The Knowledge that Burns – reflection on St John’s Tide

Love is preceded by conscience.

Not the naive love born of affection and personal pleasure, but the love that reaches deeper.  Higher.  The love that unfolds in interest, compassion and patience.   That blossoms into commitment, dedication, and perseverance.  The love that culminates in the fruit of creative offering, of giving, of laying all that I am on the great altar of the world in service to her.   th

The way to that love is ‘made straight’ by ‘conscience’.  With this word I mean the inner awakening to the fact that I do not just live in a world of facts, of things, of stuff.  The awakening of that perceptive organ in me that is not there to see the sky, the flowers and the rushing rivers but the invisible fabric of interconnectedness.  It is the sense that perceives that I live in a world of gifts – the gifts of air, of earth, of consciousness and life – things I have not earned but have been given.  This sense leads me – if I have the courage to follow it – through these gifts to the givers, to the beings who give and the great Giver of it all.

This ‘conscience’ grows in power as I feel myself in relationship to beings.  For now I can sense where and when I have acted in ways to wound these relationships; where I have taken advantage, taken for granted, misused, abused or injured or simply been blind, deaf and unaware.  I am led out of myself to a vision of myself by the power of conscience.  It is a vision of those parts of myself that live and act as a taker.  The voice of this sense inside me becomes a kind of burning, a kind of flame burning with the awareness of debts I owe.  It is the fire of karmic knowledge.

How can I repay the immensity of what I have been given?  How can I heal what has been broken? How can I become a giver?  These questions burn, too. And this is the turn, the ‘metanoia’.  It is the turn that leads me into the deep longing – the prayer – to be a part of the stream of giving that is the very nature of the universe. At first I might only be able to move from being a ‘taker’ to a ‘receiver’ that is, someone who recognizes the givers and the gifts and is filled with the deepest gratitude and love for the world.  And I can exercise this step into being a receiver again and again, daily.

But I feel deep within me that greater calling to also being a giver, even if I feel constantly hindered in this by my own shortcomings.  This is the experience that prepares my heart to truly begin the search for the Giver, the Creator-Source.  Conscience, self-knowledge, the awakening of our sense for our karmic debts – this experience prepares the way for the being that is Love itself: the one we in Christianity call ‘Christ’.  Becoming a Christian is nothing other than the prayer to be a part of the universal work of giving, of creating, of becoming united with the One who fully gives, who ‘lays down his life for the life of the world’, who can teach me, be in me and lead me into this reality.

Reflections on St. John’s-tide by Patrick Kennedy, priest in the Christian Community.  Find out more here: or