Last time we considered the occurrence of awakening in the mystic path–that happening in our lives when we become awake to the divine or God’s presence all around us. Today’s topic is not as exciting, but I hope not to lose any readers!
According to the mystics once we are awakened to the glory of God, we can become aware of our own imperfections. The path to ultimate union with God leads through a period (or probably periods) of purification.
Some of our imperfections are caused by our environment. Another way to say that is that we are impacted by sin. On the other hand, some of our imperfections are the result of our own bad choices. Or, we commit sin, e.g. we nurture wrong desires or do wrong things.
Our imperfections may appear in a variety of forms. Not being able to distinguish right from wrong is an imperfection in our intellect. When we can’t seem to make a decision or stick to those resolutions we do make, this is an imperfection in our will. Regularly struggling with unhealthy feelings points to an imperfection in our emotional center.
I have largely avoided talking about ‘sin’ because the word has been wildly misused over the years. When I was a young person growing up in rural Alabama in the 50s and 60s, dancing was considered a sin in some circles! And going to the movies on a Sunday was a definite taboo.
Nevertheless, the word sin still has value when we consider the imperfections in our moral center. Jesus taught us to love one another, which means seeking the other person’s welbeing. When we fail to do that, we are imperfect or we are sinners.
Mystics have suggested a threefold way of purification that can help us along the path to union with God. First is contrition–a sense of sorrow for our imperfections or sins. Second is a full confession–acknowledging, at least to ourselves, that we are not perfect. Third is the resolve to change. Of course, for Christian mystics, all of this is done in the presence of God who is ready to forgive and to help us grow into the divine nature.
Last month I promised to share some practices that have been used to polish the divine image or fan the divine spark within us. My problem was where to start. Truthfully, I could begin with almost any of the practices, but the Season made the choice for me.
In the month of December the song Silent Night, Holy Night will be sung, played and listened to throughout America and indeed the world. So, I begin this series writing about silence as a spiritual practice.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.” Psalm 62:5 This is one of several passages of scripture that affirm silence, often as a sign of trust.
The value of silence is at least two-fold. It helps us to slow down; to recollect ourselves. It seems especially important now in the hectic Christmas Season, but also in the heated political atmosphere that we breathe everyday.
It also helps us to listen–to listen to God, to others, and to our own inner self. The one who talks much, listens little.
As a spiritual practice, silence refers to sitting in God’s presence in silence. If you’ve not done it before, try doing it for just 10 minutes. If your mind begins to wander, recollect yourself with a short prayer like, “I trust in you”.
In the Christmas carol, holiness is born in silence. If we are faithful to practice times of silence perhaps the light within will begin to burn more brightly.
[As always, feel free to share my blogs with anyone you think may profit and encourage them to become followers along with you.]
The medieval mystics called it a divine spark. The Quakers named it inner light. The Bible pictured it as the image of God. It is in all of us.
Some might want to argue this fact. How, they might say, can anyone believe this in a world dominated by hatred, violence, and darkness? Perhaps some, but surely not all, have something of God within them. Others might look at their own lives, shake their heads, and deny it could be true of them with all their insecurities and troubling doubts.
Still there are voices that continue to affirm the ancient truth. One is Pastor Steven Garnaas-Holmes who writes a regular piece under the internet tag “Unfolding Light”. Recently here is part of what he shared:
- You are the living image
- of the Lovely One.
- God is the sun of love within you.
- Vessel of divine light,
- you bear this magnificence into the world.
- This can’t be changed or diminished.
- Let this be your confidence, your hope,
- your courage
The problem most of us face is that the image is so faint or the spark so dim that we can hardly see it at all. And neither can those around us. So, the question arises: how can we polish the image or fan the spark? What can we do that will help the inner light or sun of love shine more brightly, not simply for ourselves, but for a world seemingly enveloped in darkness?
In the next few months, I hope to share about some practices or disciplines that I have found helpful in my own spiritual growth, but more importantly that have been affirmed by persons far more advanced than me in the spiritual life.