Rollie Stanich - The Sacred Heart of Christianity
December 12, 2008 12:25

Written by Corey W. deVos

The Sacred Heart of Christianity. Part 1. Sitting on Top of the World.
Rollie Stanich and Ken Wilber

Rollie has played a vital part in the emerging Integral movement as the Chief Facillitator of Integral Spiritual Center, as a former managing editor of Integral Naked from 2004-2005, and as an ongoing contributor to Integral Life. Rollie's spiritual path is that of contemplative Christianity—he is a practitioner of Centering Prayer and a longtime student of Fr. Thomas Keating; he co-wrote and co-produced the 2008 Integral Life DVD The Future of Christianity; and he is currently writing a book about Integral Christianity entitled Who Do You Say That I Am? Rollie is an extraordinary friend, teacher, and role model; an exemplar of clarity, compassion, and grace; and is dearly beloved by all who have been fortunate enough to feel the tender warmth of his heart.

When Rollie was 25 years old he made a personal pilgrimage to Egypt. He climbed to the top of Mt. Sinai, where Moses is said to have had his world-shaking encounter with the burning bush over three thousand years earlier.  He found himself discussing the essence of love with a Jewish couple and a Bedouin Muslim—about as hopeful an image as one could possibly ask for. After awhile, Rollie found himself alone on the mountain, contemplating the meaning of it all, searching for the hidden doorway into his own heart. Looking up to the heavens, he saw the very same stars that had painted the sky in Abraham's time—an ancient canopy of light, infinitely patient, infinitely still, cradling the world in the gentle glow of cosmic radiation. Looking down, he saw the rock and soil beneath his feet—the protean clay of Creation, the mutable source from which all life emerges, and to which it inevitably returns.

It was here, on top of this hallowed mountain, that Rollie found himself at the intersection of two very different realities, smeared like a bug on a windshield between a heaven that seems to remain forever changeless, and an earth that is forever changing. Sitting on top of the world, on top of history itself, he made the most important decision of his lifetime: to give himself fully to both realities, devoting himself to time and eternity alike. And so Rollie discovered his deepest calling: to offer his life and his heart toward becoming a living conduit of love, a love that is at once radically transcendent and immediately immanent; a love that itself reflects the sacred union of heaven and earth.

This, it could be said, represents the essence of Christ's message to humanity. It is a simple recognition that we are all of two natures, both fully human and fully divine. However, as a mountain cuts into the sky without ever actually touching the sky, and the heavens embrace the earth without ever touching the earth, Christ understood that only love can possibly bridge the immeasurable gap between the two; that only within God's most sacred heart can both our natures be brought into phase with each other. In this sense, Jesus Christ was one of the most extraordinary spiritual teachers the world has ever seen, having found a direct path to the majesty of God's love, and inviting us all to follow.

But what does following Christ really mean? For many, following is as simple as naming Christ as the world's one and only true savior, adopting Him as some sort of mythic messiah to watch over our lives and rescue us from sin. For others, following is as simple as separating the man from the myth, and recognizing Christ as one of the world's greatest forerunners of humanistic morality. And for others still, following is as simple as asking oneself "what would Jesus do?" on a regular basis, treating other people with a kindness and respect that stems from an implicit understanding of the inherent goodness of mankind. These are each perfectly valid ways of interpreting Christ's role in our lives, completely appropriate (if limited) to various stages of spiritual and psychological development. But they are also incomplete, insofar as they each treat Christ as an object of awareness, existing somewhere in the stream of time outside of our own consciousness—Christ the disembodied messiah, Christ the historical personage, and Christ the proto-hippie. To truly follow Christ is not to merely walk behind Him as a sheep to a shepherd, but to follow Him as we follow our hearts and our dreams—following Christ by stepping into Christ; following Christ by becoming Christ.  We should consider taking the much more difficult road of actually subjectifying ourselves with Christ, inhabiting Christ consciousness in a direct and immediate way, and experiencing for ourselves the mysterious union of earth and heaven, of time and eternity, and of humanity and divinity that Christ Himself was able to experience.

Here we find the mystical roots of the religion, the secret Holiest of Holies at the core of the tradition, the Tootsie Roll center of the Christian Tootsie Pop. It is not enough to accept salvation as hearsay—we must taste it for ourselves, be it for ourselves, and ultimately find the Kingdom of Heaven within ourselves, the infinite stillness within our hearts that Christ told us we would find if we simply cared to look. While we should always remain cautious as to which parts of Scripture we take as literal truth, it would be difficult to find a more straightforward account of what it truly means to engage the heart of the Christian tradition than the words of the apostle Paul: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."


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