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Exploring the Mystics with James Finley: Weekly Summary

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Exploring the Mystics with James Finley

Summary: Sunday, October 8-Friday, October 13, 2017

This week CAC faculty member and guest writer James Finley introduced us to the Christian mystics Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. James is attuned to the pedagogy of the mystics and invites us to a different kind of reading. As he puts it, “The mystics are not writing for our logical minds but to awaken our hearts to what matters most. This requires us to slow down enough to catch up with ourselves. These meditations call us to settle into a quiet, prayerful pondering about who we deep down really are and are called to be and how can we be more faithful to it.”

“I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms; just as in Heaven ‘there are many mansions.’” —Teresa of Ávila (Sunday)

Your God-given godly nature is the infinite reality of you. You are as precious as God is precious. You have a value that cannot be calculated. (Monday)

What if we could join God in knowing who God knows I am eternally in God, before the origins of the universe, and know ourselves hidden with Christ in God forever? (Tuesday)

Infinite Love is the architect of our hearts, and we are made in such a way that nothing less than an infinite union with Infinite Love will do. Love is our origin and our destiny. (Wednesday)

The concrete immediacy of life is the infinite love of God manifesting itself in the present moment. (Thursday)

The mystic—that is, the person who is ripe with this love consciousness that’s born in the night—is not more holy but is granted a greater realization of the infinite holiness of the simplest of things. (Friday)


Practice: Breathing Love in All Things

I have the intuition that in his Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross was trying to move us poetically into a spacious state or a way of being in the world which really is Christ consciousness, the way Christ lived his life.

Let’s say you are sitting in prayer and using your breath as the prayer. As you inhale you listen to God saying I love you. When you breathe out you exhale I love you: you give yourself to the love that gives itself to you. In the I love you received and the I love you response, the reciprocity of love and of the communion deepens.

Now while you are sitting there saying this prayer, let’s say there is bodily pain. Now when you inhale, you inhale Infinite Love, loving you pain and all, through and through and through and through and through. And when you exhale yourself into God, you give yourself, pain and all, into the Love that loves you, pain and all.

Let’s say you are sitting there and you are confused; something has happened and you are bewildered. You sit there and as you breathe in God, you breathe in God loving you, confusion and all, through and through and through and through and through. And when you exhale yourself in the I love you, you give yourself, confusion and all, to the Love that loves you, confusion and all.

And let’s say you are sad, and you breathe in God loving you through and through and through, sadness and all; and you exhale yourself in your sadness. Then your sadness is an act of love. And so, in every reciprocity of love, the ultimate irrelevance of conditioned states yields and gives way to Love that unexplainably sustains you in the conditions in which you exist.

This is the message of John’s Spiritual Canticle. It is not saying that you are not in pain, that you are not sad or confused; nor is it saying that you don’t need to deal with these things.

Let’s turn it around. You are sitting in prayer and bubbling over with joy because you just won the lottery. And God is loving you through and through, joy and all; and you breathe yourself back to Love, joy and all. It’s the infinite irrelevance of attainment and nonattainment, the infinite irrelevance of laughter and tears with respect to the oceanic Love that loves you through and through and through and through in your tears, in your laughter, in all things.

So, stabilized in love, we are grounded in the courage that empowers us to touch the hurting places. Prior to being grounded in love, we think we are nothing but the self that things happen to. We are afraid to go near the hurting place because we absolutize the relative. But if we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing, even as it sustains us in all things, it grounds us to face all things with courage and tenderness.

Gateway to Silence:
Fall deeper into love.

Adapted from James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

For Further Study:
James Finley, Richard Rohr, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download
James Finley, The Contemplative Heart (Sorin Books: 1999) 

Image credit: Mother and Child (detail), Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.
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