I just posted this on my blog on the Circle’s home page, but I thought you all might enjoy it, and it continues the theme of cultivating a relationship with God, which I covered in my recent editorial “Are we avoiding God?” and in my recent class on how to pray.
The prayer for Lesson 248 is a favorite of mine, so I thought I would write a little commentary on it, drawing out the meaning I see in it. It is a brief prayer which is deceptively simple-looking, such that we can very easily pass it right by.
Father, my ancient love for You returns,
This is such a poignant and beautiful line. To get the sense of it, imagine that you discover that someone in your life, someone who has seemed quite ordinary to you, is actually your soul mate, and that in some ancient time the two of you shared a love that was deep and powerful beyond words. Yet somehow, that love got forgotten, to the point where, when you encounter this person in the present, there is no hint that anything like that was ever there. Yet one day, you look in this person’s eyes and something happens. It all comes flooding back. It turns out this love that has slept for eons has never died, or even lessened. It just went underground. And now it is back, in full flower, as powerful as ever. So as you look into this person’s eyes, imagine speaking his or her name and then saying, with all the love in your heart, “My ancient love for you has returned.”
Now imagine that all of this applies to God. In an ancient past, before time began, God was your True Love. Yet you left this love for other loves. That was a long, long time ago. It therefore seemed like that love was broken, past all hope of repair. The sheer capacity to love God like you used to seemed to have drained out of you, as if there was hardly anything left in your heart for Him. But in this first line of the prayer, you find that that capacity is still there. The well of love in you for God has not lessened, not even by a single drop. Now all of it comes surging back, as if that ancient past was only yesterday. With all this in mind, imagine saying to God, and meaning, “Father, my ancient Love for You returns.”
and lets me love Your Son again as well.
This reawakened love for the Father naturally spills over into love for His Son—for everyone. After all, the Son is just a chip off the old block. How can you love the Father without loving the extension of the Father? So the love with which you love God is the very same love with which you now love your brothers. And like your love of God, this love is seemingly new, yet older than time itself. For you love His Son not for the first time, but “again.”
Father, I am as You created me.
This line may seem like a standard Course statement just thrown in here almost at random. But the Course never does that, so we have to ask what it is doing here. Once we do, we can readily see that this shares the theme of the first line, in which a state of affairs that seems to lie in the distant past suddenly is here in the present. That, in fact, is the key to this whole prayer. It’s all about a distant past that suddenly becomes present.
This line pinpoints that distant past: when God created me, when I issued from God’s Heart and Will, fresh, unspoilt, and perfect. That was when God was the object of all my love.
This sentence strikes me as making a more extreme statement than the first. In the first, my ancient love is now here in the present; it has returned to me. Yet in this second sentence, my ancient being is here in the present. And, strictly speaking, it’s not returning; it never left. The being that God gave me in the beginning is still my being, right now. What is returning is merely my awareness of that unchanged being. I am just remembering it, and as I do, I also remember its innate love for its Creator.
And if my love for God is an inherent part of my being, then like my being, that love itself must never have left. It never actually became past. In truth it’s always been present, just hiding in the mists of forgetfulness.
Now is Your Love remembered, and my own.
This next line continues that theme of an ancient past becoming present. In the first line we acknowledged that our ancient love for God was returning. The second line implied that the return was not a real return but merely a remembering. Now, in this third line, we speak of remembering the other side of the relationship: God’s ancient Love for us. “Now I remember. I don’t just love You; You love me, more profoundly than my current mind can comprehend. Once upon a time, that love was everything to me. And now it is again.” So the love from both sides is coming back into awareness, becoming present to us again. Which means the relationship itself is coming back, whole and undamaged.
When this line speaks of me remembering “my own” love. It is talking about my love for God, of course, but it’s not confined to that. After all, the very first sentence said that my love for God is also my love for His Son. So what I am remembering here is a love without distinctions, a love that, like the sun, shines in all directions.
Now do I understand that they are one.
“They” of course refers to God’s Love and my love. As that long-ago time becomes fully present, I realize that these aren’t two separate loves that God and I are exchanging. Rather, the Love with which God loves me is the very same love with which I love Him. I’m loving God with the love He gave me. There is, then, just this one Love, being passed back and forth and fully shared.
This last line always has an unexpected impact on me, and I’m trying to figure out why. I think it’s because it speaks to that capacity issue. I think we all are deeply troubled by what we see as our inadequate capacity to love. This naturally comes up when we think of loving God. If God is infinite, how can our finite little hearts love Him adequately? This line answers that. I’m loving God with His Own Love. My capacity now is infinite, and also effortless, a gift from God that I would, as an automatic reflex, give back to Him.
As a whole, this prayer speaks of returning to an ancient past, in which my being was pure and in which God was my True Love. In that time before time, all of God’s Love was lavished on me as His beloved Son, and I took it all in and loved Him back with the very same Love. That ancient past seemed to be over and done with, so long ago that it hardly seems relevant now. As the saying goes, you can’t go home again. But it turns out you can. This prayer speaks of me realizing that that perfect relationship never actually passed, as it finally becomes to me now what it’s in fact always been: present.