Barrytown was originally a Christian Brothers Boarding school built by Rockefeller in the early 1900s. The Unification Church purchased it in 1974 and initially used it as a training center. In September 1975 it officially became the Unification Theological Seminary. This incident happened shortly before UTS was founded.
This was originally written as a private letter to a brother who was writing a book about Jesus. Later, it was printed in a collection of members’ testimonies.
I finally took the time to put into words my experience, though it was not easy. It is such a profound moment; one that transcends time and remains as vivid today in my mind and heart as though it happened this morning, although it was 26 years ago. It is so difficult to capture the full impact of such an experience in mere words. I would like to ask that you please pray before reading my testimony, since I feel my ability to convey it is inadequate, and I truly want God to help you gain from my sharing.
Near Barrytown, New York, is the Unification Theological Seminary, a training center where 21-day, 40-day and 120-day workshops were held. The experience I would like to share happened in 1975 as I participated in the second 120-day workshop led by Rev. Sudo.
Rev. Sudo was always praying for us to have deep, breakthrough experiences in prayer. It must have been after a lecture on Jesus’ life course, around Easter time, that a prayer walk was planned for early in the morning. All the workshop participants would participate, easily over one hundred. It was to be in ‘Benedictine silence’, meditatively walking in single file, along a path that later would be called “True Mother’s Trail”.
At the beginning of the walk, there would be a small choir, singing traditional hymns; along the trail, there would be readers stationed at intervals, reading passages from the Bible and True Father’s words about Jesus. We would continue along this path that wound through a wooded area, down a hill by a lake, up a hill, and then ended at a clearing where we would all gather, sing a few songs, and close our walk with prayer.
I was in the choir. There were three or four of us on each side of the path, and we sang some beautiful and simple hymns. I remember “Be thou My Vision” was one of them. After the last person passed between us, we fell silent and followed behind. I was the very last in line. From where I was standing, I could see people winding their way into the woods and disappearing from sight, then a long trail of people reappearing up the hill in the distance and already beginning to gather in the clearing.
Suddenly, inexplicably, I felt myself to be in the crowd of people following Jesus to Golgotha. I began weeping uncontrollably. I was shocked, dismayed and horrified. I was confused: how could it be two thousand years ago? But the leaves on the bushes beside the trail revealed to me that Jesus had just passed by them, sharing with me the scene with all the sounds, the colors, the smells. The air was charged with energy. Every leaf was intensely clear and vivid, screaming out in agony, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Their accusations were piercing. “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS? THE LORD OF CREATION! GOD’S SON! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
I can still feel the intensity of the air; every particle of creation, every molecule was participating in the grief, writhing. Nothing was indifferent. Groaning. Groaning, groaning in travail. I felt an immense, profound longing, as though my soul was screaming desperately to stop what was happening, yet I was unable to stop it, in a hysteria of helplessness. Creation had an excuse, without hands and mouths and feet. But here I was a human being! Why could I do nothing? Why could I not stop this insanity? Why? Why? Why? Why? The sobbing continued to wrack my body as wave after wave of despair and misery swept over me. I felt imprisoned in powerlessness, imprisoned in agony.
It was difficult to walk, to put one foot in front of the other. I wanted to crumble to the ground and scream and wail and beat the earth. In my mind, I was screaming, “WHAT CAN I DO?!” What could I do at this very moment, a witness to history, the worst tragedy of humankind? All of creation was glaring at my sin, humankind’s sin, and it was irreversible.
In the alternative, diminished reality, I knew I was supposed to reach the top of the hill and sing; my sense of duty kept me from collapsing. I begged Heavenly Father to help me to see from His point of view, hoping to rise above the anguish and continue on to my destination. Instead, my sorrow only intensified, piercing me from every direction. Heavenly Father shared that this scene was excruciatingly painful for Him to watch. He shared that turning away from His son on the cross was the most difficult thing He ever had to do. Wave after wave of anguish beat down upon me, relentlessly. I don’t know how I made it up that hill, but I finally staggered to the clearing and sang the required amount of time, tears pouring down my face. When unison prayer was announced, I gratefully crumbled to the ground and allowed the sobbing to completely overtake me. The realization of the enormity of this tragedy flooded me in unbearable, uncontrollable grief. I moaned and shrieked and wailed. The creation stood as mute witnesses, in shock of such an unspeakable violation of love.
Eventually, everyone left from the clearing, except one brother. He stood by, watching, wondering what he could do. He very kindly asked if he could help. When I reassured him I would be all right, he left. I was all alone and still could not stop my weeping. Every muscle in my body was spent as though I had run a marathon. Never in my life have I ever cried so deeply, so uncontrollably, yet I felt that the depths from which this sorrow came were unending. I wondered if I could endure more; perhaps I would die from the physical demands that such sobbing and sorrow required. At that moment, a voice spoke clearly and calmly in my mind, “Even if you died, completely consumed by grief, it would be as only one of God’s tears.’
The very vastness of God’s suffering stunned me into sobering calmness. My sobbing quieted to tears. Like the aftershock of a tidal wave, they would well up, pour out, then subside in successively diminishing waves until, finally, I just sat in stunned silence. Exhausted and in solemn awe, I sat for a long time. My limited mind and heart so confronted by this enormous reality, my being so drenched by the emotional ordeal, I was unable to move, unwilling to move. Creation had returned to its previous state- unintimidating, soothing, serving. Birds chirped. Trees swayed. The air allowed me to breathe freely. There was no visible evidence of what only an hour or so ago was blatantly exposed. How calm everything appeared. I continued to sit, almost afraid to move lest Heavenly Father had something more to share with me. I sat listening, listening, waiting. Finally, after a long silence, a voice spoke simply and definitively, "Follow him. Follow him.”
Having been plunged into the depths of grief, confronted by the holocaust of God’s heart, seared to the marrow of my bones with regret and remorse, I survived- to recieve this direction. Slowly, I got up and walked down the hill.
One cannot ‘leave’ Heavenly Father’s heart: it is everywhere. If God’s grief were released, we would all be consumed by it. In the face of such vastness, it is easy to feel minuscule, insignificant. Yet True Parents have taught us that God’s children all have the power to liberate His heart. How eternally significant we become!