“Where is the place of the heart? The heart is hidden…The moment the bright light of the Truth reflects upon the heart, the heart becomes joyful. Then in a moment, that light disappears, but many times it happens like this so that the heart might become a heart. It burns, and many times the heart gets broken, until it melts and only God remains.”
-From Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz (tr. Refik Algan and Camille Helminski)
This is one of the stranger stories of Jesus’s life that we don’t focus on much in church. It doesn’t even have its own feast day! It is included among the Seven Sorrows of Mary and the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary by Roman Catholics.
In this short story contained only in Luke, Jesus travels to Jerusalem with his parents to observe the Passover. On their way home, they notice he is not among the caravan and head back panic-stricken to search for him. The story says he was missing for three days. Where once Mary sought him and found only the empty space of his absence, many years later the shock would echo back as three women sought the body of their teacher and found the empty tomb.
After this seeking, Mary and Joseph finally find him in the Temple, discussing scripture with scholars and baffled by his parents’ worry.
There are deep spiritual layers to this odd story. Helminski connects it to a similar one Rumi recounts about the Prophet Muhammad, who briefly goes missing from his wet-nurse when she approaches the Kaaba to return him to his mother and grandfather:
“Here we have again the story of finding, of rediscovering the shining, pure-hearted one, in proximity with the holy, sacred space of prayer.”
She shares a powerful passage from the Masnavi, in which Rumi has God speak:
“We have great affections toward this earth, because it lies prostrate in humility…
Its outside is at war with its inner reality:
inwardly it glows like a jewel while outwardly it seems a common stone…
Its outside denies it and says the inside is nothing;
its inside says, “We will show you the truth: wait and see!”
Its outside and inside are struggling:
divine aid rewards this patient endurance. …
We are the Revealer of the mystery, and Our work is just this,
that We bring forth hidden things from concealment.”
-Rumi, Masnavi IV
“This search for the Beloved is ongoing and at the core of our human experience. …It was here [in the Temple], centered within the heart, that [Jesus] was “found” by the One Finder (Al-Wajid), the One within whose Hand is such abundance of support, who restores us and opens our hearts with gratitude.”
How long so many of us spend searching madly for the Beloved only to be greeted by the playful, even impertinent question: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Where is the Father’s house, one might ask. The religious official is likely to say the temple, or the church, or the mosque. The mystic says, “It’s in your very own heart.”