To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory for ever and ever.Romans 16:27
“Only that day dawns to which we are awake,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, the great American writer. He is saying what all the great holy people have said for centuries: Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and all others who have lived fully before God and their fellow human beings.
What more can we ask of God–that God make us fully alive to all that is. As Robert Ellsberg says in The Saints’ Guide to Happiness: “To be fully alive–it was for this that we were created; it was toward this goal, as the saints remind us, that Christ pointed the way” (North Point Press, 4 ). St. Irenaeus’ famous observation, “The glory of God is a person fully alive,” dates from the second century.
Pray these words of the apostle Paul reflectively:“And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
As mystics do, you can pray, read scripture, and reflect on your life. As mystics do, you can turn from wrong-doing. You can open yourself to the Holy Spirit. You can, like the mystics, rededicate your life.
How “fully alive” are you? In what ways do you give “glory to God”?
A person who is fully alive can be called a “mystic.” A mystic is a person who lives fully and loves deeply. The life of such a person is guided by deep love through prayer to God and through human compassion. Mysticism is the raising of the mind to God through the desire of love. A person who is a mystic serves others lovingly.
Although the word mysticism is not found in the Bible, you can find in the Bible many examples of people who searched for truth centered in love.
In the letters of the apostle Paul the early Christians are called the holy ones of God or saints. Holiness is not limited to a few people but is available to everyone of good will. Holiness for the Christian means to carry out Jesus’ command to love God above all things and one’s neighbor as oneself.
Is it surprising to you that you are also called to be a holy one of God? Your interest in making this retreat is a sign that you are! Your holiness, your spirituality is who you really are in your truest and deepest self in relationship to God, to other people, and to all creation
How fully alive are you as a human being? Being fully human involves how you live each day physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
Spend a few moments reflecting on how you are living today:
- Physically: Have you eaten some nutritious food? Have you had enough rest? What about exercise?
- Emotionally: What feelings are you experiencing? Are you happy, sad, bored, feeling blah, or what? Why? Who or how have you loved?
- Intellectually: What thinking have you done today? What reading have you done Have you shared your ideas with others?
- Spiritually: Have you been aware of God’s presence in your life today? Have you prayed? Have you loved? What has inspired you?
- In other words, have you given glory to God by being alive, really alive?
During this retreat you will have the opportunity to reflect on six people who have given to glory to God by being fully alive.
Paul the Apostle is probably familiar to you. You perhaps hear or read his words daily or weekly in the liturgy. He challenges all followers in this way: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Francis of Assisi, known for his simplicity and joyfulness, took delight in the beauty of creation and the goodness of God.
Hildegard of Bingen reminded the world that God’s love compels us to be just. She brought alive an integrated view of human nature and the cosmos, believing that human nature and all creation are good.
Julian of Norwich writes of a God whose power is expressed in love. In joyful hope she brought to the suffering people of her time the realization that God loves and delights in all creatures.
Five hundred years later came Teilhard de Chardin, both scientist and mystic. Through his prodigious explorations into science he affirmed the Christian faith and described the cosmic Christ.
Dorothy Day, a contemporary mystic, spent her life caring for the poor and needy and working for peace and justice. The foundation of her spirituality was the biblical teaching: love of God and love of neighbor.