Mysticism for those who don’t like “mysticism”

A reader writes:In the first chapter of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism you offer your sense that mysticism offers the serious practitioner the possibility of experience of God that is transforming and which then enhances the world around us. I firmly agree. But does that mean such a transformative relationship is not open to those who can't accept the value of mysticism, or is it that the depth of the relationship is potentially greater through the pursuit of prayer, meditation and … [Read more...]

“Eleven years of Catholic education had told me nothing about Christian meditation.”

Here's an interesting article published the other day in the Utah Statesman by a fellow named Michael Sowder: Finding Home in India. The author tells the story of his spiritual journey, and it's a story I've heard again and again. Basically, it runs like this: born into a Christian family, Sowder (and countless others like him) finds himself befuddled by the sterile Christian education he received as a child. Eventually he  goes on to find meaning and insight in contemplative spirituality … [Read more...]

Awkward

A reader of my blog has written to me to ask for advice on reading the mystics. He notes, "they embrace very traditional theology that is awkward for me in the 21st century."Indeed.There is no one single "Christian mystical theology." I would be suspicious of anyone who tries to distill the teachings of all the great mystics into a single summarized statement of "this is what you do in order to become a mystic." It just doesn't work that way. For one thing, the mystics stretch across two … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

The elder opened the Philokalia, searched for an instruction of Saint Symeon the New Theologian and began: "Sit in silence and alone. Bend your head. Close your eyes. Breathe ever more quietly. With the imagination look inside your heart. Carry your intellect, that is your thought, out of your head and into your heart. As you breathe say quietly with your lips or in your intellect alone: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.' ... Try to drive away your thoughts. Keep restful patience … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

You might stare for hours at a sunset, and suddenly disappear into the World Soul, and feel yourself at one with all nature. This is well and good. But nature is not the source of this intuition. Worms and rats and foxes and weasels do not stare for hours at the sunset, and marvel at its beauty, and transcend themselves in that release — even though their senses are in many cases much sharper than ours, even though they see nature more clearly than we! No, nature is not the source of this B … [Read more...]

Taken Up

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What I find interesting about this idea of the assumption is its implications for those of us living here on the earth today.Morning prayer today includes this Responsory: "Today the Virgin Mary was taken up to heaven." Now, if we can agree that heaven is all about being in the presence of God, and if we can also agree that God is omnipresent, then it seems obvious that we can be "taken up to heaven" right here and right now. No … [Read more...]

Inside the Shell

Mark Doty has written a wonderful poem called "A Green Crab's Shell." You can read it here. It's about finding a crab shell and wondering at the beautiful shock of "Giotto blue" found within it — the color of the sky, carried by the crab all life long and yet invisible to all (except God). It took the crab's death, probably at the beak of some hungry seagull, to reveal this lovely, hidden color. Doty goes on to muse about what kinds of treasures you and I carry, hidden within our skin, that only … [Read more...]


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