The Great Love Song — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The Great Love Song

Mystical Marriage

The Great Love Song
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Carl McColman has written many accessible books on spirituality, the mystics, and contemplative prayer. Here he explores a biblical book of “bridal mysticism” and also offers an example of a modern mystic who experienced this kind of union with God.  

“God is love” (1 John 4:16) may be the single most important verse in the entire
Bible. . . . Is it any wonder that many of the great Christian mystics are renowned as lovers of God? This can take a variety of forms: for some, being God’s lover is very ethereal and philosophically abstract; but for others, an embodied, physical, even erotic quality characterizes their mysticism of love. There is even a term—“bridal mysticism”—for the many mystics (both female and male) whose experience of profound love of God was so deep and all-encompassing that it led to a spiritual sense of being “married” to God. . . .

[It’s important to] consider that this derives from the Bible itself. One of the loveliest books in the Hebrew Bible . . . is the Song of Solomon, also called the Song of Songs or the Canticle of Canticles. . . . It is the story of a bride and bridegroom, their passion for one another, their devotion to one another, and their (strongly hinted at) passion as physical lovers.

Historically, the Song of Songs has been read as a kind of allegory: the two lovers symbolize the caring relationship between God and Israel, or Christ and the Church, or Christ and the individual believer. This is where the mysticism of love comes in. . . .

Elizabeth of the Trinity [1880–1906] serves as a wonderful modern example of a bridal mystic. She entered the Carmelite order at age twenty-one and died only a few years later, but her legacy of letters and other writings reveals a deep sense of God’s presence in her life, a presence luminous with love. As she wrote in one of her letters, “I feel so much love over my soul, it is like an Ocean I immerse and lose myself in: it is my vision on earth while waiting for the face-to-face vision in light. [God] is in me, I am in Him. I have only to love Him, to let myself be loved, all the time, through all things: to wake in Love, to move in Love, to sleep in Love, my Soul in His Soul, my heart in His Heart, my eyes in His eyes . . . .” [1]

Elizabeth prayed that God would make her soul his heaven. In doing so, she recognized the heart of the mystery: that heaven is not just a place we go after we die, it is a state into which we are invited now.

[1] Elizabeth of the Trinity, letter to Canon Angles, August 1903, in I Have Found God: Complete Works, vol. 2: Letters from Carmel, trans. Anne Englund Nash (ICS Publications: 2014), 123.

Carl McColman, Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints, and Sages (Hampton Roads: 2016), 49–50, 59.

Story from Our Community:
I find unstoppable salty tears tracking over my cheeks as I realize how well the language of these meditations articulates a deep inner Yes. Somehow in this mystical meeting of Truth and awareness comes this irresistible, resounding affirmation buoyed by copious gratitude. And with this grateful gratitude comes new life, comes everything. —Shawn B.

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, swan (detail), 2017, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: The lines, curves and graceful beauty of the swan on water guide us into awe. Wouldn’t that be how one would respond to the presence of a beloved? God, the beloved. We, the beloved.
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