Big nostril patience

The root of the Hebrew word for 'patience' means 'big nostrils' according to Jean-Yves Leloup in his excellent "Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic between Buddhism and Christianity".

Unlike Knitter and Thompson (reviewed here:, Fr Leloup is primarily focused on the practical: on the tools for transformation. The insights and tools are drawn from both traditions, compared and contrasted with one another and juxtaposed so the reader can ponder and practice how the doors of perception can be cleansed and we can stand in reality as it is, able to greet its suffering with compassion, with a grounded ego, broken open to transcendent life.

One of its many pleasures are these glimpses of how in entymology wisdom abounds of how body and spirit are part of a single whole. You can see in the example above the body breathing into patience, where breath and spirit are one, breathing in takes you to a place of calm beyond the grasping self and that space allows the self to release.

But one of the most radical sections is a discussion of the paradox of joy abounding where joy is surrendered to take through the pain of others, and transform it. He quotes a priest telling him, shockingly at the time, that Christ's greatest moment of joy is the crucifixion, not because Christ is a pathological masochist but because the self truly surrendered for others, with no thought of itself, is the place of greatest joy.

Christ, according to the Apocryphal Acts of St John, dances us into salvation even onto the cross; and, in Russian, Christ turns to the good thief and tells him not that he will be in paradise but that he is!

Leloup argues that we need new images that do not depict Christ as immersed in suffering rather than in liberating us from it. As the Buddha's smile is not an image of indifference but compassionate recognition, the Christ reality on the cross, suffered, is always suffused with the being of resurrection.

Rare are the examples of Christ smiling on the Cross, remarks Leloup, but here is on from the Abbey at Lerins.


Popular posts from this blog

Exploring the roots of and the routes to empathy

Climate: A new and regenerating story

Learning to meditate