Playful Mysticism

G. K. Chesterton said “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly,” and Jesus warns his followers, “I tell you, whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.” I don’t know about you, but when I think of “like a little child,” what immediately springs to mind is not only faithful trust, but also a spontaneous playfulness and love for all things fun, joyful and silly (the English word “silly” actually comes from a Germanic word that also meant “blessed”). I know we’re not accustomed to think this way, but I think Christians need to be exploring the playful dimension of mystical spirituality.

Here on Good Friday, it’s easy to get caught up in the horrors and terrors of a faith that centers on sacrificial love — sacrificial to the point of death. But I think we need to remember that ours is not a funereal religion. We commemorate Christ’s death not because of its horror (and yes, it is a horror) but because, paradoxically, it offers hope. How? When Christ died and journeyed through hell, it was as if he were threading the thread of Divine Love through the needle of the death experience. Once that love radiates through death, it cannot destroy us, even if it marks the finality of our earthly existence. If death is no longer something to fear, then ours is a faith of joy and delight.

And if ours is a faith of joy and delight, than even on this Good Friday, let us be people of joy, of play, of fun.

I’m not sure how to unpack this idea in the light of Christian mysticism — but I’m working on it. And wherever the Spirit leads me, I think you can trust that it will show up both on this blog and in the book I’m writing.

But until then… may the reverence of this solemn day dance not by itself, but partnered with an inextinguishable gladness in your heart.

Is Mysticism Genetic?
Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It's Because We All Do)
Pentecost and Ecstasy
Happy St. Hildegard's Day!
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Paul Maurice Martin

    “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly” – love it! I’m in my fifteenth year of a rare degenerative illness, and honestly, I’ve learned that humor is a spiritual thing.

    On a serious note, I view Good Friday as hopeful not only in pointing to Easter, but as profoundly optimistic in itself at the depths of its sorrow.