ACIM Text Reading for May 19
Chapter 15 ~ The Holy Instant
XI. Christmas as the End of Sacrifice
Fear not to recognise the whole idea of sacrifice as solely of your making. And seek not safety by attempting to protect yourself from where it is not. Your brothers and your Father have become very fearful to you. And you would bargain with them for a few special relationships, in which you think you see some scraps of safety. Do not try longer to keep apart your thoughts and the Thought that has been given you. When they are brought together and perceived where they are, the choice between them is nothing more than a gentle awakening, and as simple as opening your eyes to daylight when you have no more need of sleep.
The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside yourself, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come. He comes demanding nothing. No sacrifice of any kind, of anyone, is asked by Him. In His Presence the whole idea of sacrifice loses all meaning. For He is Host to God. And you need but invite Him in Who is there already, by recognising that His Host is One, and no thought alien to His Oneness can abide with Him there. Love must be total to give Him welcome, for the Presence of holiness creates the holiness that surrounds it. No fear can touch the Host Who cradles God in the time of Christ, for the Host is as holy as the Perfect Innocence which He protects, and Whose power protects Him.
This Christmas give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you. Let yourself be healed completely that you may join with Him in healing, and let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us. Leave nothing behind, for release is total, and when you have accepted it with me you will give it with me. All pain and sacrifice and littleness will disappear in our relationship, which is as innocent as our relationship with our Father, and as powerful. Pain will be brought to us and disappear in our presence, and without pain there can be no sacrifice. And without sacrifice there love must be.
You who believe that sacrifice is love must learn that sacrifice is separation from love. For sacrifice brings guilt as surely as love brings peace. Guilt is the condition of sacrifice, as peace is the condition for the awareness of your relationship with God. Through guilt you exclude your Father and your brothers from yourself. Through peace you invite them back, realising that they are where your invitation bids them be. What you exclude from yourself seems fearful, for you endow it with fear and try to cast it out, though it is part of you. Who can perceive part of himself as loathsome, and live within himself in peace? And who can try to resolve the ‘conflict’ of Heaven and hell in him by casting Heaven out and giving it the attributes of hell, without experiencing himself as incomplete and lonely?
As long as you perceive the body as your reality, so long will you perceive yourself as lonely and deprived. And so long will you also perceive yourself as a victim of sacrifice, justified in sacrificing others. For who could thrust Heaven and its Creator aside without a sense of sacrifice and loss? And who could suffer sacrifice and loss without attempting to restore himself? Yet how could you accomplish this yourself, when the basis of your attempts is the belief in the reality of the deprivation? Deprivation breeds attack, being the belief that attack is justified. And as long as you would retain the deprivation, attack becomes salvation and sacrifice becomes love.
So is it that, in all your seeking for love, you seek for sacrifice and find it. Yet you find not love. It is impossible to deny what love is and still recognise it. The meaning of love lies in what you have cast outside yourself, and it has no meaning apart from you. It is what you prefer to keep that has no meaning, while all that you would keep away holds all the meaning of the universe, and holds the universe together in its meaning. Unless the universe were joined in you it would be apart from God, and to be without Him is to be without meaning.
In the holy instant the condition of love is met, for minds are joined without the body’s interference, and where there is communication there is peace. The Prince of Peace was born to re-establish the condition of love by teaching that communication remains unbroken even if the body is destroyed, provided that you see not the body as the necessary means of communication. And if you understand this lesson, you will realise that to sacrifice the body is to sacrifice nothing, and communication, which must be of the mind, cannot be sacrificed. Where, then, is sacrifice? The lesson I was born to teach, and still would teach to all my brothers, is that sacrifice is nowhere and love is everywhere. For communication embraces everything, and in the peace it re-establishes, love comes of itself.
Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas, for the time of Christ is meaningless apart from joy. Let us join in celebrating peace by demanding no sacrifice of anyone, for so you offer me the love I offer you. What can be more joyous than to perceive we are deprived of nothing? Such is the message of the time of Christ, which I give you that you may give it and return it to the Father, Who gave it to me. For in the time of Christ communication is restored, and He joins us in the celebration of His Son’s creation.
God offers thanks to the holy host who would receive Him, and lets Him enter and abide where He would be. And by your welcome does He welcome you into Himself, for what is contained in you who welcome Him is returned to Him. And we but celebrate His Wholeness as we welcome Him into ourselves. Those who receive the Father are one with Him, being host to Him Who created them. And by allowing Him to enter, the remembrance of the Father enters with Him, and with Him they remember the only relationship they ever had, and ever want to have.
This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ. I have perfect faith in you to do all that you would accomplish. Nothing will be lacking, and you will make complete and not destroy. Say, then, to your brother:
So will the year begin in joy and freedom. There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the holy instant as this year is born, and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening. Make this year different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you. This is our will. Amen.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for May 19
If I defend myself I am attacked.
