Walking the Labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral
I. CHRISTIAN MYSTICS
Finding God In the Midst of Daily Life
From the Confessions of St. Augustine...
Our life came down to this our earth and took away our death... He came forth first into the Virgin’s womb, where humanity was wedded to him, our mortal flesh... Then he called to us to return to him into that secret place from which he came forth. By what he said and what he did, he called to us. By his birth, his life, his death, his descent and ascension, he called to us to return to him. Then he withdrew from our eyes, that we might return to our own heart and find him. For he went away and, behold, he is still here. He would not be with us long, yet he did not leave us. He went back to that place which he had never left, for the world was made by him... O children of men, how long will ye be faint of heart? Even now, when life has come down to you, will you not ascend and live?
Jean Pierre de Caussade (18th C.):
God in the Present Moment
'Each moment brings with it a duty to be faithfully fulfilled. On that duty the whole of our attention is fixed at each successive moment, like the hand of a clock which marks each moment of the hour. Under God's unceasing guidance, our spirit turns without conscious effort to each new duty as it is presented to us by God each hour of the day.... Everything is reduced to the complete and utter self-abandonment of the soul to God's will under whatever form it is manifested.
"There is no secret. The treasure is everywhere. It is offered to us at every moment and in every place... Divine activity floods the whole universe. It pervades all creatures. It flows over them. Wherever they are, it is there: it precedes, accompanies and follows them. We have but to allow ourselves to be carried forward on the crest of its waves.
"O bread of angels, heavenly manna, the pearl of the Gospels, the sacrament of the present moment!"
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (11th C.)
"You will find something greater in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you can never learn from schoolmasters."
Meister Eckhart (14th C.)
"Every creature is full of God, and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature."
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice.”
Hildegard of Bingen (11th C.)
"Holy souls draw to themselves all that is earthy."
"God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God."
Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieau....
God presents himself to us through the very work that we do. He does not blot out in his intense light the detail of our earthly aims, since the closeness of our union with him is in fact determined by the exact fulfilment of the least of our tasks... God incarnate is not far away from us, apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell and taste. Rather, he awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which God is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle - of my heart and my thought.... Try with God’s help to perceive the connection, even physical and natural, which binds your labour with the building of the Kingdom of Heaven; try to realise that heaven smiles upon you here and through your works draws you to itself; then, as you leave church for the noisy streets, you will remain with only one feeling: that of continual immersion in God!
SILENCE: FINDING GOD WITHIN
Dionysius the Aereopogyte, 'Mystical Theology' (5th C.)
'We pray that we may come unto that divine darkness which is beyond light, and without seeing or knowing, to see and to know what is above vision and knowledge, that we may know by Unknowing."
The Power of Silence: St Isaac of Ninevah (6th C.)
"Above all things, love silence. Out of your silence will arise something that will draw you into deeper silence. If you practice this, inexpressible Light will dawn upon you."
St. Maximus Confessor (9th C.)
"The only thing we can know about God is his infinity: and to know this No-thing is to pass beyond the knowledge of the thinking mind."
St. John of the Cross, 'Living Flame of Love' (16th C.)
"In true prayer, the soul must be attached to nothing, not even to any kind of sweetness, whether of sense or of spirit. For any thought or desire which the soul might have, or any pleasure to which it may be attached, would disturb it and introduce noise into the deep silence."
"If we think we are something, when in fact we are nothing, then we deceive ourselves."
Fa. Thomas Keating (Trappist Priest. founder of the Centering Prayer Movement)
"The spiritual journey is to go deeper and deeper into ourselves in order to make room for God... When we surrender our own desires, world view, self-image, and all that goes to make up the false self, we are truly participating in Christ's Kinosis (self-emptying) described by St. Paul in chapter 2 of Philippians. We are emptying ourselves or the false self so that our true self, which is Christ's life in us, may express itself through our humanity.
"Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. What is this 'self' we must deny? It is our thoughts, feelings, self-image, and world-view. Jesus added, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for me will find it. That is, you will find eternal life, Christ's life, welling up within you."
St. Theresa of Avila (Autobiography)...
"It pleased the Lord that I should… see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form… He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire. They must be those who are called cherubim: they do not tell me their names but I am well aware that there is a great difference between certain angels and others… In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's soul be content with anything less… If anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God, in His goodness, to give him the same experience.
"Meister Eckhart observes that 'the ground of the soul is dark.'
"Thus to avoid the darkness is to live superficially, cut off from one’s ground, one’s depth. The Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths. This is what the mystics call the “inside” of things, the essence of things. This is where Divinity lies. It is where the true self lies. It is where illusions are broken apart and the truth lies.
"Andrew Harvey puts it this way: 'The Black Madonna is the transcendent Kali-Mother, the black womb of light out of which all of the worlds are always arising and into which they fall, the presence behind all things, the darkness of love and the loving unknowing into which the child of the Mother goes when his or her illumination is perfect.'
"She calls us to that darkness which is mystery itself. She encourages us to be at home there, in the presence of deep, black, unsolveable mystery. She is, in Harvey’s words, 'the blackness of divine mystery, that mystery celebrated by the great Aphophatic mystics, such as Dionysisus Areopagite, who see the divine as forever unknowable, mysterious, beyond all our concepts, hidden from all our senses in a light so dazzling it registers on them as darkness.'
"Eckhart calls God’s darkness a 'superessential darkness, a mystery behind mystery, a mystery within mystery that no light has penetrated.' To honor darkness is to honor the experience of people of color. Its opposite is racism. The Black Madonna invites us to get over racial stereotypes and racial fears and projections and to go for the dark."
~Fa. Matthew Fox
LINK to Prayer of the Heart, Christian mystical meditation