We have noted the experience of awakening that often is the first step along the path. This can be followed by purification or purgation in which we acknowledge our sins and attempt, with God’s grace, to overcome the dark traits of our personalities. Next can come illumination in which we experience the presence of God such that we begin to understand more and more about who God is and what God desires for us. The final stop along the mystic path is called union.
On sweet occasions
Goal of Christian devotion
Union with our God
As might be expected, this stage can only be described by metaphor and symbol. Some mystics compare it to a transformation, e.g. wood becoming flame in fire, or a drop of water becoming wine when immersed in a great sea of wine. And, St. Paul wrote about being conformed to the image of Christ–becoming like Christ. Deification is a word the Eastern Orthodox Church has used for centuries. We do not become equal with God, but they affirm that we acquire the divine nature. In 2nd Peter, we discover that we can “become participants of the divine nature” (1:4).
Another favorite image among the mystics is spiritual marriage. It is a union characterized by love. The Song of Solomon is a favorite book for these mystics. Human love becomes a metaphor for the loving union of a person and God.
However it was characterized, the mystics all have had a burning desire to experience the fullness of God. They desire this more than life itself. So, they seek after God, and by God’s grace, they can have moments of true union. Only in the life to come, can the union become more permanent.
Union with God in this life and the life to come is characterized by 5 qualities.
1) It is marked by a union of minds. The mystic begins to share God’s values, ideas, and wisdom. Because of this union, they often understand intuitively what God would have them do different situations.
2) It is marked by a union of hearts. The mystic begins to love what God loves. The true mystic, united with God, has compassion for all that God has made.
3) The third mark should go without saying, but it is often not clearly understood. If we share God’s values and love what God loves, we will desire union with one another. To be united with God, one must in one way or another, be immersed in the life of the people of God.
4) The fourth mark is joy. One of my favorite mystics, Richard Rolle compared the person united with God to a music pipe always playing joyful songs of love to Christ.
5) The fifth mark is peace. One of my favorite hymns expresses this well. It is “Like a River Glorious” by Frances Havergal:
Life a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day;
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Hidden in the hollow of God’s blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand.
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Nor a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest;
Finding as God promised, perfect peace and rest.
This is not the last thing I want to say about this beautiful mystic path, but perhaps that is enough for today. As always, if you find what I have written helpful, feel free to share it with others.