1. Who would defend himself unless he thought he were attacked, that the attack were real, and that his own defense could save himself? And herein lies the folly of defense; it gives illusions full reality, and then attempts to handle them as real. It adds illusions to illusions, thus making correction doubly difficult. And it is this you do when you attempt to plan the future, activate the past, or organize the present as you wish.
2. You operate from the belief you must protect yourself from what is happening because it must contain what threatens you. A sense of threat is an acknowledgment of an inherent weakness; a belief that there is danger which has power to call on you to make appropriate defense. The world is based on this insane belief. And all its structures, all its thoughts and doubts, its penalties and heavy armaments, its legal definitions and its codes, its ethics and its leaders and its gods, all serve but to preserve its sense of threat. For no one walks the world in armature but must have terror striking at his heart.
3. Defense is frightening. It stems from fear, increasing fear as each defense is made. You think it offers safety. Yet it speaks of fear made real and terror justified. Is it not strange you do not pause to ask, as you elaborate your plans and make your armor thicker and your locks more tight, what you defend, and how, and against what?
4. Let us consider first what you defend. It must be something that is very weak and easily assaulted. It must be something made easy prey, unable to protect itself and needing your defense. What but the body has such frailty that constant care and watchful, deep concern are needful to protect its little life? What but the body falters and must fail to serve the Son of God as worthy host?
5. Yet it is not the body that can fear, nor be a thing of fear. It has no needs but those which you assign to it. It needs no complicated structures of defense, no health-inducing medicine, no care and no concern at all. Defend its life, or give it gifts to make it beautiful or walls to make it safe, and you but say your home is open to the thief of time, corruptible and crumbling, so unsafe it must be guarded with your very life.
6. Is not this picture fearful? Can you be at peace with such a concept of your home? Yet what endowed the body with the right to serve you thus except your own belief? It is your mind which gave the body all the functions that you see in it, and set its value far beyond a little pile of dust and water. Who would make defense of something that he recognized as this?
7. The body is in need of no defense. This cannot be too often emphasized. It will be strong and healthy if the mind does not abuse it by assigning it to roles it cannot fill, to purposes beyond its scope, and to exalted aims which it cannot accomplish. Such attempts, ridiculous yet deeply cherished, are the sources for the many mad attacks you make upon it. For it seems to fail your hopes, your needs, your values and your dreams.
8. The “self” that needs protection is not real. The body, valueless and hardly worth the least defense, need merely be perceived as quite apart from you, and it becomes a healthy, serviceable instrument through which the mind can operate until its usefulness is over. Who would want to keep it when its usefulness is done?
9. Defend the body and you have attacked your mind. For you have seen in it the faults, the weaknesses, the limits and the lacks from which you think the body must be saved. You will not see the mind as separate from bodily conditions. And you will impose upon the body all the pain that comes from the conception of the mind as limited and fragile, and apart from other minds and separate from its Source.
10. These are the thoughts in need of healing, and the body will respond with health when they have been corrected and replaced with truth. This is the body’s only real defense. Yet is this where you look for its defense? You offer it protection of a kind from which it gains no benefit at all, but merely adds to your distress of mind. You do not heal, but merely take away the hope of healing, for you fail to see where hope must lie if it be meaningful.
11. A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. It is secure in certainty that obstacles can not impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal that serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.
12. A healed mind is relieved of the belief that it must plan, although it cannot know the outcome which is best, the means by which it is achieved, nor how to recognize the problem that the plan is made to solve. It must misuse the body in its plans until it recognizes this is so. But when it has accepted this as true, then is it healed, and lets the body go.
13. Enslavement of the body to the plans the unhealed mind sets up to save itself must make the body sick. It is not free to be the means of helping in a plan which far exceeds its own protection, and which needs its service for a little while. In this capacity is health assured. For everything the mind employs for this will function flawlessly, and with the strength that has been given it and cannot fail.
14. It is, perhaps, not easy to perceive that self-initiated plans are but defenses, with the purpose all of them were made to realize. They are the means by which a frightened mind would undertake its own protection, at the cost of truth. This is not difficult to realize in some forms which these self-deceptions take, where the denial of reality is very obvious. Yet planning is not often recognized as a defense.
15. The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for, unless it makes its own provisions. Time becomes a future emphasis, to be controlled by learning and experience obtained from past events and previous beliefs. It overlooks the present, for it rests on the idea the past has taught enough to let the mind direct its future course.
16. The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. What it has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past, without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way.
17. Defenses are the plans you undertake to make against the truth. Their aim is to select what you approve, and disregard what you consider incompatible with your beliefs of your reality. Yet what remains is meaningless indeed. For it is your reality that is the “threat” which your defenses would attack, obscure, and take apart and crucify.
18. What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan, for He would never offer pain to you. But your defenses did not let you see His loving blessing shine in every step you ever took. While you made plans for death, He led you gently to eternal life.
19. Your present trust in Him is the defense that promises a future undisturbed, without a trace of sorrow, and with joy that constantly increases, as this life becomes a holy instant, set in time, but heeding only immortality. Let no defenses but your present trust direct the future, and this life becomes a meaningful encounter with the truth that only your defenses would conceal.
