"In studying the writings of any of the mystics ... we take the risk of being transformed by them." [Dorothy C. Buck]But I would go further: Whether studying sacred scriptures / poetry, being in the presence of a mystic, opening oneself to sacred art, rites or mysteries, even placing oneself into the mindset of such a seeker (after Holy Mystery), we risk being transformed. Transformed because - as the same writer describes and then quotes:
The mystery of The Virgin Heart is a call to recognize the Transcendent in our midst and overcome our illusions of power and control. [DC Buck ~ linked above]
A similar quote could be taken from Eckhart, the man "from whom God hid nothing."Like a beggar: "God makes Himself explicit through everything which is perceived and considered; everything that one sees face to face signifies Him. And this is why I have said: I have seen nothing in which I have not seen God." (Massignon 1983, Vol.lll p.68)
Thus I begin to have a glimpse: That what I have been groping after and pondering, in my life, here in this blog, revolves around this point vierge - "that God can relate only to the virginal found in the heart of the human soul." What Hesychasm refers to as the deep heart. A place of transformation. A place of meeting. Meeting Holy Mystery. And this revelation seems to spring forth in different traditions. For example a Sufi (Muslim) mystic - martyred for loving God - named al-Hallaj - posited:
God's secret holy place at the core of each of us "whether we are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, worthy or not" which "remains forever whole and intact regardless of our fear and pain, self-defeating habits or ungracious thoughts and desires."Which rings to me like the experience I wrote about in the first post of this blog, from whence comes its name, the same word Merton used: Nothingness. A concept he gleaned from Massignon's point vierge and (likely) the Hesychasts' focus on the heart. Massignon refers to this "place" (akin to my "window onto eternity") in relation to the Annunciation - much to my amazement (!) - given my title for that first post, a line from the Magnificat: "He looked on his servant in her nothingness..." And the Virgin's welcoming Yes (her response to the Annunciation), is depicted by Massignon as akin to Abraham's hospitality to the three strangers:
Imaging God as the stranger who comes to our door begging for food and shelter, or the refugee who struggles to speak our language, or the poor and marginalized in our society Massignon envisions Mary, who was also an outcast in her society. She represents the sacred hospitality in the center of every human soul that welcomes the stranger, God. ... The ultimate manifestation of Massignon's sacred hospitality is the divine Guest seeking hospitality in the center of every human soul.And for me that also plays out in the social/political spheres, something I had earlier termed Dignity, Hospitality, Community. And thus, the inner and the outer become ONE transformative experience.
And here I must bow to TS Eliot, ending Four Quartets:
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
As Merton wrote: "The Gate of Heaven is everywhere!"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.