order to discover just how near the kingdom of God really is and, through the unifying power of deep, wordless prayer, to reintegrate the fractured spheres of society and self.
“That’s why,” said Liz, “it makes so much sense to meditate: to help you get inside yourself and find heaven on earth.”
For more on Richard’s work and the Center for Contemplation and Action see