The Spiritualities of Christianity: The Power of Mysticism

Sometimes an ancient tradition reinvigorates modern life.

Many people have found this with contemplative prayer and Christian mysticism in general.

For me, it was a discovery of the depths of inner life possible through prayer – a discovery of the power of silence and stillness, in contrast to a contemporary world that is hectic, instant and brash. And then, beyond both of these, the calling of love – God’s love.

“…With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time…”

T.S. Eliot wrote these lines (from ‘Little Gidding’, in Four Quartets), and the first line is a quotation from the 14th century English mystic writer Julian of Norwich.

She knew, deeply and profoundly, that she was loved by God, and that her life’s purpose, though physically limited to a small “cell” attached to a church, had universal and eternal dimensions.

Her lines comparing the universe to a hazelnut are beautiful and powerful:

“And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand … In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God preserves it. But what did I see in it? It is that God is the creator and protector and the lover.”

And her reassuring words are so timely in a world full of fear: fear of coronavirus, fear of global warming, fear of death.

“And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are infolded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one…”

This is T.S.Eliot again, from the same poem, again quoting from Julian of Norwich.  No-one really knows what Eliot meant by the last three lines (the first line is again from Julian of Norwich) but he is hinting at the power of the Holy Spirit as described at Pentecost (the fire), also at the idea of a crown  – God’s valuing of each human soul – and also at the idea of a rose – the beauty and tenderness and fragility of human life.

I came to the mystics through the poetry of T.S.Eliot and then through my own personal discovery of Christian faith.  There are many great Christian mystic writers from the centuries of Christian tradition, and I hope that you also may discover some of the glorious revelations they offer in your own spiritual way.

hazelnut Julian

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