What does it mean to be a mystic in the modern-world? What do we have that Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis and Clare didn’t have? How are we called to be mystics in a world that often judges belief and faith to be frivolous and naïve? As a contemplative, raised Catholic, trying to find my place, I often wonder….
4:30 wakeup calls
Just for the record, in no way, shape or form, do I boast about Jesus ringing my doorbell at 4:30 in the morning and paying me a little visit (see yesterday’s blog). In fact, rather than tell the tale, I’d rather run into the darkest corner of the room and hide behind the couch or beneath the dining room table. For you see, I’m the last person Jesus should be visiting. I’m not a Jesus Freak. I’m not a bible thumper. I will never ask you to change your beliefs or inquire over whether or not you’ve been saved (mostly because I don’t believe there is anyone who is NOT saved). I’m imperfect and flawed just like everyone else. Yes, God is my Source, Jesus is my dude and Shekinah (the Holy Spirit) drives my purpose. But other than that….I’m just plain Lauri. I color outside the lines. I listen to heavy metal music. I have a few tattoos. And I swear (kind of a lot). But, for some strange reason, Jesus got planted into my heart and he keeps showing up. So, what am I supposed to do but pay attention, listen and act…in most cases from a place of incredible insecurity and fear.
Mystics, Tramps and Thieves
Just a little play on words…..and a reminder that mystics (people who talk to God) are a strange and Motley Crue (another play on spelling). While many are familiar with St. Francis and Clare who talked with God, Joan of Arc who was instructed by angels and saints, Teresa of Avila who had ecstatic experiences of the Divine…no one really talks about the mystics of today. Who are we? We are the weirdos who, even in the midst of the post-modern era, the supposed age of reason, with science guiding our steps, still talk to God. But more than talking….we listen. And how do we listen? We listen through a deep dedication to our spiritual practice which may or may not look very traditional. While my spiritual practice might look pretty traditional (a little scripture, some meditation and contemplation and maybe even some chant), the modern-day mystic is not limited by the trappings of institutions. While there are mystics within the hallowed halls of sacred institutions….some of us are simply running amok in the street and in YOUR WORLD! One mystic that I know hears God in nature. Another in his art. Another through her music. Another through his encounters with people.
Being the Body of Christ
But even more important than talking and listening to God, a mystic is known in the way that they serve. In most cases, you will not see us wearing a collar or a habit, but you might recognize us in the wide-eyed look of generosity shining back at you through our eyes. What you might not know about mystics, is that we have no choice but to serve. For service, you see, is the natural result of paying attention to God. Once you open that door and let the flame of the Spirit in…..she sets you on fire…most especially your hands, heart and feet. With the fire of God’s love aflame in our hearts, we have no choice but to share that fire in the world. The mystic’s dream is to embody God and in doing so, to set the world on fire with God’s love…healing, transformation, empowering…and look out if you come anywhere near a mystic….because you can’t help but be compelled to seek your own inner fire and in doing so, finding yourself.
A Mystic’s Prayer
In closing, here is a beautiful poem by Rainer Marie Rilke which speaks to the Mystic’s call to serve…and what I might call the Mystic Manifesto:
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.