Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Mystery of Advent: Journey to the Manger

This is the time of year when my sense of Christian mysticism becomes a bit more fine tuned than at other times of the year, with the exception of the Easter season. The road to Easter is a cold and mystical journey. There is something inherently awe inspiring about the anticipation of Emmanuel and the human mind trying to comprehend the concept --much less the reality-- of God with us. Some people simply cannot get their mind around the juxtaposition of the divine and the human as one person, in the flesh, looking much like us, as being anything but extraordinary. Actually a lot of them think it is wishful nonsense, a panacea for the trouble this world is in, that we who do believe are a bit muddle in the head. Then there are those who believe but aren't sure what to do with the information. There are many who try to analyze it to death, thereby not experiencing the wonder that comes from just letting the concept be.

The category I know I fit into is the one where you know its real, as real as the stars and roses blooming. As real as wondering how a horsehair can produce on the taut string of a violin the soaring sound that elevates our souls to a state of such elation that we hear a little echo of heaven. The words are hard to come by because those particular words don't exist...yet.

And so the season of Advent is this way for me. There are those of us who do get it and understand it. Perhaps not as well as we would like in this life but we understand the concept of the "thin place", the ethreal, the inexplicable. We believe in miracles. We know they happen. We see them daily. Where others see the ordinary, we detect the inordinary. It is not an easy life by any means. Your friends think you are one apple short of a bushel, or the only nutty chew in the box of See's candy. Or you end up with an unusual sense of well, "sight". That's all I will say on that subject for now.

One of the most common ways Christian mystics tried to express their experience was in writing, either prose or poetry. And so I have sought out poetry and prose that reflects attempts by both ancient and modern mystics, to put into words what can best be described as their perceptions of mystical experience or epiphany.

As we enter into Advent I will be sharing with you examples of both to enrich your journey on the way to the manger. I decided that we need hope and spirituality at this time, not only in the world and in the Church, but in the Holy of Holies of our hearts where God's Spirit dwells.

For now I would like to point you to a few web sites and blogs that may be of help to you as you prepare for your anticipatory journey.

The Way of the Pilgrim has many resources and examples of mystical writings, especially about the Jesus Prayer.

Anamchara is the site that led me to the first one. It also speaks of the Jesus Prayer and has articles on the prayer as well as how to make a prayer rope by tying knots in a particular pattern.

Christians Mystics: A Journey into the Presence of God has many resources, both scholarly and grassroots on the subject of mysticism as well as examples of their writings. I really like this one because it leads you to more.

Then there is Mystics In Love, a very good site that explains what Christian mysticism is and what it is not. You will find several examples of writings from some of my absolute favorite mystics here.

Every evening, I look skyward and marvel at the stars and light from the heavens. It does make you wonder...

Silent air
crisp in clarity,
I see God's eye
Twinkle.

I look forward to sharing my finds with you as we prepare for the coming of The Child.

6 comments:

Morgan said...

Is the "Silent air.... Twinkle" your own writing? Whoever wrote it, I thoroughly appreciate it. (I'm not capable of looking at a starry sky without a stirring of awe.)
Thanks for sharing these wonderful resources on Christian mysticism.

Catherine + said...

Hi Morgan and yes, "Silent air...Twinkle" is mine. You are most welcome.

Jan said...

What a way to begin the post. So beautiful. Thank you for all the links. Wishing you joy as you prepare for the birth of Christ in your heart.

Jan said...

Catherine, this is all so beautiful that I linked it to my blog. I hope you don't mind me also posting your lyrical poem. If you do, let me know and I'll delete whatever you wish. Thank you.

FranIAm said...

This is so lovely- and so rich.

Thank you.

MikeF said...

Oh wonderful! Superb, beautiful post - I'm only sorry it took me so long to follow Jan's link...

What you say about the "thin place" is just it. Yes!

Thank you so much - and you've unknowingly given me just the place to start with an Advent meditation I'd been struggling to find a way into!