In 1989 “The Final Frontier” entered the American vocabulary. For many decades Star Trek fans have been going to outer space where none had gone. Around that same time, I read a 1985 essay by Br. David Steindl-Rast, “Mysticism – The Frontier of Consciousness Evolution.” I delighted in the Star Trek series. But my life has been shaped by Br. David’s essay. He explored “THE” final frontier, inner space, a space that mystics through the age have explored.
Exploration into God
In this essay I first heard the phrase “exploration into God” (Christopher Fry, poet).
His thoughts have provided me with a framework for exploring my Christian awareness. He caught me early on with the statement that “Mystics were not special kinds of people. Rather everyone is called to be a mystic.” In the broadest of terms, he defined mysticism as “the awareness of belonging to ultimate reality.” Awareness as in conscious belonging to or being part of something greater than ourselves.
Think of moments when we feel fully alive and part of something big be it a cause or a relationship. Everything seems to make sense in light of that awareness. He urges “think of those moments when you have been awake to the meaning of your life.” Most often it will be a special “encounter“, when we really feel we belong.
Here is what really caught me! He said we can understand Jesus as a person who has experienced profound intimacy with God … he goes around and tells everybody, “Haven’t you experienced that? It’s a reality here and now, this Kingdom of God, the manifestation of God’s saving power.”
“When do we today experience what may be the equivalent to God’s saving power? I would suggest that it is in those moments when we are “overpowered,” as we say, by an overwhelming inrush of aliveness.”
Unfortunately, we do not make the connection that moments of “aliveness” are a small taste of belonging to the ultimate reality we call God. More sadly, we do not realize that the seven encounters we officially call ‘sacraments’ are meant to be a profound awareness of our encounter with the ultimate reality we call God. Too often we get lost in the external ritual.
“Wherever there is an experience, there must be interpretation of that experience. We can not help it. Our mind works that way. And that is what doctrine is, interpretation of religious experience… Dogma is meant to be a firm sort of stepping stone on the way to further exploration… Ethics, morality, is simply a spelling out of how to live when you take your ultimate belonging seriously. … Ritual is, first and foremost, a celebration of limitless belonging.”
Ritual, when it is alive, is the celebration of mystic experience. It is a remembering that makes the experience present again.
The new Directory of Catechesis
Echoes from the Directory
- Theology investigates the revealed mystery with the tools of reason.
- Liturgy celebrates and evokes the mystery with sacramental life.
- Charity recognizes the mystery of the brother or sister who holds out their hand.
- Catechesis, in the same way, gradually guides us to accept and live the mystery completely in our daily existence.
- The Directory adopts this vision when it asks that catechesis be formulated in such a way as to maintain the unity of the mystery while articulating the different phases of its expression.
Given this perspective I look forward to the English version as a tool for “exploring into God”.
- When have you felt most alive and connected to something bigger than yourself?
- Have you made the connection that moments are tastes of belonging to the Ultimate reality we call God?
- Does this offer any insight into St. Vincent de Paul as “mystic of charity”?
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