Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Love-the essence of the universe

Father John J. Lombardi

I recently was reading about Einstein and how he was searching for the

"Theory of Everything"-the scientific "grail-law" that explained the meaning and workings of the entire cosmos. He never found it. (He did say: "God doesn't play dice with the universe.") Then, one day I realized, and awakened to Einstein's dilemma, I did find the Theory of Everything. I then went to our children's choir one day and playfully asked them about this. To the question of What is the answer to The Theory of Everything, one boy answered: "God." …Right on.

"God is Love" (I Jn. 4:6).God's uncreated and divine Love is the Theory of Everything and, as the great Italian poet Dante said, is what moves the stars. I'm now reading a book called "The Fabric of the Universe" about cosmology and string theory (little microcosmic strings which supposedly build and "run" everything in the universe) and it is entertaining and very scientific-though it does not discuss theology and philosophy. I began thinking, after reading some of this book and the choir boy's insight: The reason the universe stays put together-why it came to be in the first place-is because God is love, and, theologians say, His love "boils over" and creates the universe-and gives it hidden laws to make it stable.

In This Sunday's Gospel Jesus says "Love one another…as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12 ). Seems self evident-love… love as Jesus loved. But it is not so easy sometimes.-for instance when we are driving on the highway, when we learn of "The DaVinci Code's" deceptions and slander, when we are shopping in stores, when we are multi-tasking, when a cell phone goes off in church, when a "sandpapery" person confronts us, when we face a beggar on the street… In these instances we cannot always rely on mere sentimental love but actually need to make a choice of the will to love the "other" precisely because it is difficult-to love as Jesus Himself loved-even painfully. But Love is what it is all about-life, our Sacred Religion, Jesus Christ, Eternal Life, and, yes, the Universe, too. .

Along these lines of love I recently read in a Fulton Sheen book that the Greek word for sacrificial love, agape is mentioned in the bile 320 times, while the term for "friendship love"-philia, is mentioned only 45 times. Hmm: love can be banal and bland-nebulous and feel-good, but the Bible, the catholic Church and every crucifix proclaims a kinda' "tough love"-sacrificial, wherein one's ego dies and the God-graced liberated soul serves others in freedom and purity, not for one's own sake, or gratification, as St Catherine of Siena learned and explained in her mystical "Dialogues on Divine Providence"-- , but solely for the God and the "other"-without wanting thanks or acknowledgement. I recently read a tract from a psychologist, somewhat astonishingly, wherein he stated that no religion talks about this kind of "absolutely altruistic love "-which is sacrificial and self-denying. Wait a minute, what about Our Lord and His disciples, the saints? What about Blessed Damien who served until death the Lepers of Molokai? What about St Edmund Campion who died a martyr of the Truth of the Faith in England? What about Mother Seton-our "hero of the Mountain-who tirelessly served souls no one else would? …"Love one another as I have loved you…" That's a huge word, "as". It makes the difference; it's the Equation of the Universe-both mystical and menial at the same time.

After these experiences this Chaplin- priest went on an adventure-a kinda' retreat vacation-to Western Maryland. After all Christ said: "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile" (Mk. 6:31) First stop: Rocky Gap State Park (near Cumberland). The priest found a beautiful camping spot right nearby Lake Habeeb. The water was lapping up against the land and a nearby dock, the trees whistled with the wind, the fragrant green mountains hovered above and nearby--it was just before nightfall-a blessed spot indeed. The priest, rushing out from his duties, of course forgot many things, but eventually thought-"less is more, God will provide." So he set up his tent and built a campfire, and without a lantern it was hard to read or do anything else, but: simply watch the campfire flicker and flame into the night. That was it: enjoy the simplicity and beauty of a campfire and listen to the night woods' sounds. God's form of love was manifesting all around him-the universe was undulating with sacredness. Later, after taking a walk into the woods and to the nearby lake, he was ready for rest. In the tent he read with a strategically placed flashlight under the night stars of the universe. After turning out the light to sleep he heard rumblings of some animal just outside the tent. From his past experiences he realized it would be either a big animal l like a black bear or some small vermin like a squirrel. No black bear, that, so he fell asleep and later awoke to early dawn light rain.

After "breaking camp" (breakfast was easy: some fig newtons and water-and then meditation-prayer) the priest proceeded to Deep Creek Lake, in Garret County, and found, amidst the forecasted-and-obviously-evident rains, a hotel room just by the lake-compete with a balcony. This was the next best thing to camping out-soft bed and lakeside enjoyment all at once! The lake spread out before him. And the nearby mountains loomed nearby creating a panorama of beauty and harmony. God's love was certainly evident here in this beautiful fabric of universe.

While stopping in a grocery store to pick up some "forgotten items," the priest overheard the conversation of the customers and check out lady right before him. The lady said it would be cloudy and rainy for the next five days. The customers heaved and asked where the warm weather was and expressed disappointment about bad fishing weather. The priest could sympathize but already knew this information (not by watching the Weather Channel but by, word of mouth!) Anyway, the priest made a subtle resolution after realizing this was a "Providential Moment": don't focus on "bad weather"-give thanks in all things for whatever God provides. Surrender now to win.

Later in the day the priest went out for a bike ride around the lake. As he crossed Glendale Bridge between two parts of the large, 1924 man-made lake aside to him, under cloudy skies, he kept trying to think: "Thank You." That became his aspiration (a small prayer uttered interiorly and frequently to focus one's attention). His thoughts: Thank you for the lake, for the mountains and fresh air, for the clouds which make the lands green and fertile. Thank you for the opportunity for refreshment and retreating vacations. Thank you for the time to be with You, O Lord. Thank you for the love you give to me...Yet: it was still cloudy!

