“The mystic is not somebody who says, ‘Look what I’ve experienced. Look what I’ve achieved.’ The mystic is the one who says, ‘Look what love has done to me.’. . . There’s nothing left, but the being of love itself giving itself away as . . . the concreteness of who you simply are.”
James Finley, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate
Richard Rohr affirms love as the heart of all mystical experience:
“It seems to me Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. Yet the mystics consistently describe an overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In their writings, God is the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. Then we certainly want to love back the way we have been loved… But it’s not like I’ve got to prove my love for God by doing things. My job is simply to complete the circuit!
Mystics experience a full-bodied embrace and acceptance by Divine Love, and then spend their lives trying to verbalize and embody it. They invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship, but it’s never earning the love—it’s always returning the love. Can you feel the difference? Returning God’s love is almost a different language. It’s not based in fear, but in ecstasy.
God is always given, incarnate in every moment and present to those who know how to be present themselves. It is that simple and that difficult. To be present in prayer can be an experience of being loved at a deep level. I hope you have felt such intimacy alone with God; I promise it is available to you. Maybe we just need to be told that this divine intimacy is what we should expect. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek it. It feels presumptuous. We don’t trust that such a love exists—and for us. But it does.”
(with details of artwork by Polly Castor)