A Summer of Mysticism, Part 1

May 22nd to June 19th

 “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”    ~Matthew 28:20b

A strong tradition running throughout Christian history is the mystical tradition. Mysticism is an approach to Christianity that emphasizes a direct experience and awareness of the divine. Mystics through the ages have also expressed a deep awareness of the holiness of all creation, and the ultimate goal of union with God. This summer we will explore the roots of Christian mysticism, and look at the works (very briefly!) of some of the more well-known Christian mystics. In Part 1, we will look at the words and actions of Jesus and Paul that provide a basis for the Christian mystic tradition.  Again the three aspects of Christian mysticism we will focus on throughout the summer are:

  • A strong desire for direct connection and constant awareness of the presence of God
  • A deep awareness of the holiness of all creation
  • An ultimate goal of union with God and Christ


Main Readings:

May 22nd:  Introduction to Christian Mysticism: Psalm 1:1-3

May 29th:  Jesus the Mystic: Mark 1:32-39

June 5th:  Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas: Logion 27 and 77

June 12th:  Paul the Mystic: Acts 9:1-19

June 19th:  Paul and “In Christ”: Galatians 2:15-21


May 22nd: Introduction to Christian mysticism: Psalm 1:1-3

Christian mysticism is an approach to faith that centers on unfiltered experience and awareness of the Divine.  Christian mysticism has parallels in almost every religion.  The Hebrew Bible has many passages that praise the type of devotional life that would lead to mystical experience. And of course, the psalms were the most widely read and memorized book of prayers in the time of Jesus for the Hebrew people. On this Sunday we will look at the first psalm, which sets the tone for the whole book.  This psalm praises devotional reading of the Hebrew Bible as a path to happiness.

May 29th: Jesus the Mystic: Mark 1:32-39

            The gospels depict Jesus as having a deep prayer life in which he communed with God.  A prayer life which centers on contemplation, or opening oneself to the presence of God, is the foundation of Christian mysticism.  Unfortunately, just like today, Jesus often had to run away from people in search of a quiet place to pray and meditate.  The world works against us finding the quiet that is necessary for real contemplation.

June 5th: Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas, a non-canonical gospel, was found with other writings in the Nag Hammadi library in 1945 in Egypt.  Unlike the other gospels, the Gospel of Thomas is a sayings collection, and many of the sayings emphasize common Christian mystical themes.  About half of these sayings are common to one or more of the canonical gospels.  The other sayings emphasize a non-dualistic approach to life and thinking.  This may explain why a Church that was moving toward a rational, legalistic approach to faith did not find the Gospel of Thomas acceptable.

June 12th:  Paul the Mystic: Acts 9:1-19

Many people would not at first think of Paul as a Christian mystic.  Lots of folks associate Paul with that more rational, legalistic form of the faith, but that is mostly due to the way Paul’s writings have been interpreted.  In fact, Paul was very “mystical” in his understandings of how God transformed the world through the gift of Christ.  This is hardly surprising since Paul’s faith journey toward Christ began with a classic mystical experience, one in which he was overcome by the presence of Jesus.

June 19th:  Paul and “In Christ”: Galatians 2:15-21

One of Paul’s more common phrases is “in Christ.”  By this he meant that the true Christian life was one of union with Christ, so that the person’s will becomes the will of the Christ.




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