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.
HOW JESUS CHRIST, THE BLESSED ONE, AT THE PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS, CONVERTED A RICH NOBLEMAN WHO HAD MADE GREAT OFFERS TO ST FRANCIS, AND INSPIRED HIM WITH A WISH TO BECOME A RELIGIOUS
In this chapter we are reminded of the command Christ gave to the rich man, to sell all he had and give it to the poor. I think it was Saint Anthony, one of the Coptic Desert Fathers, who took this command as applying to himself. That was one of the events that ushered in the beginning of monasticism. For an interesting contrast, Clement of Alexandria felt the need to interpret the command of Jesus to the rich man allegorically.
SECTION I: That a Man is the Image of God after the Soul and not after the Body; and how he is restored and reformed thereto that was misshapen by Sin
SECTION II: That Jews and Pagans and also false Christians are not reformed effectually through the virtue of the Passion through their own Faults
These are chapters 1 to 3 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
This chapitle scheweth that a man is seid the image of God aftir the soule and not aftir the bodi.
HOW ST FRANCIS EXPLAINED TO BROTHER LEO A BEAUTIFUL VISION THAT HE HAD SEEN
I think it's pretty clear that the main point we're supposed to take away with us from this story is the importance of poverty. But poverty is something more than just not having the things of this world, it's not needing them. The vow of poverty is just promising not to acquire the things of this world. The gift of poverty is being okay with that. One with a true calling for the monastic life takes this vow because he sees that he will find no happiness in acquiring the things of this world.
The Conclusion of this Book, and of the Cause why it was made, and how she for whom it was made was to make use of it
Hereinne is told the cause whi this writynge is maad, and hou sche schal have hire in the redynge that it was maad unto. - Chapter title from chapter 92 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 1 in Middle English
HOW ST CLARE, BEING ILL, WAS MIRACULOUSLY CARRIED, ON CHRISTMAS NIGHT, TO THE CHURCH OF ST FRANCIS, WHERE SHE ASSISTED AT THE OFFICE
How a Man shall be shapen to the Image of Jesus, and Jesus shapen in him
Hou a man schal be schapen to the image of Jhesu, and Jhesu schapen in hym. - Chapter title from chapter 91 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 1 in Middle English
HOW ST LOUIS, KING OF FRANCE, WENT IN PERSON IN A PILGRIM'S GARB TO VISIT THE HOLY BROTHER GILES
Saint Louis, a saint who was a king, strikes me as someone whom it would be interesting to talk to. If the story before us at present is any indication, King Louis had some interesting stories to relate. But here, he and Brother Giles communicated in silence. And if I read aright, they were mutually satisfied with that communication. We're told that neither could speak because of the light of divine wisdom. Apparently, what was most important in both of their lives was something that couldn't be communicated in words, anyway.
A comparing of this Image with the Image of Jesus, and how it is to be dealt with
Whereof the image of Jhesu is maad, and the ymage of synne and hou we aren passynge forth by the image of synne.
What profite cometh of the kepynge of the herte, and hou moche the soule is.
Hou the ymage of synne schal be broken doun.
How a man schal have hym ayens stirynges of pride and of alle othere vices.
HOW ST CLARE, BY ORDER OF THE POPE, BLESSED THE BREAD WHICH WAS ON THE TABLE, AND HOW ON EACH LOAF APPEARED THE SIGN OF THE HOLY CROSS
An interesting comparison comes to mind between this story and the story of the budding of Aaron's rod. In the case of Aaron's rod, the miracle took place to confirm authority which had been challenged. In St. Clare's case, the miracle took place when she acted in obedience to the Pope's command, given to overcome her reluctance to assume what would usually be the Pope's prerogative.
A Brief Rehearsal of what hath been said in the former Chapters, with a Portraiture of this dark Image of sin
Of the myrke image of synne and of the clothinge therof.
Whiche aren the lymes of the ymage of synne. - Chapter title from chapters 84 and 85 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 1 in Middle English
HOW BROTHER MASSEO OBTAINED FROM CHRIST THE VIRTUE OF HUMILITY
I think that what we should reflect upon in this chapter is the relationship between humility and grace. There's sort of a story within the story here. Brother Masseo only hears about a man about whom it is said, "his humility was to him a means of sanctification, and confirmed him in the grace of God." And having heard this story, Brother Masseo determines to strive to obtain this virtue of humility.
Of another Hole or Window that is to be stopped as well as the Windows of the Senses, namely, the Imagination
That the hoole of ymaginacion nedeth to be stopped, als wel as the wyndowes of the wittes.
Whanne the use of the wittes and of the imaginacioun is deedli synne, and whanne venyal.
Hou an ankir schal have hir to hem that comen to hir. - Chapter titles from chapter 81 to 83 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 1 in Middle English
HOW ST FRANCIS WAS ACQUAINTED WITH THE SECRETS OF THE CONSCIENCES OF ALL HIS BRETHREN
Of the Five Windows of this dark Image, and what cometh in by them, and how they are to be ordered
What cometh of the merkenese of the image of synne and what cometh bi the wyndowes thereof.
That a soule for defaute of knowynge of hitsilf wendith out bi the fyve wittes for to sek liking outward.
That a soule schulde not seke withoute, but aske withinne of Jhesu, al that it nedeth. - Chapter titles from chapters 78 to 80 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 1 in Middle English
OF THE BEAUTIFUL SERMON WHICH ST FRANCIS AND BROTHER RUFFINO PREACHED AT ASSISI
SECTION I Of Gluttony and how a Man shall know when he sinneth not in Eating and Drinking, and when he sinneth venially, and when deadly
SECTION II: That a Man should be busy to put away and hinder all Motions of sin, but more busy about those of Spiritual sins than those of Bodily
SECTION III: What Remedy a Man should use against the Faults in Eating and Drinking
Hou a man schal knowe whanne he synneth not in etynge and drynkynge and whanne he synneth deedli and whan veniali.
The ground of leccherie schulde be distroied with goostli travaile and not with bodili.
HOW THE DEVIL OFTEN APPEARED TO BROTHER RUFFINO IN THE FORM OF A CRUCIFIX, TELLING HIM THAT ALL THE GOOD HE DID WAS OF NO AVAIL, SEEING HE WAS NOT OF THE NUMBER OF THE ELECT OF GOD; WHICH BEING REVEALED TO ST FRANCIS, HE MADE KNOWN TO BROTHER RUFFINO THE ERROR INTO WHICH HE HAD FALLEN
Of Covetousness and how a Man may know how much of it is hid in his Heart
Hou a man schal knowe hou mochel coveytise is hid in hys herte - Chapter title from chapter 71 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 1 in Middle English
OF AN ECSTASY WHICH CAME TO BROTHER BERNARD, AND HOW HE REMAINED FROM MATINS UNTIL NONE IN A STATE OF RAPTURE.
SECTION I: Of Envy and Wrath and their Branches, and how, instead of sin, the Person is often hated
SECTION II: That it is a Mastery and noble Skill to love Men’s Persons, and yet wisely to hate their sins, and how
SECTION III: How a Man shall know how much Wrath and Envy is hid in the ground of his Heart, and how he may know whether he loves his Enemies, and the Examples we have thereof in our Saviour
Of envie and ire and of here braunchis, and hou sumtyme instide of synne mannys persoone is hated.