One year ago this month, I started this blog, not knowing if anyone would read it. While the number of people reading this blog isn't huge, I think there has been enough traffic to this site, and corresponding positive feedback, to verify something that I have suspected for awhile now: There is a desire among Lutherans, and members of similar traditions which arose at the time of the Reformation, to explore spiritual practices that have been minimized in our churches, even though they are a good and helpful part of our Catholic heritage.
In short, I will describe that desire as a hunger for mysticism.
Mysticism has become a dirty word in certain Protestant and Lutheran circles because there are uses of the word which are contrary to our beliefs, including some uses which are contrary to Christianity altogether.
Mysticism can mean spiritual beliefs which blur the lines between the Creator and the created, and spiritual practices which lead to a belief that the best place to find God is by looking into yourself. I'm not talking about that kind of mysticism.
Mysticism can also lead to a mindset which focuses on what we do for God, instead of what God has done for us. I'm not talking about that kind of mysticism, either.
When I am talking about mysticism, I simply mean an awareness, through faith, of God's presence in our lives. I believe that kind of mysticism is fully compatible with Christianity, as well as Lutheranism. In fact, I would say that not only is that kind of mysticism compatible with our faith - it is necessary for our faith to be sustained.
The beliefs and practices I have written about on this blog have been related to that form of mysticism. For example, the Jesus Prayer, lectio divina, and the daily rhythm of prayers and readings (found in the Rule of St. Benedict, and included in the lectionaries and daily prayer services in our Lutheran worship books as well as the Book of Common Prayer) help us to give thanks to God our Father, focus our attention on Christ and him crucified, and enhance our awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in and around us.
After all, Martin Luther himself had a profound mystical experience (commonly referred to as the "tower experience") after engaging in a period of meditation on Scripture, akin to lectio divina:
“The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience like lightning. When I heard them I was exceedingly terrified. If God is righteous [I thought], he must punish. But when by God’s grace I pondered, in the tower and heated room of this building,
over the words, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ [Rom.
1:17] and ‘the righteousness of God’ [Rom. 3:21], I soon came to the
conclusion that if we, as righteous men,
ought to live from faith and if the righteousness of God contribute to
the salvation of all who believe, then salvation won’t be our merit but
God’s mercy. My spirit was thereby cheered. For it’s by the
righteousness of God that we’re justified and saved through Christ.
These words [which had before terrified me] now became more pleasing to
me. The Holy Spirit unveiled the Scriptures for me in this tower.”
(From Luther's Works Volume 54: Table Talk).
(The tower of the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg where Luther was a monk).
So, thank you for accompanying me on my journey into blogging this past year. With God's grace and help, I look forward to further exploration of the kind of Christian spiritual practices and beliefs which might help our awareness of God's presence in our lives.