Tag Archives: Mystics

The God that Loves Us

During this time our Lord showed me a spiritual sight of His simple, homely loving. I saw that He is to us everything that is good and comforting to us. He is our clothing, which wraps and embraces us in love. He completely enfolds us in tender love so that He might never leave us, being to us everything that is good, as I see it.

—-Julian of Norwich

Julian newThe world that surrounds us is full of strife and anger. Loving relationships seem to very hard to develop and maintain. People are turning to drugs, legal and illegal, to make life work. If we can’t find love and security, we’ll just check into a fantasy. Julian did not live in a setting that was much more accommodating than ours. She had problems and insecurities that plagued her, and yet she found love and she found it in solitude. Her entire life was dedicated to finding divine love.

What do we discover when find divine love and how does it change our perspective?

Julian asserts that God has a homely love. The love of God is simple and unassuming, unlike the love of other people that can be so complicated. So many of us perpetuate our false selves, not only to the world but to ourselves as well. We try to avoid being simple because simplicity invites vulnerability and vulnerability leaves us open to hurt. God, however, give us the example of a love that disregards these dangers and it is a grand thing.

Shaker  Elder Joseph gives us a word in his “Simple Gifts.”

simple gifts

Some four hundred years later this follower of Jesus is seeing God in the same way that Julian did from her cell. Perhaps we can also look for this simple God in our hectic world.

God’s love is all that is good and comfortable to us. Untold amounts of money are spent every day by people that are seeking comfort. We long to hear a comforting word or see a comforting movie. The longing for comfort is an essential part of how we are designed, and yet it remains so elusive to us. Julian sees it as a simple act of God that is only waiting to be recognized. When many of us think of comfort, we think if comfort food or comfort waist bands in our clothing. That comfort implies excess ,but the only excesses that God holds are in his ability to give of himself to us. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16) What kind of comforting love is that?

The God that loves us never abandons us. We may lose touch with Him but he is always there. I know that is hard for many to process. All of us have had those times when we think God has forsaken us. Those times are frustrating and fuel anger and resentment. It helps to envision God as our clothing.  We never even think about what we are wearing, but we would quickly notice if we lost our coat on a cold day. In the same way God clothes us in our most difficult times.


Prayer

Lord, may we never forget the homely love which is simple and comforting . We try to complicate love but you make it simple. Your simple love is  reliable as the clothes on our backs and as available as the sun that rises every morning. Let us recognize this love.

Amen

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A Week with Julian of Norwich

This week’s Lenten Prayer guides will include a daily quote from English mystic Julian of Norwich.

Who is Julian of Norwich?

English mystic of the fourteenth century, author or recipient of the vision contained in the book known as the “Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love”.

The original form of her name appears to have been Julian. She was probably a Benedictine nun, living as a recluse in an anchorage of which traces still remain in the east part of the churchyard of St. Julian in Norwich, which belonged to Carrow Priory.

Julian Icon-filteredAccording to her book, this revelation was “shewed” to her on 8 or 14 May (the readings differ), 1373, when she was thirty years and a half old. This would refer her birth to the end of 1342. Her statement, that “for twenty years after the time of this shewing, save three months, I had teaching inwardly”, proves that the book was not written before 1393.

Like St. Catherine, Juliana has little of the dualism of body and soul that is frequent in the mystics. God is in our “sensuality” as well as in our “substance”, and the body and the soul render mutual aid: “Either of them take help of other till we be brought up into stature, as kind worketh.” Knowledge of God and knowledge of self are inseparable: we may never come to the knowing of one without the knowing of the other. “God is more nearer to us than our own soul”, and “in falling and rising we are ever preciously kept in one love.” She lays special stress upon the “homeliness” and “courtesy” of God’s dealings with us, “for love maketh might and wisdom full meek to us.” With this we must correspond by a happy confidence; “failing of comfort” is the “most mischief” into which the soul can fall. In the Blessed Virgin the Lord would have all mankind see how they are loved

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Thin Places Part 1

Conceptually, I have known of “thin places” for a number of years but never really gave it a whole lot of thought. Thin places, like many other Celtic traditions, hold a certain mystical fascination for me. The Celts developed this sort of thinking long before the long arm of western Christianity invaded their world. Simply put, a thin place was and is just that, a physical location where the separation between the divine and the earth is thin. I believe we can expand that beyond the borders of Ireland and Scotland and say that we have all experienced thin places in our lives – those mystical, unexplainable touches with the divine that both test and strengthen our faith. Contemplative Franciscan Richard Rhor calls this place “the edge “, and suggests we should cultivate being there. “The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, “a thin place” and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return.” So, how can we find a thin place in our world? Do we get on a plane and fly to Ireland, or can we just go around the block? Let’s do a little background first.

Thin Places GraphicA thin place is any place of transition: a doorway, a gate, the sea shore, these are all places where very little movement will take you from one place to another. My grandfather had a practice of going “visiting” the neighbors where he would always stand on the porch on the outside of the doorway and never go into the house. In spite of that, everyone would say that that Frank had come over to their house that day. The thin places of spirituality are the same way, we are present in both worlds.

Thin Places in the Bible

I will narrow the list down a little by picking three.

The first is the thin place of God in the Exodus from Egypt. “For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.” (Exodus 40:38 NRSV) Perhaps this is the most graphic of all thin places in the Bible because it had a very graphic signpost of God’s nearness. God traveled with them and they saw it, they knew and were blessed by experiencing the thin place.

The second is the thin place of any miracle. I’ll pick the Hebrew Scripture story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were local officials of the occupation government of King Nebuchadnezzar. The king had statue of himself built and decreed all subjects to offer worship to it. These men refused saying that they could only worship the true God, Yahweh. He ordered them burned in an especially hot furnace, but they did not perish in the flames. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”(Daniel 3:24-25 NRSV) Not only were they saved from the execution but God was walking with them in the fire. Not only Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego but all those present around the furnace were standing on holy ground – a thin place.

I chose for the third reference the thinnest place that ever existed, the hill of Golgotha. Many would say that this was a place of the melding of heaven and earth. The place where Jesus, God in the flesh, died for the salvation of all. Picture the scene: “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46 NRSV)There were so many ways that this scene had become a thin place that I could spend pages talking about it, but instead I just want to say the veil between the celestial and the earthly was extraordinarily thin.

Next installment: Relishing your thin places.

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