Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations

Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations

by Matthew Fox
     
 

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Spiritual maverick Matthew Fox believes that through the ages religious patriarchal hierarchy and rigidity have obscured Christianity’s most beneficial and essential teachings: those that arise out of personal, mystical experiences of the Divine. A true religious renewal, according to Fox, can arise only through the mystical dimension of faith. In…  See more details below

Overview


Spiritual maverick Matthew Fox believes that through the ages religious patriarchal hierarchy and rigidity have obscured Christianity’s most beneficial and essential teachings: those that arise out of personal, mystical experiences of the Divine. A true religious renewal, according to Fox, can arise only through the mystical dimension of faith. In Christian Mystics, he offers a wide-ranging collection of quotations from Christianity’s greatest mystics and prophets of the past two thousand years. Fox explores and celebrates the mystical path with insightful commentary on the thoughts and revelations of some of history’s greatest religious visionaries.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Matthew Fox might well be the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America.”
Thomas Berry, author of The Great Work
Library Journal
Fox (Original Blessing), harassed and finally expelled from the Catholic Church and received by the Episcopal Church, presents here a kind of meditated notebook that collects brief passages and insights from some of Christianity's great thinkers and mystics, including St. Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and Howard Thurman, enlivened by Fox's commentary. Fox is widely regarded as one of the most transformative Christian theologians of the last 50 years, and with these illustrative notes on the mystics he never loses sight of his abiding interest in the goodness of created existence. VERDICT A wide-ranging selection of excerpts, with Fox's typically challenging observations and questions; good for the individual reader, whether student or pastor.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781577319528
Publisher:
New World Library
Publication date:
02/01/2011
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
285,057
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 5.06(h) x 0.94(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Christian Mystics

365 Readings and Meditations


By Matthew Fox

New World Library

Copyright © 2011 Matthew Fox
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57731-953-5


CHAPTER 1

1.

The Kingdom of God is within you.

— Historical Jesus

* * *


This teaching reaches deep into our own psyche and also into politics. Regarding ourselves, it raises the question: How big am I? How much of the divine life and spirit do I allow to flow in and through me, do I experience in me? How do I slow down and be still so I can feel that Spirit? The Spirit is as near as breathing in and breathing out.

Politically, Jesus is taking on all empires and all kingdoms and saying they can be idols. Those who hold keys to kingdoms and empires are not necessarily those who hold keys to what is really important. What is going on deep within is what is really going on. Do you agree? Do kingdoms and empires have a "within"? Or do living beings alone have a within?


2.

The Queendom of God is among you.

— Historical Jesus

* * *


"Do not look here or there," says Jesus. The queendom of God is not a thing. It is not an object. It is not something that is about to happen. It has already happened; it is among us. We have to clean up our perception to see it better, to breathe its presence among us. It is a relationship, many relationships. We are challenged to think of ourselves in relationship, rather than as objects, as me and you, self and other. Develop an amongness consciousness. That is a relation consciousness.

We retranslate this phrase from Day 1 as "queendom" to bring in the feminine dimension to the "reign" of God. The Greek word used in the text can mean "among" as well as "within."


3.

The Kingdom of God was the principal theme of Jesus' message throughout his adult life, and the pivotal hope of Galilean Judaism. Rule by a king was for Galilean Jews both the source of their oppression — under temporal emperors and kings — and their hope for the future — under God.... The world of Jesus made no distinction between politics and religion. The Romans not only obeyed the emperor, they worshipped him as God's son, Divi filius. Jews not only worshipped God, but believed that he ruled them and that one day his Kingdom would be the only power on earth and in heaven.

— Bruce Chilton

* * *


In these observations by biblical scholar Bruce Chilton, we are reminded of how political Jesus' language was when he invoked talk of the kingdom of God. He was taking on the kingdom of the Roman Empire; he knew it and his listeners knew it. This would lead not to an easy life but to an early death. Have we understood the price and depth of meaning behind this term "the kingdom of God" and what the implications are in our time of multinational corporate empires and other kinds of militant empires? Can we see beyond them and offer visions and practices of alternative kingdoms?


4.

Part of the beauty of the concept of God's Kingdom was that it opened one's mind to see the divine hand in the natural world. A Galilean could stand under the stars, view the mountains, watch young animals gambol and recollect the words of a well-known psalm that all the Lord's creations give thanks to him and attest his eternal Kingdom to all people (Psalm 145:10–13). Divine power was already present in nature, yet only just dawning in human affairs. Jesus came out of the Jewish tradition of seeing God's immanence everywhere, in forces as simple and powerful as a mustard seed and yeast. Later, as a rabbi, he took the leap of seeing the divine Kingdom in how one person relates to another.

— Bruce Chilton

* * *


Chilton reminds us that Jesus, being a Galilean, was close to the land and to the sky. His was a cosmic awareness and a religious consciousness that linked nature to Divinity and the kingdom of God to all of creation. He saw "God's immanence everywhere" — as did many of Jewish lineage. God is present in nature but struggles to be present among humans. God is not just a transcendent God or a distant deity but a presence within all of creation. Is that sense of "within-ness" part of your spiritual experiences as well? What flows from such a consciousness? Is this the way to recover the sense of the sacredness of the earth and to sustain the struggle for ecological justice?


