Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Mysticism and the Liturgy


In his column, in the Catholic Times, a priest working in the field of spirituality explains the place of mysticism in our understanding of the liturgy.

Mysticism is the belief that union with the divine may be attained through contemplation, prayer, and self-surrender. Through certain spiritual exercises, we can gain a deeper understanding and relationship with the divine.

In the traditional Catholic teaching, we have three levels which are continually operative: Purgative, abandoning sin and attachments; Illuminative, practicing the virtues, meditation; and the Unitive Way, detachment from temporal things, enjoying peace not moved by various desires and sinful passions. Union with God experiencing his love and responding.
Karl Rahner the German theologian said: "The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all." They will have to have an experiential relationship with God or be without faith.
For the liturgy to become reality, not magic there is a need to understand mysticism. The fundamental purpose of the liturgy is to bring forth the fruit of faith. One must understand the mystery of Christ from the reality of symbols.
In Romania a large orphanage reopened in 1990, William Snyder photographed the conditions of the children held there and informed the world. The orphanage 'Cradle' he called a "human storehouse". Many children were growing up in a spiritless state; shaking their bodies, pounding their heads against the wall, frowning strangely, they didn't even notice when persons approached them. They had never been abused or hungry, but children were growing up without any communication skills necessary in society— they were neglected.
What was the problem? The food provided by the workers did not give them the trust they needed. Children need parents. You cannot grow properly without knowing your parents. Usually, the food giver is the parent. However, the Cradle lacked the necessary workers, so one nanny had to take care of 20 to 30 children. The nanny's job was to distribute food, she couldn't give the children any warm contact or care. The children were able to survive by eating food but did not grow up properly because they couldn't find anyone they could trust.
The same can be said of any liturgy that does not bear the fruit of 'faith'. The primary purpose of the liturgy is to show how grace allows us to believe in God as a father so that we can live like children of God. However, no matter how many times one receives the Eucharist if one does not realize its meaning, faith will not grow.
The liturgy is not magic. Liturgy is a reality that changes people. In order for the liturgy to become real, catechesis for the liturgy is necessary to lead people to understand its meaning.

The liturgy is made up of 'symbols'. Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (it is 'mystagogy') by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the 'sacraments' to the 'mysteries' (CC 1075). (The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows)(1074).
This is why education is essential in order to participate in the living liturgy that bears the fruit of faith. Sunday we celebrated the Feast Day of the Holy Family and followed, in Korea, was a week spent learning ways to sanctify the family. Would not the desire to become a mystic be a good start?

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