My little choir friends might enjoy knowing that Einstein once vacationed at this lake. So did Henry Ford, Thomas Alva Edison and Harvey Firestone. .I only imagine Einstein's thinking (he was from Germany with it's beautiful Bavaria and Black Forest near the Alps, mind you) and he musta enjoyed the conifer trees so voluminous and vastly populous here; the quietude of the environs, the beautiful, fresh lake water, the surrounding mountains, the vast open skies and universe around him. He must have thought better out here with all these ripe conditions, but unfortunately, apparently missed The theory of Everything-God's Love.

The priest did go to the Falls on what began as a cloudy day. But: eventually it cleared as he stood next to the sixty-foot falls, roaring-just after all these Maryland "monsoons"-pummeling, torrid, driving water. Energy. Might. Love's form surging forth. The sun began peaking out as he stood right next to the peak of the falls, looking below-trying not to slip (glad mom's not here!). Then the priest walked below and the scene and experience was dramatically different: He was now virtually in the waterfalls. No, not directly under the rousing water but within its spraying breath and force-just twenty yards form it, as it now beaconed like a aquamarine-lighthouse because of the sunlight's piercing rays .The fresh watery air of its pervading pressure hurled toward the priest and bathed him in moist air. He was standing in a kinda misty "cauldron of healing" and remained minutes there to enjoy it as the rare sunlight shone from the heavens: earthy and sky, Divinity and mortal at-one-ment.There was nothing else. Everything was illuminated. He then thought: it's one thing to stand above a falls, another to look at it, another, to see a picture of one, and still another completely different ecstatic-like experience to be within a waterfalls.

After taking a hike along the creeks and rivers (enjoying the rainforest-like plants and huge, sequoia-like trees) the priest retreated back to the lake and did some meditational reading from a book, "The Priest is Not His Own," by Fulton J Sheen, from a chapter about the need for priestly poverty: "A man is free on the inside because he has a soul; he is free on the outside economically, because he owns property. The human personality is enriched through things…The priest, however, has another way to extend his personality: not by acquiring stocks and bonds, but by a greater reproduction in himself of the Hypostatic Union. He crushes his ego and desires so that in him there are two natures in one person: on the one hand his human nature, on the other 'his participation in the Divine Nature' through grace and the losing of his personality in the person of Christ." …The meditating priest thought: we can only do this by love, laying down his life for the High Priest and for His people. He also thought how often he had failed to sacrificially love because of ego, selfish desires, inordinate attachments... But like one of Mother Seton's motto encourages: "Hazard forward always."

Other times the priest spent walking and hiking, riding a bike around the lake, simply enjoying the beautiful, refreshing scenery ("Thank You, Lod")-even if it was bathed in storm clouds one minute, and sunshine light the next- God adds it all up-the cloudy days and sunny ones-and we therefore, from God's Equation of Love--get the most beautiful state-Mary-Land! While meandering upon his travels in this green MaryLand, the priest sometimes thought: this is enough, what is right here, right now, and thought of the aspiration: Present moment, Holy Moment/ Simple moment, only Moment. That is: all we have, and try as we might for more, we cannot create anything else other than this present moment, and should be able to somehow surrender to what God is giving right before us-this holy moment in space and time-even though I have things to do and tasks to accomplish-the present moment is all I have. If not now, when?, if not here, where?... will I be happy, content to find God's Providence? Another aspiration appeared to the priest: Nothing lacking, nothing distracting: All things divinely interacting. When we are in our daily lives or on vacation we seem to always want more pleasures, desire more excitement, crave more people and more uplifting exotic experiences-something "more," "different" or "new". Amidst this "striving-syndrome" it is difficult if not impossible to see God right under our "spiritual noses", to find God revealing His love as the essence and fabric of the universe within my "pedestrian" space and time. Instead we are always chasing and seeking and desiring. Thus the priest tried to remember: Give thanks in all things-even when it's cloudy!).

Later that day while reading on his balcony yet another rainstorm came breathing thru Looking closer upon the nearby lake the priest saw a faint trace of color, then looking closer, he saw a rainbow-it was almost next to him. On the left of him out on the lake the rainbow aloud was coming out of the water: blue, green, purple yellow and orange; it was beaming. The priest could distinctly see the other end entering the water-or was it coming form the lake water? Anyway, he thought: how beautiful, enticing, enchaining what a manifestation of Love. It became more brilliant as the sun shone more radiantly, and then another rainbow appeared, above the first one. The two rainbows formed prefect arcs, "aesthetic naturalist paintings" of beauty, light and love. The priest wanted to go near the rainbows but couldn't as he was enclosed by the balcony. They still seemed nearby: hovering, shining, presenting. The priest wanted to go into, and commingle with them, so entrancing was their color, luminosity and ethereal beauty. Eventually the one disappeared although and the original one later appeared out on the lake further and then eventually over-cast upon the far mountain. There it stood and eloquently existed for minutes until it finally disappeared. Rainbows, the priest thought, are interminglings of light, water and the usually invisible chromatic scale of color-and you need the right conditions for them to occur. He thought: under the proper conditions a rainbow manifests, revealing what is already there but naked to the eyes: What about other invisible realties?-angels, the Mystical Communion, Heaven. They exist, somewhere near or far, but invisibly, only manifesting under some "right conditions"-beautiful and appealing--like the Equation of the Universe-so real and near, yet so rarely realized. He also thought: if a rainbow can be this beautiful what about the allure and commingling entrancement of Heaven and God Himself? Love was manifesting in a startling stunning way-love is the essence of the universe.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi