Mysticism

MYSTICISM: Hadewijch Of Antwerp by Harvey Egan

June 21, 2017

From An Anthology of Christian Mysticism The Flemish Beguine, Hadewijch, is perhaps the most sublime exponent of love mysticism in the Western tradition.  Love mysticism contends that God allows himself to be experienced as Love by a person who ardently desires to love and to be united with God in this life. In addition, this love is usually deeply emotional, ecstatic, visionary, and bridal.  So traumatic is this madness at times that the visionary’s physical well-being and even life are endangered. Hadewijch was a Beguine, that is, a woman who lived a semi-religious community life, but without vows.  The Beguines were pious women who seem to have rejected both a woman’s constructed life at court and the stricter obligations [...]

POETRY: Hadewijch Of Antwerp—Five Poems on Love

June 21, 2017

Love’s Maturity In the beginning Love satisfies us. When Love first spoke to me of love— How I laughed at her in return! But then she made me like the hazel trees, Which blossom early in the season of darkness, And bear fruit slowly. Knowing Love In Herself I do not complain of suffering for Love, It is right that I should always obey her, For I can know her only as she is in herself, Whether she commands in storm or in stillness. This is a marvel beyond my understanding, Which fills my whole heart And makes me stray in a wild desert. Love’s Constancy Anyone who has waded Through Love’s turbulent waters, Now feeling hunger and now satiety, Is untouched by the season Of withering or blooming, For in the deepest And most [...]

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM: An Introduction by Bernard McGinn

June 14, 2017

From Comparative Mysticism The term” mysticism” is a modern one.  It first appeared in the seventeenth century in French as “la mystique” (literally “mystics”), indicating a separate branch of theology akin to that which treated of Christian doctrine (i.e., “dogmatics”).  Mysticism does not seem to have been widely used, either academically or popularly, before the nineteenth century.  The appropriateness of the word to describe aspects of Christian belief and practice prior to 1600 is defensible, but by no means as simple as sometimes supposed. One of the reasons why the task is not easy is because contemporary readers often understand “mysticism” as a special form of [...]

POETRY: Mustard Seed by Meister Eckhart

June 14, 2017

I. In the Beginning High above understanding Is ever the Word. O rich treasure, There the Beginning always bore the Beginning. O Father’s Breast, From thy delight The Word ever flows! Yet the bosom Retains the Word, truly. II. From the two as one source, The fire of love. The bond of both, Known to both, Flows the All-Sweet Spirit Co-equal, Undivided The Three are One. Do you understand why? No. It best understands itself. III. The bond of three Causes deep fear. Of this circle There is no understanding. Here is a depth without ground. Check and mate To time, forms, place! The wondrous circle Is the Principle, Its point never moves. IV. The mountain of this point Ascend without activity. O intellect! The road leads you Into a [...]

POETRY: Descend From Your Head Into Your Heart, by Theophan the Recluse

June 7, 2017

You must descend from your head into your heart. At present your thoughts of God are in your head. And God himself is, as it were, outside you, and so your prayer and other spiritual exercises remain exterior. Whilst you are still in your head, thoughts will not easily be subdued but will always be whirling about, like snow in winter or clouds of mosquitoes in [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: Islam, ISIS, And The Confusion That Lies Therein

April 21, 2017

This is not going to go well. That’s my prediction anyway. But I hereby restate my primary assertion about spiritual warfare: If you don’t know what you are dealing with, you don’t know how to address the problem. It’s as simple as that. A doctor is going to be much more effective with his patient if he already knows both what the disease is and what the best methods are to treat it. Otherwise he is swinging about in the dark. Which pretty much sums my opinion of most writing about spiritual warfare. In my humble opinion. Well, maybe not so humble. So let’s begin. I began studying the Muslim soul structure around about the time that Princess Diana died.  I remember this because I found the soul-structure [...]

JESUS: The Suffering Of Jesus, by Hubert van Zeller

April 11, 2017

We are told in the Fioretti that, Through love and compassion Francis was wholly changed into Jesus.  This took place initially on Mount La Verna but persisted for the rest of the saint’s life.  The transformation seems to have been immediate, though clearly Francis had been preparing for it, without knowing what was to come, since he first set himself on the way to perfection.  This kind of change is something which, less dramatically, should be taking place in all of us.  The passage quoted adds: The marks of the nails began anon to appear on the hands and feet of Saint Francis.  The word “anon” and later the word “after a space” would seem to show that the significant grace was the interior one of [...]

