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Mystical Contemplation and the Gift of Knowledge

June 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Anthony Lilles, Books, Charlie McKinney, Prayer

Mystical Contemplation and the Gift of Knowledge

 

Mystical Contemplation and Gift of Knowledge

 

In mystical contemplation, the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding move the soul in delightful ways that it does not understand. Divine light and warmth enkindle the depths of the soul and completely captivate the mind. Reason does not lead the way but is led to silent surrender with great spiritual fruitfulness. Here, the limits of human intelligence are not surmounted, but the power of reason is bowed down in adoration.

When this fire from above enkindles the mind, something is communicated that is not merely informative, but transformative. Souls baptized in this hidden radiance often wonder whether they are wasting their time. And yet, mysteriously, their confidence and devotion are set ablaze with a love they cannot explain. This transformation is not limited to one’s life but is extended throughout one’s culture and continues to extend into the future.

The saints who make this prayer their own became a source of life for others because they draw from the source of life Himself. This can happen again today for those willing to take up the discipline of withdrawing into silent adoration through what we study. Being drawn to wonder-filled silence is the beginning of spiritual maturity.

The mind is vaguely aware of everything in relation to God all at once (the gift of knowledge) and is confirmed in all manners of judgment about what God is not (the gift of understanding). These supernatural moments of understanding and knowledge mediate a transforming personal encounter with God in ways that purify and intensify our lives. The expanse and depth of these life-giving mysteries in the soul avail it to a sense of the whole (the gift of wisdom).

Entering the prayerful silence of Christian spirituality is like being lifted to a peak to gaze on vast horizons of life otherwise inaccessible to created reason. This is the complete opposite of mindlessness in prayer. Yet this conscious awareness leaves the soul in speechless adoration, humbled before the glory of divine life that shines forth in the world. The more this glory humbles us in this sacred silence, the more it generates in us and through us.

According to the experts on prayerful silence and this knowledge: The Word proceeds from Silence, and we strive to find Him in his Source. This is because the Silence here in question is not a void or a negation but, on the contrary, Being at Its fullest and most fruitful plenitude. That is why it generates; and that is why we keep silent.

This statement is pregnant with spiritual theology, at least in its original sense as theology flowing from a living encounter with God. While some thinkers believe that progress has been made in bringing sanctity and theology together again, contemporary theology yearns to be filled with such mystical knowing. This is why theologians should be men and women of prayer.

Saint Teresa of Ávila describes mystical knowing as a gaze into the eyes of the One who was wounded for our sakes. It is a loving awareness of God’s presence. She uses images of water, fire, and silk to convey the new life, love, and industry it establishes within.

For Catherine of Siena this knowledge is a conversation with the Father about one’s life and the life of the Church. It advances by venerating His Son with kisses from His feet to His lips — the bridge from our misery to the Father’s mercy. It leads to a deep plunge into the wounds of Christ for the sake of the Church.

For Elizabeth of the Trinity, this knowledge is musical. It is the praise of glory. Those who possess it are able to sing in their hearts the same song of praise Jesus offered to the Father on the Cross. It has the dimensions of redemptive and glorifying love of God and man.

All these saints are agreed that such knowledge is a sheer gift that we can fully receive only by spending time in prayer and by taking our own crosses. Even after two thousand years of great saints, theologians, and mystics, theological contemplation remains a vast, barely known frontier of human existence, for most of the inexhaustible riches of Christ are still waiting to be discovered.

This knowledge is theological contemplation, the most demanding and life changing of all human knowledge. It is mystagogical in character because it helps those who already are initiated into the life of the Church to acquire an even-deeper relationship with the Lord. The world needs Catholics to grow in this kind of contemplation.

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This article is from a chapter in Fire from Above, which is available through Sophia Institute PressMystical Contemplation and Gift of Knowledge

Art for this post on Mystical Contemplation: Modification and partial restoration of Saint Jérôme en prière dans une grotte (Saint Jerome in Prayer in the Cave), Pieter Cornelisz van Slingelandt, 1656, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Cover of Fire from Above, used with permission.

