img363.jpg

The Journey of Quadratos

By Alexander John Shaia

The First Path - How Do We Face Change?

Climbing The Great Mountain of Matthew

Matthew’s gospel was written to the Messianic Jews of Antioch two to five years after the destruction of the Great Temple of Jerusalem and the massacre of all its priests. The Temple, its rules and priests had represented the center of their lives, and now many were certain that God had abandoned them. They felt alone and frightened. The Jewish community was undergoing intense grief and teetered on the edge of being torn apart by the tremendous struggles that naturally ensued.

In the first path of our own spiritual journey we ask, How do we face change? We usually find ourselves in much the same place as the Messianic Jews.

 

The Second Path - How Do We Move Through Suffering?

Crossing Mark’s Stormy Sea

The City of Rome at the time of Mark’s gospel was a terrible place for Messianic Jews. Made scapegoats by Nero and held responsible for an immense seven-day fire that had burned much of Rome, they found themselves at the mercy of the centurions who went through the city knocking on doors in search of Jesus’ followers. Once found, these believers and their entire families were taken away, horrifically tortured, and murdered before crowds in the Circus Maximus. The entire Jewish community was in chaos, filled with bitterness and despair. Believers in in Jesus as the Messiah were asking themselves if their belief was true and whether it was worth the sacrifice of their lives and their children’s lives. Mark’s stark language and his metaphorical images of wilderness and trackless sea reflected the bleakness of their terrible dilemma.

The second path requires great endurance. Our question is, How do we move through suffering?

 

The Third Path - How Do We Receive Joy?

Resting in John’s Glorious Garden

The Gospel of John stands apart from the other gospels in many ways. Rather than employing a story line of Jesus’ life to accomplish his objectives, John used long, philosophical narratives with the primary metaphor of garden— specifically, the Garden of Eden. It is likely that these discourses were used as meditations—part of believers’ preparations for Christian baptism in the city of Ephesus. By the time this gospel was written at the end of the first century, the Followers of The Way called themselves Christians. They also came from many backgrounds, not just Judaism. Ephesus was a thriving port city and the new faith spread rapidly. Enthusiasm was great and spirits were high—but the euphoria of those high spirits was now slipping into self-righteousness and division. John sought to establish a common and deeper grounding for the followers of the young Christian faith and warned them of the dangers presented by their zeal.

The kinds of experiences John refers to in his gospel are essentially mysticism. They are literally “not of this world” (not usual or conventional understanding) which is also true for much of the third path.

Yet, there are other times that arise in our lives, well-comprehended by the wisdom of those early Christians, when the separated sections of John’s meditations suddenly cohere into a revelatory whole—a complex, and glorious vision, an ecstatic, poetic song of the soul. After the trials represented by the gospels of Matthew and Mark, the things that have seemed separate—the pieces of ourselves, the pieces of our lives, and the pieces of the gospel—suddenly, and usually unexpectedly, come together. Almost miraculously, everything makes sense.

We want only to sit in the garden and open ourselves to this wondrous and radiant experience. In us, all around us, the mystery of union unfolds, and we feel—deeply—the truth of oneness with Spirit. Ecstasy fills us, or perhaps the deepest calm we have ever known. Having come through the pain and uncertainty of the second path, the full Gospel of John can feel like nothing less than a perfectly timed, life-giving oasis. Lest we become too possessive of this oasis, our necessary meditation for the third path is, How do we receive joy?

The Fourth Path - How Do We Mature in Service?

Walking Luke’s Road of Riches

The Gospel of Luke was written as a two-volume document in the last part of the first century to assist and instruct various communities of Christians throughout the Mediterranean region. Although growing and thriving in their faith, many Christians carried new pain as they were formally cast out from Judaism, their mother faith. Penalties and legal sanctions against the practice of Christianity that had existed only in Rome spread outward after the schism with Judaism in the mid–80s, and the Roman Empire became a much more active oppressor. These two historical events presented significant obstacles to the emerging Christianity communities. How were they to respond to hurt? To injustice? Part of Luke’s answer was contained in the metaphor that is primary in this gospel. Everything in the Gospel of Luke happens “on the road” while traveling. The destination is not the focus at all. It is entirely secondary.

Luke called the early Christians to practice. He asked them to change their previous ways of responding to difficulty and crisis, telling them to model their lives on the example set by Jesus and the apostles. He encouraged them to offer compassion when faced with oppression and to demonstrate the values of Christianity by the witness of their lives. He instructed them to trust in their spiritual practice, and have faith that the changes they sought would ultimately arrive. Luke asked Christians to forsake any bitterness over their separation from Judaism, and to avoid direct combat with the Romans. His narrative reiterates, over and over, that the only proper course for Christians is “to be” the change they desire.

In the fourth path we ask, How do we mature in service? We are much like those early Christians. Our ego-selves need to become grounded. We have to learn more than theory. We must absorb the behavior of a new way.

A more conscious awareness of the fourfold map has finally found its way back to us. Now the ancient and sacred Gospel can be seen as an integrated and inspired blueprint of our spiritual journey. And as we bring greater awareness of the map to practice, we will be more fully engaged in Christianity’s most noble purpose¾and that of all humanity—ongoing transformation through love.

For more from Dr. Shaia, visit: Quadratos.com

Comment