“Guidelines to Mystical Prayer” by Carmelite nun, Ruth Burrows, forced me to question my basic premise about the nature of reality, rekindled joy in my drooping spirit then challenged me to change.
We have all read of saints who claim to live in mystical union with Christ. The image that comes to mind is of medieval saints who are morose and miserable, wearing hair shirts and living on bread and water. However I discovered that the claims of saints are not bogus but true and furthermore that it is completely realistic that I should expect to live joyfully in the Resurrection. The accounts of the saints might be couched in fanciful, archaic language but they are not allegories or fairy tales. This Resurrected life is not for a select few; humans are wired for a life lived in and through a mystical connection to God. In fact life in Christ is not a big deal; it is simply the normal Christian life.
Twenty-five years ago, my husband discovered a book at a Trappist monastery that changed our lives, called “Guidelines to Mystical Prayer” by a British Carmelite nun, Ruth Burrows. She describes Petra, a woman who lives only by faith without any experiences of God, and Claire, a “light on” nun who experiences mystical encounters. Both women know with absolute clarity that their core identity has shifted from ego-centric to Christ-centric. They were actually modern-day saints. The Spirit of Jesus live in them and they live surrounded by the Holy Spirit, plugged into the universal God. Guidelines to Mystical Prayer questioned my basic premise about the nature of reality, rekindled joy in my drooping spirit then challenged me to allow God to transform me with his power and strength, not by my futile striving. I had tried to become a saint but to no avail.
We pored over this book, reading it again and again, soaking in every nuance, digging out every morsel, every detail which described this new life. My husband and I were filled with an exuberant joy because we finally we realized that our deepest longings could be fulfilled, that a simple spiritual life, the life of a saint was possible. The life described by St. Paul so eloquently is factual.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, for me. -Galatians 2:2
I saw a similar epiphany in a brilliant young friend who was a confirmed atheist, although when I asked what he had read on spirituality or Christianity he simply replied, “The library”! We were praying while Davin relaxed on the margins of the group when he suddenly started to laugh. Our eyes popped open in surprise. The quiet, subdued young man was beaming.
“I’m hot all over, especially inside my chest. It is like a glowing, warm, golden Presence that’s all around me, inside of me…but it was there the whole time; I just couldn’t feel it or see it. It’s like all of a sudden I am plugged into a circuit board of power that has always existed . God is real. He exists. I can’t believe it. Why did I not see something that is all around me, right in my face? I feel this energy flowing between everyone in this room and connecting to me as well, like electrical currents, like invisible cords. I want to jump up and down and start yelling on the top of my voice that God exists and He is right here.”
It is true.
The lives of the saints are really true.
If you are a secret cynic, or simply someone like me who tries to connect with God all in your own strength, why don’t you give God the permission to save you and transform you into a normal Christian? You will be surprised, “surprised by joy.” Wordsworth, C.S. Lewis
Lord I want, no I need to live in You, with You and through you because there is an aching hole within me that was made specially for you. Transform me, fill me, make me yours, so I might live in union and communion with the Trinity.
Copyright 2013 Melanie Jean Juneau. Originally posted on February 20, 2016.
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