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An Excerpt from Wonderful and Dark Is This Road: Discovering the Mystic Path by Emilie Griffin

Emilie Griffin has written a graceful and handy introduction to Christian mysticism. Here is an excerpt on the spiritual practice of mystery.

"I believe that we are meeting mystics every day, but we do not recognize them. Their humility and modesty is such that they pass into the crowd ('So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple' John 8:59) Perhaps we could spot them by their spiritual disciplines: prayer, meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. It is possible, but not likely. For real mystics practice their deep love and service to God in ways that may fly below the radar, unobtrusively, transforming the lives of others in ways that seem sublimely plain spoken and level-headed. Except when they receive extraordinary mystical gifts (not everyone does) it is hard to pick them out in a crowd. We have noted earlier that Padre Pio looked much like the next monk in the procession. More to the point, the Roman soldiers needed Judas to point Jesus out to them. To them, he looked more or less like any other Galilean.

"Both Thomas Merton and Karl Rahner, a major modern theologian, insist on a mysticism of ordinary living. For Merton, the incarnation has sanctified all of human living. Far from taking the contemplative above and beyond the ordinary, contemplation, if authentic, roots the human being in the ordinary. The ordinary routine of daily life becomes the texture of contemplation for the devoted Christian. Merton insists that there is a 'latent, or implicit, infused dimension to all prayer.' Thus Merton gives us a valuable insight into the possibility of an ordinary or a hidden mysticism. He calls it 'masked contemplation.'

"Perhaps, as we shall see, this 'masked contemplation' is what John Wesley saw as 'a mysticism of service.' Thomas Merton sees the hidden or 'masked' contemplative as one who finds God in active service to the poor, the despised, the people at the margins of life. These 'masked contemplatives' do not have the luxury to spend long hours in silence and solitude. But their mystic encounters with Jesus comes in service to the littlest and the least. They are mystics, perhaps, without knowing it, for they are fully in touch with the heart of God. Nevertheless, their mysticism is authentic.

"In different language Karl Rahner makes a similar claim: everyone is called to the immediacy of God's presence. A supernatural, graced, 'anonymously Christian' mysticism may even exist outside of Christianity; that is to say, Christ himself may be working outside of established Christianity to be in touch with mystics (known and unknown) in all parts of the globe. Rahner sets no limits on the power of God."

 


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Wonderful and Dark is this Road

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