Christian Mysticism: A study on Practical Applications
Mysticism is the art of union with Ultimate Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.
May the words we post here and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our Lord and our Redeemer. Amen.
We are presently studying Theologia Germanica, an anonymous work written probably just before the reformation.
This is a topical study and we have kept the threads of previous books that we have studied, for reference by latecomers. For convenience, the previous books we have studied are listed below.
Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross.
Fire of Love, by Richard Rolle of Hampole.
Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, by Ugolino.
Cloud of Unknowing, by an anonymous early English author.
Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection, by Walter Hilton.
Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill.
OF A HOLY BROTHER TO WHOM THE MOTHER OF CHRIST APPEARED WHEN HE WAS ILL, AND BROUGHT HIM THREE VASES OF HEALING OINTMENT
How Men that abide and live in Sin, misshape themselves into the likeness of divers Beasts, and they be called the Lovers of the World
This is chapter 14 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
Hou men thorugh synne forschapen hemsilf into seere bestis liknesse and thise aren callid the loveres of this world.
HOW BROTHER PACIFICO, BEING IN PRAYER, SAW THE SOUL OF BROTHER UMILE, HIS BROTHER IN THE FLESH, GO UP TO HEAVEN
I find this story to be more about the reaction of the other brothers to Brother Pacifico's treatment of his brother's remains, and about his explanation of it, than it is about the vision that led to that treatment. Some subjects this story might invite comments on could be, the treatment of our mortal remains, and the communion of the saints. As the body of Christ, the church is a mystic community of all believers, living and dead.
Of three sorts of Men, whereof some be not reformed, and some be reformed only in Faith, and some both in Faith and Feeling
This is chapter 13 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
Of thre maner of men, of the whiche summe aren not reformed, and summe ben reformed oonli in feythe, and summe in feithe and in feelynge.
OF THE CONVERSION, LIFE, MIRACLES, AND DEATH OF THE HOLY BROTHER JOHN DELLA PENNA
This chapter touches on several related subjects. I would say the one that ties the rest together could be called either sin and forgiviness, or spiritual warfare. The aged friar named Brother Mathew could be called a spiritual warrior. Or, to look at it another way, he had the gift of the curing of souls.
That this Image is both fair and foul whilst it is in this Life here, though it be reformed; and of the Differences of the secret Feelings of those that be reformed and those that be not
This is chapter 12 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That this image is bothe fair and foule whilis it is in this lif, though it be reformed; and of dyversité of felyng priveli had atwixe thise soulis that aren reformede and othere that aren nought reformed.
HOW THE MOTHER OF CHRIST AND ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST APPEARED TO BROTHER CONRAD, AND TOLD HIM WHO HAD SUFFERED THIS GREATEST SORROW AT THE PASSION OF CHRIST
This chapter is a wonderful chapter to reflect upon. I think our modern "sophistication" and our culture that ignores the whole spiritual realm are big factors in why accounts of present day (as opposed to historic) visions are rare among us today, compared with other eras. An account of seeing of a vision shouldn't sound incredible. It's a recognized fact that people dream, and we should expect that if people have spent a good deal of time reading about and reflecting upon religious subjects, some of their dreams would contain material from what they've been reading or reflecting upon.
That Souls reformed need ever to fight and strive against the Motions of sin while they live here. And how a Soul may know when she assenteth to these Motions and when not
This is chapter 11 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That soules reformed neden ai for to fighten and stryven ayen stirynges of synne whiles thei lyven heer, and hou a soule mai witen whanne he assenteth to ille stirynges and whanne not.
HOW BROTHER CONRAD OF OFFIDA CONVERTED A YOUNG BROTHER, WHO WAS A STUMBLING BLOCK TO THE OTHER BROTHERS, AND HOW AFTER DEATH HIS SOUL APPEARED TO BROTHER CONRAD, BEGGING HIM TO PRAY FOR HIM, AND HOW THROUGH HIS PRAYER HE WAS DELIVERED FROM THE GREAT PAINS OF PURGATORY
Some topics that come up in this chapter are, reproving with charity, purgatory, and praying for the souls of those deceased.