JESUS: The Universality of Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

April 10, 2017

Our Lord makes it clear in his last discourse to his disciples that his prayer, and therefore his work of salvation, is not for them only but for all.  He prays to the Father, that the world may believe that you sent me so shall the world know that you sent me.  If our Christianity truly reflects the mind of Christ animating our minds, it must look to the whole of mankind.  If it is to be a supernatural religion and not a sectarian movement, it must be supranational: no racial, cultural, political divisions.  Jesus prayed that his followers might be one – that all may be one, as you, Father are in me and I in you– and though his followers have never yet been so united, the ideal of unity and catholicity still holds and must always [...]

JESUS: The Firmness Of Jesus, by Hubert van Zeller

April 6, 2017

Following what has been said about Jesus accepting his place in the pattern of life willed for him by the Father, we should not forget how forthright he was in laying down the principles which it was his mission to teach.  Where truth, love, morality, the Father’s glory were concerned, he did not yield an inch to the prevailing pressures.  In fact he went beyond the accepted moral standards of the Law.  You have heard that it was said to them of old, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but I say to you whosoever is angry with his brother….  You have heard that it was said to them of old, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ but I say to you whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her….   This, “I [...]

JESUS: To Act In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

April 1, 2017

Man sees the appearance, the Lord told Samuel, but the Lord looks into the heart.  When we speak today of the heart we think of the emotions, and because we know that religion and spirituality are to do primarily with the will, we tend to be suspicious of references to the heart in the literature of the spirit.  But since the Bible mentions the word 176 times, we can conclude that the heart is above reproach.  As the terminus a quo the heart should be thought of as the most significant area in the human makeup.  What comes from the heart gives to human action its character.  The heart is more, even, than the launching pad: it accompanies the rocket on its flight. If there is nothing in the heart, there will be nothing to show.  Ex [...]

JESUS: To Speak In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

March 30, 2017

In taking on man’s human nature, Jesus took on man’s human powers and skills.  Among the powers was the power of speech, and every word he uttered was to the glory of the Father.  Among the skills was the ability to make tables and chairs, and everything he turned out was again to the glory of God.  We are here more concerned with the gift of speech than with the gift of being able to handle a carpenter’s tools perfectly. The gift of communication by word of mouth is granted in the natural order to all except the dumb, and as in the case of all other gifts, the question depends upon how it is used.  Saint James asks how the one spring can gush forth fresh water and foul; how a fig tree can produce olives or a [...]

JESUS: To Think In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

March 28, 2017

Saint Paul exhorts us to “have the mind of Christ.”  He knows that if we think as Jesus thinks we shall be living in charity, and he will be living in us.  It must follow that our works, values, decisions, and prayers will carry the seal of his spirit.  There are three things which characterize a Christian, says Saint Gregory of Nyssa in his Christian Perfection, namely action, speech, thought.  The origin of every word is thought.  After thinking comes speech, which reveals in words the idea which has been conceived in the mind.  After thought and speech comes action, which realizes the thoughts in deeds.  Later in the same treatise Saint Gregory elaborates as follows: That which is pure of every inclination to passion [...]

JESUS: To Pray In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

March 25, 2017

When the church concludes its official prayers with the words, Through Christ our Lord, it is not just repeating a formula or letting the faithful know that the prayer has come to an end.  The church means it – theologically.  Whether we state it explicitly or not, all our prayers are made through Christ and in him and with him.  If they are not, they are abstract prayers, and not Christian prayers at all.  Christian prayer assumes the communication between the Son and the Father, and, implicitly, at least, moves into the relationship.  Christian prayer does not tie itself down to the consideration of episodes in our Lord’s life and to the mysteries of the gospel.  Christian prayer may even, in the act of contemplation for [...]

JESUS: To Love In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

March 22, 2017

It follows logically from the foregoing that if we live Christ’s life we love with Christ’s love.  His life is all love; his spirit is all love.  It is not so much that his love “rubs off” on us but that it actually animates us and “informs” our every activity.  We breathe his spirit, and since his spirit is love we love with his love.  Our love such as it is, is nothing without grace, nothing without his spirit.  We have not invented what love there is in us; we cannot fashion charity as we can fashion a rose garden or an omelette.  The most we can do is direct it from him within us to him outside us.  Our love for others, provided it is in charity and not in worldly desire, is the response of [...]

