Ordinary Mystical Thresholds

St Paul’s prayer for us to ‘put on Christ’, to have ‘the mind of Christ’, is substantially answered when we learn to see things sacramentally.  To look at anything in the light of Incarnation is to notice the ‘surplus of meaning’, the ‘excess of significance’ in what is going on around us.  The work of evangelising is like bringing colour into what was only black and white before.  It is about completing what was already hinted at. There was an advert for motor cars some years ago which consisted of a manuscript page from one of Mozart’s compositions. The caption read, ‘It remains only dots and squiggles- until you play it’. Catechising is like that. It reveals something deeper. It is like what happened when we used to bring those ‘magic-eye’ books close to our faces and then, when our focus softened, what at first were formless squiggles and vague shapes became breath-taking vistas, or deep-sea revelations.  It is a journey of discovery into the veiled temples of our ordinary experiences; an exploration into the rich veins of a deeper truth about the value and worth of what happens every day.

There is a hint of mysticism in such an understanding of spreading the Word.  Let this not alarm anyone.  The meaning of mysticism needs to be de-mythologised!  We are all mystics – either potentially or actually.  The teacher and preacher above all need to keep their mystical heart nourished.  By reflecting on the marvellous love-story of God’s dream for us, by touching God in the bits and pieces of each day, by breathing into the creative activity of the Blessed Trinity deep within her, by setting her imagination free to roam across the countryside of possibilities, the teacher and catechist will be nurtured and motivated into an ever-increasing cycle of wisdom and delight.

A theology of nature and grace discerns the unrestricted movement of the Holy Spirit wherever people are committed to genuine human values and humanitarian pursuits.  It would identify the longing for God in all human longing. It would identify God’s Spirit ranging across the whole spectrum of creation, of history and of individual experiences, in ways far beyond the constricted and limited places, people and things to which our recent text-book theologies and catechisms would restrict it.  Rahner, for instance, recognises the activity of the Spirit within every attraction towards expansion, breakthrough, pursuit of the good, and hoping against hope.  All of these aspirations and drives are not just the work of the Spirit but true experiences of the very essence of God.  These movements and restless impulses to be fulfilled and to be part of a bigger horizon result from the stirring and motivating of a passionate, beckoning God.  We are reflecting here on the mysticism of everyday life.

The work of forming people in the Christian faith is to convince them of the closeness of God to them; to reveal how we are always repressing or ignoring or resisting that inner conviction that we are crafted and created for a higher form of light, life, and love-making.  The preacher or teacher will always be searching for ways of revealing that this mysticism, this vague awareness of transcendence, this sensing of the divine in the midst, is somehow incarnated and contained in the most ordinary, sober and secular experience in the normal course of everyday life.  Because there is something fundamentally simple at the heart of this kind of theology, there are very successful ways to hand of enabling both child and adult to rejoice in such revelation.  However, most of our curricula and programmes need some radical revising because some of that deep simplicity is getting lost in over-elaborate  schemes  or knowledge-based approaches, due, perhaps, to an unclear theology of revelation.

The thrust of what is being said here holds true whether we are concerned with normal, in-faith, pastoral catechesis or RE, or with the evangelising of religionless postmodern seekers of a more abundant life.  And one thing is for sure.  The teacher who is enchanted by this vision of things, who is living out in her own life the wonder and freedom afforded by these revelations about God’s intimate indwelling at the heart of our lives, who is falling in love with God, every day, in a new way, will never be short of persuasive and compelling stories, images, moments and little miracles to draw her listeners to endless thresholds in their own lives too. Her life itself will become a beacon of attraction.  The hours of God’s grace are always and everywhere to hand and to heart.

(Begin with the Heart  pp 73-75)