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Paschal Light Christian Spirituality and Mysticism
Francis was at his usual spot in the Saturday market handing out Christian literature, encouraging others to believe as he did so. After observing him for a few moments a monk approached him. ‘You encourage others to be saved by baptism, what about your own salvation?’
Somewhat surprised Francis replied, ‘I believe with my whole heart.’
‘Do you really?’ rejoined the monk.
‘I attend the Eucharist every Sunday.’
‘But do you really begin to understand it? Your belief could have many errors’
Stunned by this Francis said, ‘It’s supposed to be full of mysteries.’
‘Many do not really begin to understand it. Do you realise that the liturgies are almost entirely based on the Bible?’
‘They don’t seem to be.’ came the sheepish reply.
‘They must have been understood by those who wrote them. They must rest on a solid spiritual foundation or they would not have remained so little changed over many centuries. Besides,' the monk continued, ‘you can firmly believe many things about a foreign people and their country but only come to appreciate your lack of understanding, or the extent of your misunderstanding, once you go to that country and live there for a while. Belief is only the beginning of a journey, you need to move on from believing to knowing. Seek out the gnosis.’
More perplexed than ever Francis said, ‘But the Gnostics were heretics…’ But the monk had walked off and disappeared into the crowd.
Totally shaken by this encounter Francis packed up and went home.
When he got home he sat by his computer with a cup of coffee and did a search for the word ‘gnosis’. He discovered that it means an ‘intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths’ and that it was used in various Hellenistic religions and philosophies, including Gnosticism.
The following week he returned to the market and before long the monk appeared. He told him what he had discovered. The monk explained, ‘You have made some progress. The heresy of the Gnostics was that they felt they could know solely through mental discernment. They left out the knowing of the heart, which is imperative in Christianity. Go and reflect on Luke 11:52, ‘ye have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The Greek word used there is 'gnosis.’ Without waiting for a reply the monk smiled and walked off into the crowd.
When Francis went home and reflected on the passage a new light of understanding began to dawn for him. Still to be grasped was what the monk had said about the liturgy. He rushed into town again and headed for the ‘Christianity’ section in the largest bookshop. There, in the section on liturgy a series of volumes stood out on the shelf. It was the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum. He picked up one and had a look inside. Immediately he realised this was what he was looking for. He bought the entire series and headed home.
The following Saturday the monk again appeared in the market and Francis told him of his purchase. The monk nodded and with a smile he said, ‘Ah, yes, the Rationale for the Divine Offices. You have accepted the challenge and have started the journey of ascent above the foothills of the mountain.
Not everyone is ready to do so. You have begun see, as Jacob did (Gen. 28:12), that ladder the top of which reaches into heaven. Did you realise that this is how the Church has always understood this meaning?’
‘No,’ replied Francis, ‘and with the Rationale I have realised how little I knew and how much there is still to learn—and to experience. In fact the Liturgy has already begun to take on an awesome new meaning for me.’
‘Indeed,’ said the monk, ‘the Rationale contains so much that it can be a spiritual guide and companion as you journey up the mountain.’
‘Thank you ever so much!’
‘I give God thanks and am truly glad to have been of some small assistance. We will meet again.’ Having said this the monk smiled and then disappeared into the crowd.