Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1John 4:7,8)
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
The season of Easter (which in liturgical churches lasts until Pentecost) has us reading through portions of John's writings. As I read John, I can't help but feel like he understands, perhaps in a mystical way, the true heart of God. In John's Gospel, he refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," as if the wonder of this reality is never far from his mind. In his Epistles, he, like Jesus, will cut to the core of the truth of God: God is love, and all who love are in fellowship with God.
Like branches on a vine, sharing the same life-giving sap, our continued connection to God allows love to flow through us, uniting us all with the very source of love, and allowing us to bring forth all the fruit of love. Those who don't love are disconnected, not only from God, but also from their neighbor, and just as importantly, from themselves.
How is it that love is able to connect us? This is the work of the Holy Spirit, which flows continuously from God, bringing all the power and wisdom and grace that we need to flourish. The celebration of Pentecost, still several weeks away, reminds us that this was a new phenomenon, a gift of the Christ; the ability to be a channel for the Spirit of God is now available to all people, not just a select few.
Mechthild of Magdeburg, a medieval mystic, lived in the 13th century. Her visions of God were written down in a book called The Flowing Light of Divinity. In this poem, she captures the essence of love, which is to flow "effortlessly" from the lover toward the beloved. Like the hawk, or eagle, who stay afloat without flapping a wing, riding the currents of air, so Mechthild sees that to love is not a chore for God. As Julian of Norwich is shown, for God to love is a joy, and the very nature of God's being.
What makes this poem compelling is the action that the love of God takes. The Holy Spirit, like a heavenly harpist, sweeps across the varied strings of humanity, desiring to play on and with us. It seems that it is not our responsibility to make the music, rather our effort comes in choosing to be open to the Spirit, open to the love that is endlessly being poured into us. Then, like the branch connected to the healthy vine which cannot help but bear fruit, we, feeling ourselves "touched in love," will have no choice but to respond in kind.
Mechthild of Magdeburg
Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings touched in Love