On an auspicious morning in the year of 1163, standing in the rarified French dust of what would one day become the great gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame, two men, one a bishop, the other, the Pope of Christendom, sprinkled holy water, read from the Psalter, and serenaded an unsuspecting block of smooth stone with the beautiful canticle, the Veni Creator Spiritus. This was no ordinary rock hastily earthed from a northern French quarry but the “cornerstone” of Paris’s beloved Notre Dame Cathedral.
Look at any 18th century map of France, and all roads begin and end at Notre Dame Cathedral’s steps. Not only is this architectural wonder of stone and bejeweled glass beautiful to the eye, but this French Lady has proven through many a revolution, world war and reign of terror that she was built on a solid foundation and has what it takes to stand the test of time.
Ask any architect or stonemason and they will tell you the cornerstone is the first and most important stone laid in the foundation of a building. All other stones take their lead from this central guide, thus setting the tone for the architectural masterpiece to come. In the medieval cathedrals of centuries ago, the cornerstone was laid at the heart of the cruciform design, the place reserved for the holy altar.
What is the cornerstone of your life? Is it your appearance, children, professional life, barn of many treasures?
The Bible gently suggests that from the very beginning, it was God who laid the cornerstone in the exquisite design of the human form. With arms outstretched, we also take the shape of a cross. God presciently tucked at our heart’s center a chip off the Divine block. Call it supernatural love, a piece of the heavens, or the living Divine within us. Regardless, the original design was perfect.
What an ingenious plan by the Master Architect, but what happens when we builders come in and dismiss the original design and instead lay cornerstones of wealth, popularity, beauty and cleverness to anchor our lives? Suddenly, the structure has a weak foundation. Imperceptible to the human eye, invisible fissures begin to appear on the inside. Over time, they can’t help but reveal themselves on the surface. A broken masterpiece. We builders do our best to cover our flawed vaulting, weak arches and cracked marble floors with a hastily mixed mortar of denial, cynicism, material accumulation and earthly addictions. Eventually our structure, both on the outside, but more importantly on the inside, begins to shudder under the weight of our humanity. The Divine dreams daunted.
I am reminded of what C.S. Lewis said, “You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage; but God means to build a palace in you.”
There is one absolute in life that you can count on: The wrecking ball of life will test the strength of your every stone from your marriage, health, children, finances, and especially your inner faith. For many, that is okay. Like Notre Dame Cathedral, they can withstand life’s disappointments, the losses, the heartbreaks, seasons of disillusionment and the suffering of mind, body and spirit because underneath the human scaffolding, there lives God.
Ask yourself now, “What are the one, two or handful of things that if you lost them, the architectural structure of your life would come tumbling down? Suddenly, you would lose your bearings, your identity, relevance, inner joy, grounding of peace and value in the world?”
If it is anything but the cosmic I Am, brace yourself. You are going to spend a lifetime being disappointed.
I’ll be real honest, I often edge God out with other cornerstones like my children, my spouse, my family, my health, my financial security. The worst choice always being my ego. Not one of these (mothering, marriage, work, writing, material possessions, and the health and safety of myself and family) are inherently evil, but they alone haven’t the power to sustain me.
You will know you are allowing something other than God to be your center because fear slips almost imperceptible through the door of your beating heart and takes residence beside it. No wonder so many of us live in a constant state of worry about our children, our spouses, our friends and family, our world, our impending death. But when we trust the foundation of our lives to something larger than ourselves and this one-dimensional reality, we experience a lightness of being. With a confident soul in place at our center, we can weather whatever life brings our way.
There is a misconception that you choose God once, and you are done. If only it was that easy. So many people say God is the cornerstone of their life, but then when you look at the choices they make for the design of their life, the measurements don’t work out. To live a life from your soul-ful inside requires choosing God in your every breath, encounter, relationship, and season (valley and mountaintop). Take it from the medieval stonemasons: It takes a lifetime to build an exquisite Cathedral!
The strength of our foundation while mortared into the human form is dependent entirely on the strength of our inner being. We have been given access to a supernatural power at our center, but we have to choose to access it. Nothing of this world will ever have the desire, the imagination or the love capable of building a cathedral inside us.
When I am feeling off-balance in mind, body and spirit, I whisper the heart mantra, “I am the I AM,” to bring me back to my true center. In the Old Testament, when Moses asked the name of the Cosmic Presence before him, God responded, I am the I AM. Millenniums later, Jesus also identified “the God within” as the I AM. The I AM at the altar of our hearts transcends time, suffering, and our mortal existence. The Divine within our souls, experienced uniquely and beautifully by each one of us, is the way, the truth and the secret to life abundant.
One day we will each find ourselves standing alone. We will look around and wish we had trusted more, spent more time on spiritual matters, and loved better the One who remained always faithful at the cornerstone of our heart.
This week when you are in need of “touching stone,” practice the simple heart mantra, I am the I AM. Whisper silently three times in that silent space between your inhale and the fall of your exhale, I AM. Tap into the knowing and the strength of your inner and divine cornerstone!
Live in Hope,