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About Charlie McKinney

Charlie McKinney is the Publisher of Sophia Institute Press and President of Sophia Institute for Teachers, CatholicExchange.com, CrisisMagazine.com, and EpicPew.com. Charlie is a convert to the Catholic Faith and is a regular guest on Catholic radio and television. He and his wife have four children and they reside in New Hampshire.

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  • Patricia

    We come “to know” God in deep prayer and therefore become more deeply engaged in a loving relationship with Him. The kiss of Jesus
    is the kiss of the Bridegroom of our soul….an “intimate knowing and loving” of Him Who loves us first. Adoration time is always fruitful! Seek Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and spirit!

    • Paul Diemert

      Dr. Lilles writes as one with experience in mysticism. The same is true with Pope Benedict XVI when he writes, “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is”. This was especially true for the apostles that witnessed the Transfiguration, and those that He chooses to manifest Himself.

      • Patricia

        I’ve always loved the gospel of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John wanted to stay there and to build a dwelling for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, but they disappeared and so the apostles descended from Mt. Tabor and ascended their personal Mt. Calvary. His manifestation was to show them Who He is and enlighten them about His, theirs and our final destiny. First suffering, then eternal glory! It would be/is so lovely just to climb and dwell together forever. Not our will, but God’s.

  • Margaret Munck

    Dear Charlie,

    This is a wow for two reasons. I read Dr. Lilles writings amazed by his understanding of the mystics. The other wow is that you live in New Hampshire. I understand what is written above from the point of being a mystic myself. I am married with 5 sons, I am 66 years old. I have this sense that God is cracking another egg as it relates to my mystical experience of the Trinity as it relates to our times. I am over joyed with the omnipotence of our God and excited to understand more about my relationship with him. As I have been on this incredible journey for so many years there always seems to be a point when it will be finished, all will be normal and I will ride into the sunset as a run of the mill person. That would be devastating.

    There is always a new day a new experience of the loving way the King of the Universe relates to his creation. My journey is focused on Purity, bringing back the reality of our created purpose. Union with God in the here and now.

    I am living in New Hampshire, we have a home in Center Conway and in Colebrook. We spend a lot of time in Portsmouth as well. If you could spare a few hours I would very much like to talk with you.

  • Valerie Saldanha

    We need to be confirmed in God’s supernatural communications to us through the mouth of another human person and this is what this and other expositions on this website are doing for me. It is serving the purpose of ‘conferring with another’, when we cannot find suitable persons where we live, to confirm some of our mystical experiences.

    • LizEst

      Valerie — We’re glad we are helping you. But, please speak, at least, with your parish priest about these things. The devil is very tricky. You really do need to get the Church’s take on any mystical experiences you may be having. I doubt you would want to be led in the wrong direction, since you do seem very sincere and desirous of following what the Church believes and teaches. God bless you.

      • Valerie Saldanha

        Yes, I am doing that. The first 2 paras of this article have certainly touched me. this has happened with another of Dr. Lilles articles on suffering. It confirmed God’s will for me in a particluar situation. As to doing the courses and reading the book I will do so when I can. Have been looking for such an opportunity for a long time. Have done a Spiritual Theology course in India.

        • LizEst

          Good to know, Valerie. God bless you abundantly as you continues to draw you ever closer to Him Divine Heart.

    • Anneli Sinkko

      Valerie – sorry to interrupt but … does your statement mean you had mystical experiences. Let me tell you – when You meet God you know beyond any doubt that it is God you have met … otherwise you could be on a dangerous ground … speak to your spiritual advisor

      • LizEst

        … and we can delude ourselves beyond any doubt and still be very sure of ourselves. Thanks for advising Valerie to speak to her spiritual advisor.

        • Anneli Sinkko

          You are welcome

          • LizEst

            😉

      • Valerie Saldanha

        thanks for your response.

    • Patricia

      How do I know God is talking to me in prayer?
      1. God gives us consolations.
      2. God responds by giving or increasing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
      3. God gives the soul words, ideas, or inspirations that we recognize clearly as coming from Him.

      Read the complete (and excellent) article here:
      http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2012/04/02/how-do-i-know-if-god-is-talking-to-me-in-prayer.

