When an ancient sage was asked if he could do just one thing to change the world for the better, he said that he would give back to words their true meaning. Unfortunately I cannot do that, but I would like to give back to just one word its true meaning because our life, our happiness and our ultimate destiny depends more on this word than on any other. The word is Love. Life without love is meaningless.
The Prayer of the Inner Room
The very essence of the God-given Spirituality that Jesus bequeathed to the early Church can be summed up in this simple word – Love. Not of course our love, but God’s love, as St John insisted. This love that Jesus received in its fullness when he was glorified is continually pouring out of him. Prayer, deep prayer, is the word we use to describe what we must do to turn and open our hearts to receive it.
This deep prayer existed before, but with Jesus it received a new meaning and power that it had never had before, and a new name too. It came to be called mystical prayer. The word mystical comes from the Greek and it simply means unseen, invisible, or secret. Christ taught this new type of mystical prayer to his first followers, for it was the prayer that he himself used to communicate with his Father. In the Jewish religion in which he grew up, prayer was predominantly, audible for they would pray out loud. This inevitably led some hypocrisy that Christ did not want his followers to fall into, so he advised them accordingly. “When you pray”, he told them, “Go into your private room and when you have closed the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
The Infused Virtues and Gifts
However later, this secret, unseen, invisible or mystical prayer was given a totally new dimension and power. This happened when, after the first Pentecost, all who received the Holy Spirit, were drawn up and into the mystical body of Christ where they too would reside in future. Here they would pray in, with, and through him to the Father, who, as Jesus had promised would reward them.
The first mystics I ever met
Although I had spent many years reading books on spiritual theology it was in fact from my parents that I came to understand the true meaning of the ‘Mystic Way’. After my mother died my Father told me that in the last years of their married life together, he and my mother loved each other more deeply and more perfectly than at any other time in their lives. In the first days of what he described as their adolescent love they were drawn to each other by powerful waves of emotional and passionate feelings that he could never forget. They acted like the boosters on a spaceship to raise it off the ground on its way to its final destination in outer space. Just as these powerful boosters fizzle out, so too do the powerful boosters of adolescent love, in every marriage.
My father explained to me that it was what happened between the moment when these powerful emotional feelings fizzled out, and the perfect love that was experienced at the end of their lives, that made this perfect love possible. For many years, no decades, unknown to onlookers, unseen even to their closest friends and relatives, they practised selfless sacrificial or mystical loving, whether they felt like it or whether they did not; come hell or high water. It was this totally other-considering mystical loving that gradually enabled them to be bonded ever closer together until, as perfect a union as is possible in this life was the joy of their last years together.
The only way to Perfection
Families were made by Love in the first place. They were made for love, and to propagate love above all else. That is why it is the teaching of Mystical Theology that I will be writing about, because it is this teaching that can alone teach us to do, and continually sustain us in doing what Christ himself called, ‘the one thing necessary’. This ‘one thing necessary’ is the prayer that can alone bring about our own personal sanctification, the sanctification of the Church and the sanctification of the world for which Christ founded his Church in the first place. For even the love of God needs our freely given love in return, to receive it.
Prayer is simply the word we use to describe the way in which our intimate personal loving is directed to God, by being taken up into His mystical contemplation of his Father to receive what only he can give in return. That is why St Teresa of Avila said – ‘There is only one way to perfection and that is to pray. If anyone points you in another direction then they are deceiving you’.
David Torkington is a Spiritual Theologian, bestselling author, broadcaster and speaker who specializes in Prayer, Christian Spirituality and Mystical Theology which is all but forgotten, if not undermined by many current ‘reformers’. He is the only contemporary author who describes and details the historical reasons for the decline in the moral and spiritual life of the Church, which he will explain in his future articles, while giving practical advice to those who are prepared to deepen their prayer life. Like his mentor, St John Henry Newman, he takes us back to the God-given theocentric spirituality introduced into the early Church by Christ himself, to counteract the man-made anthropocentric spirituality that is at present threatening to destroy the contemporary Church.
First published in the Universe Catholic Weekly – UK and Ireland
In order to develop the prayer that can continually help us to raise our hearts and minds to God as we practise the asceticism of the heart please visit my web-site and follow the Podcast on prayer entitled The Hermit – Wisdom from the Western Isles