It took planning and calculation. We bought tickets and, guided by GPS, made our way to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Thanks be to God, for solid roads, good weather, and signs to help us find our seats! And when the huge spot lights suddenly illuminated Larry Mullen, Jr., then the rest of U2 playing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” while walking onto the stage, it became a mystical musical experience. It didn’t hurt that just moments before they started a full double rainbow arced through the sky, framing the stage.
Often through the history of faith, we seem to have preferred ordered process more than mystical experience. For good reason—as we remember how life is threatened in times of chaos. I trust that our lives and world are far better for all when ordered by Divine Love. I work for that order. Yet, we also have experiences and insights that cannot be rationally explained. And to try “ordering” them in our hearts or minds would be to diminish or lose completely the power they have to move us.
In fact, the Bible has many more mystical texts. This Sunday we read the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. His clothes became dazzling white. Bright light shines as a voice from heaven speaks, “This is my son, the Beloved; listen to him.” It was a mystical experience of the Holy. What actually happened? Who really knows? In any case, I believe Mark tells this story a bit like art from the St. John’s Bible I experienced last summer, where the text has been scribed like the Middle Ages, with illuminations filling entire huge pages. We can explain the technique—gold leaf adhered to the paintings, makes it seem like light is not just reflected, but actually arising from the page.
That experience is something like what Mark and other scripture writers try to convey. We call it the light of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Inspiration. Comfort. Joy. Hope. Purpose. Peace. All arising like beams of holiness from our midst. That may be a good description (though not full explanation) of many mystical experiences we have all the time—if we have eyes of the heart to see. We could feel them in places of natural beauty (like Jesus on the mountain top). Think of your favorites—ocean beaches, mountain vistas, desert valleys, forest glades, morning mist on Michigan lakes. Or maybe you’ve felt such inspiration through music, art, theatre, a good dinner with friends, or dare we say, worship! And the great promise of scripture, which Jesus embodied time and again, is that the Light of this Divine Love comes even to places seemingly not quite so beautiful, among people seemingly not quite so blessed. Outcasts. Least. Lame. Lost. Powerless. Maybe you’ve felt in places of such “darkness” in your life, as well.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it.” That’s how John begins his gospel. It’s a promise. And it’s a reality we experience. Expect mystical moments of light in your life. Be grateful. And then consider how this Holy Light just might shine through you to illuminate others, as well!
Grace and Peace,