Prayer and meditation — at least for people who believe in God, they go together like love and marriage (or a horse and a carriage).
A few months ago The Little Book of Christian Mysticism was published. It’s a book I edited/curated, a collection of over 300 quotations from Christian mystics, arranged for devotional use. It’s meant to be a springboard for your personal meditation.
The book features the wisdom of Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairvaux, Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, Evelyn Underhill, and a variety of other mystical voices from the past two thousand years.
The quotations are arranged in an inductive manner, so that as you read the book you will be brought progressively deeper into the Christian mysteries, beginning with God’s calling and human longing, progressing through the classical stages of purification and illumination, leading to the apex of the mystical journey: the unitive life, the state of theosis or “participation in the Divine Nature.
I loved pulling together these quotes and I think the book can serve both as a wonderful introduction to the mystics and their wisdom, as well as a useful devotional book to inspire meditation on a regular basis. So, please, my friends, buy it — if not for yourself, then for someone you love!
But wait… there’s more.
Essential Mystic Prayers
A few weeks ago I was directing a retreat at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina, and while visiting the monk’s gift shop I stumbled across a newly-published book that strikes me as a perfect companion piece to The Little Book of Christian Mysticism.
The book is called Essential Mystic Prayers. The editor is anonymous, but it is published by Paraclete Press (the same good folks who published my book on C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader).
Essential Mystic Prayers is pretty much exactly what the title implies: an anthology of prayers, written by a variety of mystics from the Christian tradition, from Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century to Sr. Joyce Rupp in our time.
The prayers cover a variety of topics and themes, from Trust and Guidance, to Peace and Presence, to (of course) Union with God.
Some well-known prayers are included, such as Thomas Merton’s famous “I have no idea where I am going” prayer, or St Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe. But many are gems that I was unfamiliar with, including prayers from lesser-known mystics like Dimitrii of Rostov, Lilian Stavely, and Mother Cabrini.
It’s beautifully packaged (as is usual for books from Paraclete), and while only about one-third the size of The Little Book of Christian Mysticism, the dimensions of the book are identical, making me think there is a bit of happy serendipity (or some behind-the-scenes workings of the Holy Spirit) that these two books, so thematically linked, were published within weeks of each other, in formats that make them perfectly suited to be used together.
So here’s my suggestion, dear friends: get copies of both Essential Mystic Prayers and The Little Book of Christian Mysticism. Use them together. Begin and/or end your devotional time with a prayer from Essential Mystic Prayers; and then turn to The Little Book for inspiration for your meditation.
P.S. Just as The Little Book of Christian Mysticism is the third book in a series of I books I wrote on mysticism, I have since learned that Essential Mystic Prayers is the third in a series of “essential prayers” books that Paraclete Press has published. The previous two are called Essential Christmas Prayers, and Essential Celtic Prayers. Here’s to hoping that they have more “essential prayers” books in the works.