"And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white." Mt 17:2
Family time is precious! When shared in the beauty of New Zealand’s Fiordland, my heart skips upon recalling the joyful presence of our five enraptured children, some 23 years past, on that ‘mystical’ cruise through the stunning Milford Sounds. As we sailed those blue waters edged by mountainous outcrops soaring into cloud enshrouded peaks, we were dazzled by not only dolphins in our ship’s wake, but also by the sun’s reflection upon cascades of water tumbling down precipitous mountainsides after the preceding nights downpour. If only we could have sustained the rapture of that weekend when with family and friends, we imbibed nature in its most enticing surrounds, community and friendship in its most exhilarating and endearing outreach. Hosted by the NZ Burns Support Group for families with burns victims, this weekend of compassion contrasted with the gut-wrenching angst following one of our children’s burns that had ripped our parental hearts apart. Truth is, that was no ‘once upon a time,’ blah blah blah ‘and then I woke up’ story. The pain and the joy happened. The paradox, the yin and the yang of our family event recalls the transfiguration of Jesus as experienced by his closest friends and recorded by Matthew. No doubt Jesus’ ‘family time’ with his disciples contributed to their ‘other worldly’/ mystical experience of the one whose Godly significance they were yet to fully comprehend.
Whereas Matthew’s mystical experience is related in images appropriate to a people immersed in Hebrew Scriptures i.e. Moses, Elijah, mountains, clouds and sun, such biblical images are less likely to connect with 21st century secularised society. As Karl Rahner SJ, the eminent Vatican II theologian hypothesised, “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or s/he will not exist at all.’ As with the disciples, it is personal connection with, rather than religious belief in, that draws seekers into the mystery of God and meaning of life. As a child of the 60s, it is the rock and roll vibe that resonates with my inner being, my soul, my spirituality.
When Van Morrison sings us, ‘Into the Mystic,’ with his piercing voice and haunting lyrics about being, ‘born before the wind …also younger than the sun,’ he acknowledges, ‘… it is a song about being part of the universe.’ In an age when modern science is reshaping how we see the world, an age when global warming and Coronavirus are reminding nature and human kind of their connectivity, it is Van Morrison that helps me relate to a divine presence within the universe, a Cosmic Christ who embraces the whole span of creation beginning some 13.7 billion years ago. For Matthew, the mystic entails a journey ‘up a high mountain;’ for Van the Man, the mystic entails a voyage into the unknown where one can ‘hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky’ then, ‘when that foghorn blows’ rejoice in ‘coming home …’ to a place where there is no ‘fear,’ a place of peace love and harmony.
My family, Jesus’ disciples and Van Morrison would have loved to remain in the mystic, but as Matthew reminds us first we must, "get up and … not be afraid," because the ongoing paradox of pain and joy is made endurable through the Cosmic Christ’s loving embrace.
Please visit Youtube for Van Morrison’s ‘Into the Mystic’ link and consider the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises as a way of coming into the Mystic.
(Image by Steve Jorgensen)