JESUS: To Live In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

March 20, 2017

To live in Christ is, in the widest sense, to live in a state of grace.  It is a gift but a gift which God does not deny to anyone.  What we are more particularly considering in these pages is the development of the gift.  All are invited to develop the life of Christ in the soul, and those who set themselves to do so are actively and progressively on the way to identification: identification with the divine person so far as is possible in this life, leading to the fullest identification to be enjoyed eternally in Heaven.  Christ incorporates us into his life at baptism, offers his life to us in countless ways as we mature in our religious formation, and finally crowns us with the grace of divine union. Though baptism and religious [...]

JESUS: In That Moment Right Before

February 5, 2017

I would say that, most of the time, when I hear scripture read, or read it for myself, it feels like the wind to me.  Something blowing by me.  I recognize the elements that are in the wind, but it is something that is beyond me in terms of capturing it.  Or even being part of it. From time-to-time, some of it makes me wrench my neck around in an attempt to seize it.  Some combination of words that are just that tantalizing as to make me want to scrutinize them. Then there are those astounding times when I hear or read words that I have received in a vision.  Sometimes the words are exactly the same.  And a cathedral-sized bell rings inside me.  It is a confirmation of accuracy.  I know that my vision was from God.  Those are, as [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: A Child In The Light And Shadow Of God

January 22, 2017

I like straight corners. If I am standing at the counter of a bank, I stand there straightening the piles of various forms. I wonder if people wonder at what I am doing. But I do it nonetheless. And the other day I found myself wanting to straighten the corners of my spirituality.  Specifically my relationship with the rest of the world that I live in. This is because I go through life feeling like I run into skewed corners all the time, all over the place, but do nothing about it. One place it shows up is around the phrase, When I came to Jesus.  It’s like a club of people.  And when that phrase is uttered, they grin at each other. Like new mothers who have discovered that they will not kill their first child from neglect.  I [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: A Rant

January 15, 2017

I am angry.  Very angry. Well, at least I was. I came to a boil when I read the words that generally said in an article on deliverance that fighting Satan is no harder than taking out the garbage. That it’s merely something you might not want to do, but it’s your responsibility, so go for it. Oh, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Because you know, Jesus something or other. The man who was nailed to a cross to bleed to death because of evil has your back. You know. So forget about it. On the evening of the day that I read this – I won’t stoop to calling it nonsense – I heard the same statement made in a lecture. It must be in the air. Nothing frightening about Satan.  Oh, no.  He’s a peach.  A [...]

POETRY: First Forgive The Silence, by Mark Jarman

January 13, 2017

First forgive the silence That answers prayer, Then forgive the prayer That stains the silence. Excuse the absence That feels like presence, Then excuse the feeling That insists on presence. Pardon the delay Of revelation, Then ask pardon for revealing Your impatience. Forgive God For being only a word, Then ask God to forgive The betrayal of language. [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi And New Birth

January 6, 2017

From The School of Charity The story of the Magi shows the new life which has appeared within the rich texture of our normal experience, casting its purifying radiance upon the whole existence of man, the Light of the world, not the sanctuary lamp of a well-appointed church.  Cosy religious exclusiveness is condemned in this mystery.  It is easy for the pious to join the shepherds, and feel in place at the crib, and look out into the surrounding darkness saying, Look at those extraordinary intellectuals wandering about after a star; they seem to have no religious sense.  Look what curious gifts and odd types of self-consecration they are bringing; not at all the sort of people one sees in church.  Yet the child who began by receiving [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Light Of The World

January 5, 2017

From Light of Christ You know how sometimes on a pitch black night in the country, you see far off one glimmer of light and you follow it and it turns out to be just a candle in a cottage window – but it was enough to assure you of life ahead, to give you the lead you wanted in the dark.  In the same way, when the Magi turned from their abstruse calculations in search of Heaven and followed a star, they did not arrive at a great mathematical result or revelation of the cosmic mind.  They found a poor little family party and were brought to their knees – because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded – before a baby born under most unfortunate circumstances, a mystery of human life, a little living growing thing. [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi And Prayer

January 4, 2017

From The School of Charity Look at the story of the Magi: those scholars of the ancient world, turning from their abstruse calculations and searching of the heavens because they saw a new star, and driven to seek along fresh paths for a clue to the mystery of life.  What they found does not seem at first sight what we should now call “intellectually satisfying.”  It was not a revelation of the Cosmic Mind, but a poor little family party; yet there they were brought to their knees – because, like the truly wise, they were really humble-minded – before a little, living, growing thing.  The utmost man can achieve on his own here capitulates before the unspeakable and mysterious simplicity of the method of God; his [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Magi

January 3, 2017

From Light of Christ Now to accept historical Christianity as God’s supreme self-revelation does not mean some elaborate philosophy of the spirit.  It means accepting the gospel story as touching our lives significantly at every point, because it is conveying God.  If we are ever to learn all that this record can mean for us, we must never forget that these, beyond all other facts of history, are indwelt, molded, brought into being by the Living Spirit of God, while plastic to his creative thought.  And if we thus feel God within these events, some so strange and some so homely, inspiring this action and record, then we also accept all these incidents as conveying something of his overruling will and thought, having something in [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Shepherds And Magi

January 2, 2017

From Light of Christ The Christmas Mystery has two parts: the Nativity and the Epiphany.  A deep instinct made the church separate these two feasts.  In the first, we commemorate God’s humble entrance into human life, the emergence and birth of the Holy, and in the second its manifestation to the world, the revelation of the supernatural made in that life.  And the two phases concern our inner lives very closely, too.  The first only happens in order that the second may happen; and the second cannot happen without the first.  Christ is a light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of his people, Israel.  Think of what the Gentile was when these words were written – an absolute outsider.  All cozy religious [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Holy Name—Born For A Purpose

January 1, 2017

From Light of Christ Beholding his glory is only half our job.  In our souls, too, the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done.  The Eternal Birth, say Eckhard, must take place in you.  And another mystic says human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet.  And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger he must be laid – and they will be the first to fall on their knees before him.  Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simple poverty, self-abandoned to God. The [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Life Goes On

December 31, 2016

From The School of Charity And now we turn from the central mystery to the clustered events, through which its character is disclosed.  We see the new life growing in secret.  Nothing very startling happens.  We see the child in the carpenter’s workshop.  He does not go outside the frame of the homely life in which he appeared.  It did quite well for him, and will do quite well for us.  It is like the hidden life at Nazareth.  We must be content with the wholesome routine of the nursery, doing ordinary things, learning ordinary lessons and eating ordinary food, if we are to grow truly and organically in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.  Growth in God is a far more gradual, less conscious process than we realize [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Nativity

December 30, 2016

From The School of Charity Nothing in this story, perhaps, is more significant than the quietness and simplicity of its beginning.  The birth of the Child, the Shepherds, and the Magi, the little boy of Nazareth and his wonderful experience in the Temple, and the long quiet years in the carpenter’s shop; there seems at first sight nothing very supernatural in these things.  Indeed, one of the most convicting aspects of Christianity, if we try to see it in terms of our own day, is the contrast between its homely and inconspicuous beginnings and the holy powers it brought into the world.  It keeps us in perpetual dread of despising small things, humble people, little groups.  The Incarnation means that the Eternal God enters our [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Incarnation (2)

December 29, 2016

From The School of Charity No amount of description really tells us anything about Holiness; but an encounter with it shames, amazes, convinces, and delights us all at once.  Thou art the Christ! says Saint Peter.  My Lord and my God! says Saint Thomas.  They recognize something from beyond the world: One who enters our mixed life in his perfect beauty; and accepts all the normal conditions of an existence which is so much at the mercy of seasons and weather, thirst and hunger, so afflicted by distresses we do not understand, so vexed by devils we cannot cast out, and tainted by sins we cannot forget.  Through all this that Figure is walking; radiating in and through every situation a selfless charity, an untiring interest and love. [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Example Of The Christ Child

December 28, 2016

From Light of Christ The mystics keep telling us that the goal of that prayer and the goal of that hidden life which should itself become more and more of a prayer, is “union with God.”  We use that phrase often, much too often to preserve the wholesome sense of its awe-fulness.  For what does union with God mean?  It is not a nice feeling we get in devout moments.  That may or may not be a by-product of union – probably not.  It can never be its substance.  Union with God means every bit of our human nature transfigured in Christ, woven up into his creative life and activity, absorbed into his redeeming purpose, heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Each time it happens it means that one of God’s creatures has [...]

CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Maturing

December 27, 2016

From The School of Charity All gardeners know the importance of good root development before we force the leaves and flowers.  So our life in God should be deeply rooted and grounded before we presume to expect to produce flowers and fruits; otherwise we risk shooting up into one of those lanky plants which can never do without a stick.  We are constantly beset by the notion that we ought to perceive ourselves springing up quickly, like the seed on stony ground; show striking signs of spiritual growth.  But perhaps we are only required to go on quietly, making root, growing nice and bushy; docile to the great slow rhythm of life.  When we see no startling marks of our own religious progress of our usefulness to God, it is well to [...]