5.

Jesus came to see that all creation was infused with the pulse of God: "He looks on the earth and it trembles; he touches the mountains and they smoke" (Psalm 104:32). Creation was not only primordial; it was happening anew each day, moment by moment. When God turned his face away or withheld his Spirit, his creations were instantly snuffed out and crumbled to dust, while that same Spirit constantly renewed life (Psalm 104:29–30). God was capable at any time of destroying the world and creating new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17). Yet as Jesus himself said, all living things, the simplest birds, find their nurture in God (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24).

— Bruce Chilton

* * *


Chilton teaches that Jesus saw creation happening anew every day, that the Spirit is continuously at work, even in the smallest instances of life and beauty on earth. From this awareness of God's spirit at work in nature, it was a simple step to be aware of God's spirit at work in history and in the community and in Jesus' own heart and mind. This is what is at the heart of the wisdom tradition from which Jesus comes. Wisdom is revealed in nature in a special way and in the creativity of humans who are employing spirit in their imaginations and works. Can you identify with Jesus' love of nature and his awareness of the revelations that nature provides and that human ingenuity and creativity provide?


6.

I am the light of the world.

— Canonical Jesus or Christ

* * *


These words did not come from the lips of the historical Jesus. The historical Jesus did not talk this way about himself. But they are words from the early Christian community about the Christ experience they had. What does it mean to say that the Christ is the "light of the world"?

First, it means there is light in the world. That is important information — sometimes we are in a place that seems to be complete darkness, what the mystics call the "dark night of the soul." We might also call this the dark night of society or the dark night of our species. At such times it is very helpful to know that, despite appearances, the Christ — who is everywhere and in everything, just as photons or light waves are present in every atom in the universe — is present as light in the deepest, innermost center of things.

The "I am" is a name for the Divine One. This saying reminds us that the Divine One, the Divine Light, is everywhere and omnipresent. The Divine "I am" is there for the asking. We all carry it within ourselves just as we carry the Christ within ourselves. Wherever the Christ is, there is light. If we open ourselves to the depth in all things, the Light of God shines through us. "Believe in the light and you will become sons and daughters of light" (John 12:36).

Further, to affirm the light does not mean denying darkness. It is not to live a life of superficial positivism. For a shadow to exist it needs light. Light creates shadow, brings shadow out of things. Shadow and light coexist, just as nighttime follows day, in an endless cycle. We need both. Neither can be allowed to dominate.

Depression often occurs when darkness takes over and light seems banished. In these moments, we need to remember there is light in the world, a "light that darkness could not overpower" (John 1:5). We breathe this light in and out every moment of every day.


7.

God is voluptuous and delicious.

— Meister Eckhart

* * *


This saying, like many by Meister Eckhart, is quite surprising. We often forget the Maker of pleasure must know something about pleasure himself and herself. The voluptuousness of an orange, of a rose, of a beautiful piece of music, of a sunset, of a tantalizing meal, of the human body — the delicious symphony provided by our senses of taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing — does not go unnoticed by the Creator of all voluptuousness.


8.

Do you wish to have love? If you wish to have love, then you must leave love.

— Mechtild of Magdeburg

* * *


Letting go is a lesson all the mystics teach us. Mechtild reminds us of a deep paradox: we sometimes must leave love to have love. We need to let go of everything eventually, at some time, and so we need to develop the art of letting go. We will even, Mechtild is saying, at times need to let go of love. Ask yourself: What are my experiences of letting go? What follows after that? Have I had to let go of love? Why? Under what circumstances? How did it change me, deepen me, transform me? To let go can be to grow.


9.

From the very beginning, God loved us. The Holy Trinity gave itself in the creation of all things and made us, body and soul, in infinite love. We were fashioned most nobly.

— Mechtild of Magdeburg

* * *


Some religious leaders teach that at the beginning humans were ugly and evil and full of something called "original sin." Jesus does not teach that. Nor does Mechtild, who reminds us that we were "fashioned most nobly" from the get-go. We were loved from the beginning. And this nobility and lovability includes our body and soul. We were made, not in sin, but in "infinite love." That is a lot of love. Have you experienced this also? Do you agree with Mechtild?


10.

Isness is God.

— Meister Eckhart

* * *

To see that isness is God is to see the inherent sacredness of everything that exists. Everything that exists reveals to us something about God. It may be its beauty or its fierceness; its shape and order or its wildness; its simplicity or its complexity. To say that isness is God is to see God everywhere and in everything at its innermost core.

To say "Isness is God" also says something profound about our experience of time. Like Jesus saying "the queendom of God is among you" or "the kingdom of God is within you," Eckhart is insisting that the time for experiencing Divinity is now — not the past and not the future. Isness is the present.

Have you tasted how isness is God? Do you recognize the inherent reverence of every moment, of every being you encounter?


