Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A taste of mysticism?

I'm currently reading Father Robert Wild's book on Chesterton, The Tumbler of God: Chesterton as Mystic.

Father Wild, who's part of the Madonna House community up in Canada, contends that Chesterton was a mystic, though of a different sort. (No surprise there!)

I'll get into his book in another post. What it did for me today was remind me of a moment I experienced many years ago.

It was back in the 1970s. I was in college. I was also part of Charismatic prayer groups.

The Charismatic Renewal was an unusual thing for me to be involved with. I'm so thought and control oriented; the emotionalism and the willingness to let oneself go that were part of the Renewal would seem not to be my style. But the Renewal was something that helped me at the time, and I did have some experiences, including once even speaking in tongues!

One night I had an even more profound experience.

I was in the college seminary. There was a small group of charismatics in the seminary, but because the movement was viewed with suspicion by some of the seminary administrators, we were not allowed to have regular prayer meetings in the seminary building. So we'd wander over to the campus, and pray on the lawn or on the athletic fields.

After one prayer session with the group, I felt energized. Instead of going back to the seminary, I walked around the campus, continuing to pray. I was walking across a lawn on a part of the campus where there was a row of trees along a roadway. I suddenly had a strange feeling, and when I looked at the trees I saw not only the trees, but also a light. It wasn't bright; it was more misty, like a luminous fog. It seemed to flow between the trees. Then it seemed to flow across the lawn, and finally into me. I realized that it wasn't a matter of it moving toward me, though. The light was already there, present in me and the trees and everything around me. What changed was that I was finally aware of it.

In that moment, it seemed as if I was linked to the trees, the air, the grass. The light was what linked us. I had the feeling that what I was experiencing was God  - His creative force, His love, His Spirit, something that flowed through all creation and made us one not with each other, but with Him.

I know my words are not quite right. I've never found the way to clearly explain what I experienced. But it was real, and it filled me with a sense of love, of joy, of belonging, of being cared for. For a moment, I lost my sense of separateness and of self. I was not in control.

It passed quickly. I have never experienced anything even remotely like it since.

A mystical experience? Or a taste of what a mystical experience might be like? I don't know. I don't know if I ever will experience anything like it again. I don't know if I will ever be that open again.

Part of me would welcome such a moment again. Another part of me fears it - and that might be what is preventing me from even having a chance of experiencing such a moment again. Unless maybe God decides to break through my defences.

I leave that to the Lord.

But I hope I do taste that sense of being part of something more than myself again.

Pax et bonum

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