20. Without defenses, you become a light which Heaven gratefully acknowledges to be its own. And it will lead you on in ways appointed for your happiness according to the ancient plan, begun when time was born. Your followers will join their light with yours, and it will be increased until the world is lighted up with joy. And gladly will our brothers lay aside their cumbersome defenses, which availed them nothing and could only terrify.
21. We will anticipate that time today with present confidence, for this is part of what was planned for us. We will be sure that everything we need is given us for our accomplishment of this today. We make no plans for how it will be done, but realize that our defenselessness is all that is required for the truth to dawn upon our minds with certainty.
22. For fifteen minutes twice today we rest from senseless planning, and from every thought that blocks the truth from entering our minds. Today we will receive instead of plan, that we may give instead of organize. And we are given truly, as we say:
If I defend myself I am attacked. But in defenselessness I will be strong, and I will learn what my defenses hide.
23. Nothing but that. If there are plans to make, you will be told of them. They may not be the plans you thought were needed, nor indeed the answers to the problems which you thought confronted you. But they are answers to another kind of question, which remains unanswered yet in need of answering until the Answer comes to you at last.
24. All your defenses have been aimed at not receiving what you will receive today. And in the light and joy of simple trust, you will but wonder why you ever thought that you must be defended from release. Heaven asks nothing. It is hell that makes extravagant demands for sacrifice. You give up nothing in these times today when, undefended, you present yourself to your Creator as you really are.
25. He has remembered you. Today we will remember Him. For this is Eastertime in your salvation. And you rise again from what was seeming death and hopelessness. Now is the light of hope reborn in you, for now you come without defense, to learn the part for you within the plan of God. What little plans or magical beliefs can still have value, when you have received your function from the Voice for God Himself?
26. Try not to shape this day as you believe would benefit you most. For you can not conceive of all the happiness that comes to you without your planning. Learn today. And all the world will take this giant stride, and celebrate your Eastertime with you. Throughout the day, as foolish little things appear to raise defensiveness in you and tempt you to engage in weaving plans, remind yourself this is a special day for learning, and acknowledge it with this:
This is my Eastertime. And I would keep it holy. I will not defend myself, because the Son of God needs no defense against the truth of his reality.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q) What is the role of meditation in practicing A Course in Miracles?
A) Meditation as such is not an integral part of the Course’s curriculum. Certainly one can take the workbook lessons and their one-year training program to be exercises in meditation. But, again, these are only meant for a one-year period. However, Jesus would never object to his students spending quiet time with him, asking for help in removing the blocks of guilt and hate that interfere with their awareness of his loving presence. Nevertheless, he specifically cautions students not to make idols of their regular periods of spiritual practice, even though they may still require structure, part of which, naturally, could be times of meditation or quiet:
But what about those who have not reached his [an advanced teacher of God’s] certainty? They are not yet ready for such lack of structuring on their own part. What must they do to learn to give the day to God? There are some general rules which do apply, although each one must use them as best he can in his own way. Routines as such are dangerous, because they easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up (M-16.2:1-5; italics ours).
In “I Need Do Nothing,” his special message to Helen which we quoted above, Jesus specifically discusses how his Course is not a course in meditation, but rather has a much different focus. This does not make it necessarily better than other paths, but it does establish how different it is from them:
Many have spent a lifetime in preparation, and have indeed achieved their instants of success. This course does not attempt to teach more than they learned in time, but it does aim at saving time …. It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement by fighting against sin. Enormous effort is expended in the attempt to make holy what is hated and despised [the body]. Nor is a lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary. All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose, Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy.Your way will be different, not in purpose but in means. … You are not making use of the course if you insist on using means which have served others well, neglecting what was made for you (T- I8.VII.4:4-5,7-11; 5:1; 6:5; italics ours in 4:9).
And so, students of A Course in Miracles would be silly not to meditate, if such a practice is beneficial to their spiritual path. And Jesus, again, would hardly seek to dissuade them. However, he would caution them, as we have seen, not to make the meditative practice a source of dependency. It should be a means, not an end. Moreover, it would certainly be a mistake if such students felt that all students of A Course in Miracles must meditate, simply because they did. Students should never forget that the curriculum is highly individualized, and that the personal curriculum is undertaken between each individual student and the Holy Spirit.
There is another caution we may note here regarding dependency and meditation. The clear purpose of A Course in Miracles, and specifically the workbook, is for its students to generalize the lessons and principles to all aspects of their daily lives, at all times. It would be directly against this purpose to have students need to take time out from a difficult situation so as to go apart and be externally quiet. This clearly would never work in the midst of a traffic jam, a difficult meeting, a psychotherapy session, a classroom, a car filled with boisterous children, etc. If the quiet cannot be internalized so that one knows that Jesus or the Holy Spirit is always present in the mind, then the actual meditation has been of little use. Rather, students should aim at generalizing these quiet times to all times, learning how accessible their true Teacher is.