11.

Split the wood — I am there; lift the stone and you will find me there.

— Jesus

* * *


In this teaching from the Gospel of Thomas, which is a very early text in Christianity, Christ is to be found everywhere, even under a stone, even in the splitting of wood. This is another teaching of the Cosmic Christ — that is, Christ as the "light present in all beings" and in all energy and activity in the universe. This speaks of an intimate presence as well as an omnipresence.


12.

Here in Galilee, the Kingdom was revealed in the weaving and stitching, planting and reaping, grape picking and pressing that assured a full life, not merely survival. Those activities find their way into Jesus' parables as images of God's Kingdom in a way that contrasts with the far less organic imagery of the Essenes at Qumran and the Rabbis in Talmud.

Galileans were enormously proud of the fertility of their land, which exceeded that of other regions in Palestine. The immediate, physical life worked out on the land provided food and wine for them. The rich bounty of the green Galilean hills mirrored their hope for the Kingdom that God yearned to provide for his people.

— Bruce Chilton

* * *

Jesus was a peasant, he was of the land, and the land he was from, Galilee, was rich and green and fertile. Healthy food and hearty wine were part of the fruit of the harvest, and neither he nor his neighbors were afraid of the hard work it took to bring forth the bounty of the land. Have you lived on a farm or do you know others who have? Are they special for their communion with nature and their appreciation of earth's gifts? Jesus drew so many of his teachings from his experience on the land. His was not an urban perspective but a close-to-the-earth perspective. He probably had more in common with a Native American perspective than with an industrial worldview.


13.

God is love.

— John, Episle of John

* * *


If God is love, then God is encountered in all that we love and cherish — from friends and lovers and children to sunsets and animals, panda bears and whales, dogs, cats, and zebras. If God is love, then the music I love, the poems I love, the sunshine I love, the winds I love, the landscapes I love are all theophanies, epiphanies of the Godhead. Do you see life that way? How can this transform your life?

To say that God is Love also rules out images of God as a great judge in the sky: a peeping tom in the bedroom, an avenger God out to destroy others, or the God of empires and the God of the powerful lording over the less powerful. These are not images of a God of love, and therefore they are not God but an idol.

This passage also rebuts homophobia, since the words are not "God is heterosexual love" but "God is love." All love is a taste of the Divine, and love comes in many flavors and styles and preferences.


14.

Then the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me." Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?" And the King will answer, "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.... I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglect to do this to one of the least of these, you neglect to do it to me."

— Historical Jesus

* * *


This is Cosmic Christ talk from the mouth of the historical Jesus. It forms the bridge between Jesus and Christ, for here, Jesus is saying that people are not just who they seem to be; they are also another Jesus, another Christ. This is Christ mysticism; it is the Cosmic Christ being named.

Jesus goes further. He links this mysticism directly to action, to service. He personalizes compassion. To relieve the misery of "the least of these brothers" is to relieve the misery of Christ. To feed a hungry person is to feed him. Christ mysticism is not so much about tête-à-têtes with Christ as about service rendered to Christ through the least of these brothers. Jesus also speaks to inaction, to sins of omission.

This encompasses an entire ecological theology — since "the least" may include the animals, fish, birds, trees, soil, and air. The Cosmic Christ is in all things, so to bless all things is to bless the Christ; to harm things is to harm the Christ. One can say, to crucify the Christ.


15.

Jesus uses these invitational and provocative forms of speech — aphorisms and parables — to subvert conventional ways of seeing and living, and to invite his hearers to an alternative way of life. As a teacher of wisdom, Jesus was not primarily a teacher of information (what to believe) or morals (how to behave), but a teacher of a way or path of transformation. A way of transformation from what to what? From a life in the world of conventional wisdom to a life centered in God.... He directly attacked the central values of his social world's conventional wisdom: family, wealth, honor, purity, and religiosity. All were sanctified by tradition, and their importance was part of the taken-for-granted world. ... The transformation from secondhand religion to firsthand religion, from living in accord with what one has heard to life centered in the spirit, is central to the alternative wisdom of Jesus and also to the Jewish tradition in which he stood.

— Marcus J. Borg

* * *


We see from Marcus Borg's observations that Jesus was a mystic, for a mystic is one who trusts "firsthand religion," that is, experience. But Jesus' message of alternative wisdom is subversive, according to Borg, for it challenges many stereotypes of what we take for granted regarding family, wealth, honor, purity, and religiosity itself. He taught transformation, personal and social. Is that the Jesus you recognize? Is that the Jesus you could follow and emulate?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Christian Mystics by Matthew Fox. Copyright © 2011 Matthew Fox. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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From the Publisher
“Matthew Fox might well be the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America.”
Thomas Berry, author of The Great Work

Meet the Author


The author of twenty-eight books, Matthew Fox has been an instrumental teacher and scholar in the revival of Western mysticism, particularly the work of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, and Thomas Aquinas. He lives in Oakland, California, and is a visiting scholar with the Academy for the Love of Learning.

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