"That which does no earthly good cannot be heavenly minded." R. Rivera

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"...all things visible and invisible"

The last few days I have had a heavy heart due to the low morale and political division in the USA right now. To this was added the self-confessed mass murder committed in Norway by the right-wing militant anti-multiculturalist Anders Behring Breivik. But rather than focus on the negative and the stupid, I decided to focus on something positive.
...all things visible and invisible... 

I grew up in a Catholic home. Every Wednesday, after going to public school, I went to catechism class at my local parish where I learned the stories of the Old Testament, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the inspiring stories of the saints of the church from the first disciples down to modern times. I learned the great creeds of the church, particularly the Nicene Creed, so named because it was adopted by the first ecumenical council that was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 CE and held in the city of Nicaea in what is now modern Turkey.

Of all the creeds, the Nicene Creed is the most widely used by churches both for worship and instruction in the central beliefs of Christianity. In the first sentence of the creed, the Christian declares belief in Almighty God who is the creator of "heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible." I learned of course that this meant that God created all there is on both the physical and spiritual plane, and that as a human being living on earth, I was part of the "visible" creation of God. But when I was growing up, I did not feel very visible.

As a Latino person of color from a working class family, I was utterly invisible in the public school curriculum. Most teachers had zero cultural competency in Latino communities and were unapologetic about it. In fact, schools played a significant role in undermining Latino culture, even telling parents not to speak to their children in Spanish: just one of the many ways America welcomed its non-anglo "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

There were no role models who looked like me in America's political culture, the world of fame, fortune, film and fashion. Even the countless billboard signs that propagandized Americans from one end of the country to the other were completely devoid of anything resembling me or my culture. In fact, the only person who looked like me who was well known when I was growing up, was the Lone Ranger's Indian sidekick, Tonto, a name which means "Dummy" in Spanish. You can be sure we wondered if that name choice was deliberate.

I am grateful to the Catholic Church for contributing to that part of my education concerned with soulcraft, which was largely absent in public school and a wider American culture rooted in values that are first and foremost money-oriented. Whatever shortcomings the church as a whole can be blamed for, my local parish at least was the only community in American society (besides my family, relatives and close friends) where I did not feel invisible.

This was reinforced several years after high school, while attending a very peculiar Protestant church. It was quite a diverse congregation (as I said, unusual) where Hispanics, whites, some Asians and blacks all worshiped together, and I never remember once the Hispanic pastor having to give a sermon to deal with problems of prejudice among us. It was a little taste of multicultural heaven on earth (Revelation 7:9-10); a  heaven that Anders Breivik would no doubt loathe intensely.

It was a wonderful time (not the least of which because I met my future wife there), and I always say that it is because of visible, proven human love, that I came to believe the otherwise unprovable message that I am unreservedly loved by an invisible God.

Unprejudiced love, love without borders, the kind of love depicted on a cross almost 2000 years ago, cured invisibility and its causes. Despite all attempts by the Anders Breivik's of the world, I am visible still.

"...and the Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it." (John 1:5)


Vernon "Chico" Rowland said...

Thanks for sharing this Professor RIvera. I appreciate your insight and perspective.

Ruben Rivera said...

So great to hear from you Chico. Are you still in the area? We should get together.

Lucie said...

The church does do somethings right now and then :) and I do think that it is a basically hopeful institution. Glad you had a good experience there!
Hoping things are going well for you.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Well said as always my dear. The more I see the visible, the more the INVISIBLE hope we have in the REAL WORLD of God's kingdom becomes even greater. FOR NOW, we think we see and make things VISIBLE, when in reality, what we see is dim and incomplete. It is up to US to fill in the rest to bring God's full picture into better focus. But in the end, we shall see HIM and EACH OTHER as HE/WE truly are.


Palomasea said...


This is such a powerful post, one I can relate to all too well. Thank you for that wisdom.

I want to thank you, as well, for visiting my dacha! That was so much fun to put together, and what an amazing idea for the tea house, I love that!
Pelmeni are wonderfully delicious, we can pick some up at the Russian shop before our next visit.

Thanks again, all the best to you and dear Anita.

Sonja said...

An absolutely superb post! I enjoyed the whole thing, and above all, your message of hope because we are NOT invisible, none of us. We are loved by our very Creator! How awesome. Only knowing that can make the things going on around us keep our perspective. HE knows how we feel.


Debbie said...

Ruben, I am always moved by your posts. Always so beautifully put ... after I read one I always kinda sigh to myself because your words go straight to the heart.

You are able to communicate your experience as an American in an America that has never really quite accepted you and where everywhere you looked, you saw no one like you. We've talked about this and I too, have felt the same way. When I got out into the world, I soon learned that I was Invisible ... (1) because I am a Latina, and (2) because I am a woman.

The times we are living in are so very sad and the right and left have so divided the American people that I think all Americans are worn out. Those in the White House are toxic and unconscious whose only purpose is to posture and pose and keep all the working class scared to death. It is a huge mind-*#(&.
I had actually been getting a little depressed by it all, and my friend's socialist dig comment drove those differences of right and left home. I think I should stop watching t.v. and listening to pundits. They're draining the energy out of me and I'm forgetting about, as your post so aptly pointed out, the INVISIBLE. Your post helped me to remember that ... even though what we see here on earth seems to be getting more and more twisted and evil.

Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements said that (if I remember correctly) "we are living our dream and that when we awaken, we will awaken to reality" ... I like that idea and I can't wait to awaken.


Alex said...

Dear Mr.Rivera,

I love the first photo that you chose in this post! Thank you so much for your encouragement of my writing!

- Alex