Rebirth to Life (part 8)

In all the charismata, there is an awareness of the other and participation together, rebirth becomes realized in community. Moltmann writes that “charismatic experience is the experience that this life, which has become old, has lost its way and is so heavy-laden with wrongs, begins to flower again and becomes young once more.”

In turning towards the topic of mystical experiences, Moltmann is asserting the reality that the Spirit is not simply a matter of shared action or doctrine, which is limited to an outward participation experience with others. Rather, in an intense experience of God in faith, we find a deepening of our own selves, in reflection of our particular relationship with God. This involves a reformation of our inner reality, which seeks ultimate fulfillment and can find this only in God. In the Spirit we do not only see liberation from outward forms of oppression, but also inward forms of inner dissatisfaction that then so often turns to dysfunctional outward behavior.
Even though he is very strongly oriented towards outward action, Moltmann sees the need for a strong awareness of inner personal reformation in the power of the Spirit, who enlightens us and empowers us to our true self.

Outside of this we only convey chaos. This is especially, I think, relevant for much contemporary Seminary and academic priorities. He strongly emphasizes the importance of proper perception in the Spirit, awareness of life as it flowers around us. Rather than perceiving in order to dominate, in the Spirit we perceive to celebrate, to orient ourselves in a pattern of life that reflects God’s holistic rhythms. It is only as we contribute according to our true self as formed by the Spirit that we contribute to a healing community (see especially his great comments on 201 and 202 of Spirit of Life).

Becoming in tune with the Spirit insists on becoming in tune with the Spirit’s work in our interior lives, with all its struggles, and places of despair and emptiness, and fears. Moltmann fully embraces pursuing a life through the wilderness, through the ‘dark nights of the soul’ so as to find a deeper experience of and celebration with the work of God in all its various forms (202). He moves on to emphasize the importance of both meditation, which is “the loving, suffering and participating knowledge of something”, and contemplation, which is the “reflective awareness of one’s own self in this meditation” (203). Meditation, in the Christian tradition, is a meditation on the history of Christ, which is a history we are “drawn into, where we are accepted, reconciled, and liberated for God’s kingdom” (203). We participate in this history in the power of the Spirit, with our contemplation involving us, as our own particular self, in this continuing work and history. We are restored to the image of God, and we are able to received God’s friendship as a gift. This opens us up to the path of increasing likeness of God in his glory: Theosis (205 and 208).

The acts and tools of contemplation are useful in helping us rise to these heights, but cannot be considered themselves an end. They are “rungs of a ladder, the handrails on a path, the halts on a journey” (206) The goal is not these tasks or steps but rather a fully realized freedom of participation with God in which we fully become ourselves in communion with his community. Moltmann writes, “The breaking of the shell, so as to reach the kernel; the abolition of the mediations, so as to arrive at the goal; the step by step withdrawal of created things, revelations and divine condescensions, so that God may be loved for himself; and then the abolition of God for God’s sake—these are the ultimate possibilities of the mystical journey which are expressible at all” (207).

As in his discussion of the charismata, Moltmann does not see mystical experiences as demanding a separation from this world. Indeed, just the opposite. While the mystical experience may take place in the cell, it is not the cell that is the goal of discipleship with Christ. “Mysticism,” he writes, “does not mean estrangement from action; it is a preparation for public discipleship” (209). These two realities of God work with us, mysticism and discipleship, belong together, inform each other, enabling a person to go into the world in more holistic participation with the Spirit, able to listen and respond freely to the work of God in whatever setting, increasingly no longer imposing a broken self onto a broken world, but instead being a representation of healing to the world God loves.

All of these inward and outward works of the Spirit in forming us as participants with God strongly emphasize the wide work of the Spirit in this world as the holistic spirit of life. All of creation is filled and touched by the work of the Spirit (212). This is a divine presence throughout all the world, where “God may be all in all” (212). The Spirit of Life is the Spirit who is manifested in all of life, pointing all of life to God’s eschatological renewal.

The cross of Christ overcomes all evil, all sin, all death, and transforms it into “goodness, grace, and election.” All hope for the world, without the cross, would be gone. Suffering would be isolating and without redemption. But, in the broad place of the Spirit throughout creation, life continues to blossom forth, wide and free, more intensely, and more unique (213). This wide work of vivification is the experience of the mystics and the martyrs, the hope of the hurt and the promised freedom of the constrained.

This entry was posted in Holy Spirit, Jesus, Moltmann, spirituality, theology. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *