Have you ever looked at how mystics lived? Lemme see – there were the ones who lived in miserable medieval convents and monasteries – then there were the “discalced” (aka: shoeless). And all of them had it pretty good compared to the ones who lived as hermits in the middle eastern desserts. Next time you’re at a retreat and struggling to enjoy it – just imagine how these people lived. There simply were no spa-mystics. [insert sound of gigantic internet vacuum as 90% of site visitors emphatically leave!] They didn’t do just so they could have white-bread times of contemplating God – but so they could consume their hearts and minds for years with meditation on the transfiguration, God’s love, or the Passion of Christ, or … I think you get it.
Is it any thing more than entertaining or slightly inspiring to read the musings of these life-long suffer-fest types? Aren’t they just holy-ed up masochists?
Ever hear of the Jesus prayer? Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius of Alexandria and those who followed them in the East developed the Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!) by the 6th century as a meditative and centering prayer. It’s enjoyed revival upon revival over the centuries and is considered by some to be first among the few authentic Christian mantras. That little factoid doesn’t have that much cache – unless you talk to someone who’s been powerfully impacted by that prayer. This is just one example of how mystics from centuries ago are still impacting the faith today.
Who can say if the self-denial fueled efforts of the great body of Christian mystics all over the globe served a larger purpose or how their sufferings fanned the flame of faith. It seems unlikely to me that culture would propitiate utterly self-gratifying, self-absorbed navel gazing for any serious length of time. No – for such a tradition to exist so seamlessly with Christianity everywhere they must have given much.
But what would a Kingdom and civic serving revival of 21st century Christian mysticism look like? Never before has – for instance – a live global dialog and open call to prayer been possible. What if a global revival of those wired capable of not only fanning flames of faith but meditatively seeking the God’s infinite wisdom on all manner of global and local problems that sap our courage and leave people questioning if God even has answers to these burdens.
What if the tough answers we so desperately need can’t be found but through shared, global, contemplative, aescthetic, mystical, meditative and consuming prayer? It’s a vision of 21st century christian mysticism I can get behind though!