What is it to be a contemplative or mystic in today’s world?
Something someone said a few weeks back has echoed around my mind ever since and this question is not going away. Kathleen Norris answers that question this way in The Quotidian Mysteries:
…the true mystics of the quotidian are
not those who contemplate holiness in isolation,
reaching godlike illumination in serene silence,
but those who manage to find God
in a world filled with noise, the demands of other people,
and relentless daily duties that can consume the self…
If they are wise, they treasure the rare moments
of solitude and silence that come their way,
and use them not to escape,
to distract themselves with television and the like.
Instead, they listen
for a sign of God’s presence
and they open their hearts toward prayer.
I’ve been asking myself what it might look like to live fully in the world in which I am immersed and, yet, also to be present to that same God whose jealousy for my heart demands that it be him first and him only.
I don’t yet know the answers.
I know that the doors being opened are of him, insofar as I can discern this. I know that he is telling me to walk through them. I know that, when I do, much will be demanded of me. Most of all in the early days, perhaps, my ability to hit the ground running at an unusual pace. And yet my heart longs to be Anna, who is waiting for him in the temple in the stillness of prayer and worship. I hear his whisper that I am Mary, both the one who sits at his feet to listen and also the one who first carries his presence in hiddenness and later treasures his life in her heart.
Yet not for me that ‘godlike illumination in serene silence’. Not for me the work only of Anna but also another alongside it. A work which is, without question in my mind, his gift to me but nonetheless also strange tension with that other call, the one where it is him first and him only in a way that others have in the past misunderstood.
How will that tension be held? Can I even hold it or will the better part be taken from me? What is this life of quotidian mysticism?
I don’t yet know the answers but I think he is telling me that somehow I will hold both the quotidian and the mysticism.