That all the Souls that live humbly in the Faith of Holy Church, and have their Faith enlivened with Love and Charity, be reformed by this Sacrament, though it be so that they cannot feel the special gift of Devotion or of spiritual feeling
This is chapter 10 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
OF SEVERAL WONDERFUL MIRACLES WHICH THE LORD PERFORMED THROUGH THE MEANS OF BROTHER PETER OF MONTICELLO, AND BROTHER CONRAD OF OFFIDA. HOW BROTHER BENTIVOGLIO CARRIED A LEPER FIFTEEN MILES IN A VERY SHORT TIME, HOW ST MICHAEL SPOKE TO ANOTHER BROTHER, AND HOW THE VIRGIN MARYAPPEARED TO BROTHER CONRAD AND PLACED HER DIVINE SON IN HIS ARMS
We have a ooncatenation of miracle stories here to illustrate the influence members of the brotherhood had on each other. In the gospels, there is the story of a woman being healed by touching the hem of Jesus' garment, that story being told as an aside between His being asked to heal a sick child, and arriving at the child's home, finding her dead, and bringing her back to life. Concatenation, or tying the stories together in chains, helps us see that these are not isolated events but that such things were always happening.
That we are to believe stedfastly the reforming of this Image, if our Conscience witness to us a full forsaking of Sin, and a true turning of our Will to good living
This is chapter 9 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That we schul trowe stidefasteli reformynge of this image, yif oure conscience wittenesse us a ful forsakynge of synne and a trewe turnynge of oure wil to good lyvynge.
HOW THE VENERABLE BROTHER SIMON DELIVERED A BROTHER FROM A GREAT TEMPTATION, ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH HE WAS ON THE POINT OF LEAVING THE ORDER
That through the Sacrament of Penance (that consisteth in Contrition, Confession and Satisfaction) this Image is reformed from Actual Sin
This is chapter 7 and chapter 8 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That thorugh the sacrament of penaunce that stondeth in contricion and in confessioun and in satisfaccioun this image is reformed fro actuel synne.
OF THE MIRACLE WHICH GOD PERFORMED WHEN ST ANTHONY BEING AT RIMINI, PREACHED TO THE FISHES OF THE SEA
There's so much here, I'll just single out one point and hope others will share what they've found. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. We seem to insist on a pecking order here on earth that's not necessarily parallel to - maybe I shouldn't say pecking order - the way things are in heaven. There are always people seeking high positions, in politics, in the church, in any human organization. Jesus said that among the nations, their rulers lord it over them, but not so in the kingdom of God. There, whoever would be great must be the servant of all. We can impress the other members of whatever group we're in with our talents, our knowledge, our skills, but God sees our hearts and recognizes the humble servants among us. It's interesting that Jesus and many of the prophets came from humble backgrounds. There were high priests, kings, and wealthy and honored people who could have been given the messages that these men carried. But the words of those who were chosen to give these messages have been respected - by some - down through the ages.
That through the Sacrament of Baptism (which is grounded in the Passion of Christ) this Image is reformed from Original Sin
This is chapter 6 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That thorugh the sacrament of baptym that is groundid in the passioun of Crist this image is reformed fro the original synne.
OF THE WONDERFUL DISCOURSE WHICH ST ANTHONY OF PADUA A FRIAR MINOR, MADE IN THE CONSISTORY
All present "understood what he said as perfectly as if he had spoken the language of each." In my travels I've visited churches where I've heard sermons preached in languages I didn't understand, or didn't understand really well enough to get more than the gist of the message. There's something wonderful about participating in worship in a language we don't understand. I think it has to do with knowing that we're about something that goes beyond our ethnic boundaries, and that is inexpicable, anyway.
That Reforming in part is in two manners, one in Faith, another in Feeling
This is chapter 5 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That the reforming in partie is on two maneres. Oon in feyth, anothir in feith and in felynge
HOW IT WAS REVEALED TO ST FRANCIS THAT BROTHER ELIAS WAS DAMNED AND WAS TO DIE OUT OF THE ORDER; AND HOW AT THE DESIRE OF THE SAID BROTHER, HE PRAYED TO CHRIST FOR HIM, AND HOW HIS PRAYER WAS GRANTED
It's interesting to me that the prayer for Brother Elias' salvation was pronounced answered, and Brother Francis was relieved to learn that brother Elias would be saved, before the later events which caused him to be excommunicated. God is not bound by the limitations of time and space as we are.
Of two Manners of reforming of this Image, one in fulness, another in part
This is chapter 4 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
Of two maner reformynge of this image, oon in fulnesse and othir in partie.