      A good spiritual director can be helpful: Some are availble online or by phone. http://www.spiritualdirection.com/2015/07/03/spiritual-direction-process-and-index-of-posts

      There is also a course at the Avila Institute on the Discernment of Spirits. In fact, here is a mini-course being offered on this topic on this evening. Also the book “Navigating the Interior Life” by Dan Burke offers helpful information to help discern what is happening spiritually in your soul.

      • LizEst

        Thanks, Patricia. Those are good references. The devil can also mimic consolations, words, ideas, inspirations, and gifts. That’s why it’s important to have a spiritual director who can see the blind spots that we cannot see. God bless you!

        • Patricia

          Very true. Liz!, Hopefully these references may be good starting points to begin to nurture that spiritual life and to open some ideas about processing experiences. Continuing Spiritual Direction is imperative for discernment and an objective perspective; nothing else can substitute for that and I did not intend to suggest them as a substitute. You had already suggested the personal conference, but it is not always easy or sometimes even possible to arrange because many priests are too busy or have not received training and therefore are not comfortable with ongoing spiritual direction beyond the general questions and concerns of everyday life. Hopefully they can refer a person to a good, well-trained spiritual director who can also help with progress even after confirmation of what is happening now. It is only the beginning of the journey!

      • Valerie Saldanha

        Appreciate your caring response to my lines. Dr. Lilles’ articles have touched me in a way that is hard to express. I am sure he will understand what I am saying. They have somehow been confirmatory of some little experiences that I was wondering about and here was the Holy Spirit bringing clarity to me through these articles. If it is the devil, then he is delighting me through this website. God bless.
        As to courses and reading, both are things I love to do and have been pursuing for a long time.

        • Patricia

          The shepherd calls and says I know my sheep and they know me. The Bridegroom calls and the soul is attracted and gets up to follow. These words of this article resonate with you in a way that is inexpressible. Dr. Lilles has the gift of putting the inexpressible into words that speak to the heart. Clarity and delight are positive signs that God is calling you into a deeper relationship to Him. Commit to a consistent prayer life and seek the God of love.

  • Deborah Martinez

    Spot on, Dr. Lilles!!! Excellent article, Charlie!!! Union with the living God is what Christianity is and has always intended. #Intimacy #MyGodSpeaks #FireInMe

    • Margaret Munck

      You obviously understand, I do that we are meant for union with God. I have been asked by Jesus to form a cult of women espoused to Purity. The prayers, blog are activated. We would all live at peace if we were in him and he in us.

      • Deborah Martinez

        Many people of various faiths can live in peace. It’s not enough to be baptized, which justifies you, brings you into the family of God and He becomes resident within the person; that’s just the beginning. Many church-goers stop here and look and act just like the world. That is the typical and normative cycle of Christianity. We are responsible to fan the flame of the living God within. Most parishes/churches don’t know how to do this well, encourage this, or get beyond the rudimentary (milk). They have not been transformed by the word of God and the Holy Spirit and therefore they cannot transform, impact, sanctify the world around them. Only by interior transformation led by the Spirit of God do we ascend to higher levels of union, communion, intimacy with Him here and now, and He makes His presence manifest, for multiple reasons and purposes. This is to be the norm. Unfortunately, within the church, from clerics to laity, there is much ignorance and lack of understanding about how simple, powerful and sufficient Christianity is “for all who believe”. Even within self-professed charismatic circles there is an immaturity which prevails in thinking it’s enough to sing a few upbeat songs and never really step into true identity, authority and power in Christ. “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6 I’ll stop here. Blessings in Christ Jesus be unto you and yours. #YouCan’tTeachWhatYouDon’tKnow

  • Deborah Martinez

    Love the article. First paragraph reads like poetry. #HolySpiritConsumeMe

    • Margaret Munck

      I have the book but have not read it. Dr. Lilles is Extrodinary in his expression of the Spousal relationship.

  • Mary Angela Nangini

    I’m not sure who the author is to quote from the above article by Charlie McKinney, since it also says: “This article is from a chapter in Fire from Above.” Please clarify! Thank you! Love it!

    • LizEst

      Mary Angela — The author of the book is Dr. Anthony Lilles, who is the Academic Dean of, and professor at, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. He has also written other books and writes for our site, as well. You can find many of his posts on spiritualdirection.com by clicking here: http://www.spiritualdirection.com/?s=anthony+lilles

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