What is Mysticism? – 2

Christian mysticism is the normal development and deepening of our relationship with God and this changes us.  It transforms human consciousness.  It is identifying in a total and unconditional manner with Jesus Christ crucified-now-risen through the Holy Spirit to union with the Father.  And, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the paradigm of perfect mysticism.  Christ is the perfect, enfleshed, mystical Word.  His death remains paradigmatic for the perfect detachment from all created things required for perfect surrender to Mystery.  Bonaventure echoes these thoughts when he says, “Let us, then, die and enter into the darkness; let us impose silence upon our cares, our desires and our imaginings.  With Christ Crucified let us pass out of this world to the Father.”  Christ’s bodily resurrection is the paradigm of Mystery’s acceptance and confirmation of total self-surrender, that dying to self and all created things is not ultimately absurd.  The core of Christian mysticism is direct contact with God and the resulting transformation.  All mystics offer a testimony like Catherine of Genoa’s: “My deepest me is God!”

This understanding of mysticism, however, is not based upon association with the extraordinary graces God confers on special saintly figures throughout human history.  These “mystical phenomena” are not even how many Christian mystics understand the spiritual life.  As many mystics would agree, a person goes from self-consciousness to God-consciousness.  It is the depth dimension of Christianity, a way of life subject to the Christian tradition centering on unmediated encounter with the divine.  As the depth dimension of Christianity it is an element, indeed it could be the core, of the Christian tradition.  As subject to the tradition it attempts to express this encounter with God in many and varied ways: poems, sermons, treatises, letters, art, rituals, and especially forms of prayer.  Christian mysticism can be seen, then, as the ever-deepening relationship between God and the human person through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, which transforms and restructures human consciousness and identity.  It is actively undergoing the divine by identifying with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s all about falling in love with the Triune God, as Beatrice of Nazareth puts it: “The soul is drawn through eternal Love alone, and into the eternity of Love, and into the incomprehensibility and vastness and inaccessible sublimity and the deep abyss of the Divinity, which is wholly perfect in all things and remains incomprehensible above all things, which is immutable, perfect Being.”

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