Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mystical V.S. Practical Faith


Do things like Acts of Consecration or praying the Rosary or saying novenas even matter in light of what Christ called us to do? We're supposed to be following Him & taking up our cross, not our beads & our prayer books. Those things can't possibly be part of God's will for us, can they? 

There seems to be a great chasm between mystical faith & practical faith these days. Mystical faith might include private devotions & prayers which are meant to strengthen one's inner self, whereas practical faith is more concerned with the “social” gospel. It's distinctly outward reaching & others focused. Clearly, practical faith is most congruent with how Jesus approached His ministry here on earth. Its an effective approach to spirituality because its a hands on, down in the dirt experience with flesh & blood. But I'm of the mind that mystical faith is just as important, if not more so. 

Jesus couldn't have done all He did unless He had cultivated the more mystical aspect first. He strengthened the “inner man” by spending copious amounts of time in prayer. He encouraged His disciples to take time away from the crowds & rest. He reminded them certain things couldn't be accomplished without prayer & fasting.

Mystical faith takes time... hours, perhaps even days of stillness, prayer, soul searching & even repentance. But these days, we barely have a few moments to spare. We want instant access to the end result. We consume the spiritual equivalent of energy bars & energy drinks to keep ourselves going, but life bites back without warning. In the same way, if we're not well fed through an internal, mystical faith, we'll be devoured by our own weakness. Practicality for the sake of convenience can only go so far in relationship with God & with others.

Mystical faith is notoriously inconvenient. It means shutting down the computer, turning off the t.v., muting the cellphone, taking the headphones off & just stopping to breathe. It means experiencing quiet, not only externally, but internally. It means reigning in the wayward thoughts & pressing concerns. If our thoughts were like sheep, it would be a gathering of all & taking the time to find the one that's lost. And when all are present & accounted for, we can begin to lead them back to the sheepfold of the Chief Shepherd, that is, Jesus. This is taking every thought captive & making it obedient to Christ.

Mystical faith can help us engage in the practical more effectively. It provides us with true sustenance, true rest, true strength. It is the foundation upon which the practical is built & the foundation to which we return when battered by daily life. Acts of devotion, novenas & prayer beads seem frivolous, but its what these things inspire in us that becomes invaluable to our souls.

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