by Brother Gilbert Bloomer
The three journal readings I have chosen all reflect my personal focus on the mysticism or theology of the heart. As a Catholic Jew I also reflect on everything through the prism of my Jewish identity and tradition and my Catholic faith and understanding. I am a product of my past and present experiences which is reflected in why I chose those particular sentences and sections of these three readings to reflect on.
The first reading I have chosen is Anderson and Granados’ “Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II’s Theology of the Body”. I found this reading immensely riveting and thrilling to my inner being. Each sentence could open up a reflection of its own. I find that the phenomenological approach of John Paul II resonates with inner authenticity to who I am as a person and a believer. I read John Paul’s ‘Theology of the Body’ not so much as a moral or sexual guide but as a text of the deepest mysticism that elevates my heart into the mysteries of God’s Kingdom of Divine Intimacy and Love. Anderson and Granados seem to capture some of that deeper mysticism of Pope John Paul II for me.
As a young man before I became a Catholic I was always drawn to medieval history, art, literature, architecture and sculpture. Through this I was also drawn to its revival in 19th century England known as the Gothic Romantic period or era. Thus when I first began University in 1981 I was very drawn to the alternative Gothic and New Romantic music culture of the early 1980’s. The main characteristic of the Gothic Romantic movement is experience, especially heightened emotional experience and feelings. It also values creative spontaneity.
Anderson and Granados discuss the centrality of experience and meaning in the Pope’s ‘Theology of the Body’. They quote from TS Eliot’s poem “The Dry Salvages” – “We had experience, we missed the meaning, And approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form”. This quote spoke to me deeply as much of the experiences of my past while exciting and thrilling as well as painful and melodramatic could be somewhat empty and purposeless because of a lack of deep meaningfulness. However now I can reflect on or revisit these experiences and invest them with meaning and thus transform these experiences into something deeper and more authentically human. No experience is wasted once it is invested with a new form through a deeper penetration of meaning.
Pope John Paul speaks of ‘original experiences’ and always takes us back to the beginning in the Book of Genesis to the original Creation account. This is the ‘Primordial Experience’ that is imprinted in our spiritual dna and probably even in our physical dna. This is the mystery of ‘Bereshit’ (the Hebrew word for ‘in the beginning’) and ‘Bekadmin’ (the Aramaic word for ‘in the beginning’). Kadmin is also kadmon (Primordial). This leads us to the kabbalistic term Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man) in whose image and likeness Adam ha Rishon (the First Adam) was created.
The mystery of the Adam and his spouse Eve cleaving to one another is a mirror of a deeper mystery hidden in the beginning. Just as Adam came forth with the woman hidden in his side so the concept or light of the Primordial Adam (who in time would become the Messiah) descending hidden in the mirror or created and reflecting light of the Mother’s dark waters of the mystical womb/ heart. God sings: ‘Let there be light’ (this light is the divinity of the Adam Kadmon as God’s Attributes (Sefirot) blazing forth into the ‘vacated space’ of the Universe). Then the ‘and there was light’ as the second created light of the Primordial Mother’s womb that encompasses and hides the first uncreated light. This is the Mystery of the Incarnation in Eternity.
Anderson and Granados speak of Christ calling his questioners to “recover the depth of their experience in the mirror of God’s original intention for human love”. God’s original intention is hidden in that first virginal nuptial union of the uncreated light with the first created light (or thought of God outside himself). This is the original cleaving or devekut (union) which is then partially revealed or unveiled in the story of Adam and Eve. This is the meaning of the “Lechah Dodi” (“Come My Beloved”) song of the Jewish Sabbath as the Sabbath Queen- ‘latter in act, first in thought’.
John Paul tells us in “Memory and Identity” that these mysteries are not only about the Messiah and his Mother but the mystery of Man himself hidden in the mystical Mother’s womb or heart that manifests as Mother Church (Kneset Yisrael). I do not have the space to truly do justice to this reading but I have shared some of my initial thought processes on just a very limit touching on the first pages of this reading.
The second reading I have chosen is also about John Paul’s ‘Theology of the Body’. It is Christopher West’s “Theology of the Body Explained: A Commentary on John Paul II’s Gospel of the Body”. I found this article also very interesting and once again I can only touch on a brief point or two. Sometimes I find that I get upset with Catholics who seem to read the ‘Theology of the Body’ as a guide to having great Catholic sex without them emphasising the human dimension is a way of ascending or descending into the deeper mysteries of the virginal nuptial unions within the Trinitarian Godhead. Christopher West in this article is always pointing us to this higher understanding of the “Theology of the Body”.
I especially liked the section of this reading titled “Mainstream Mysticism”. The question is asked “If this theology of the body is so important, where has it been for two thousand years?” West gives the answer that it is in the heart of the very Gospel itself and found in the teachings of the mystics throughout Catholic history. He mentions the ‘nuptial union’ mysticism and how John Paul II has taken this nuptial mysticism into the very centre of the Church’s teaching.
This nuptial mysticism is also at the very heart of Jewish mysticism and the Kabbalah. I believe that when Jewish and Catholic mysticism come together in a perfect synergy we will see the fulfilment of St Paul’s spiritual or mystical ‘Resurrection of the Dead’ found in Romans 11 which will bring riches for the entire world. Cardinal Biffi once said some years ago that in the future all Catholics will be mystics. The Frankists (Jewish Catholics) of the 18th century also looked forward to a future mystically-inclined Catholic Church that would eventually incorporate all believers when Edom (Christians), Jacob (Jews) and Ishmael (Muslims) would be united through the mystical traditions and insights in each tradition acknowledging Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah of the Jews and of all nations. This can only come about in an eschatological and mystical outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
We are all called to these mystical and virginal nuptial unions with each other and with Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is through our cleaving to the divine intimacy with our Trinitarian Lover that we can then have virginal nuptial unions with Mary, Joseph, the Saints and all people. Our limited and personal human relationships are a sign to this deeper intimacy of divine Love.
The third reading I chose was chapter three of Father Wilkie Au’s “By the Way of the Heart: Toward a Holistic Christian Spirituality” titled “Heart Searching and Life Choice”. He begins with a quote from Henri Nouwen about converting loneliness into deep solitude in order to create a space so one can discover one’s vocation. The article has much good advice about listening to what one’s heart really desires at its deepest core not just the passing emotional desires on the surface.
I particularly enjoyed his use of the Hasidic wisdom of Rabbi Baer of Radoshitz’s Tzaddik or Rebbe, Jacob Isaac Horowitz the Seer of Lublin. One should observe what one’s heart is drawn to in order to decide a vocation and once discerned go for it with all your might. However, I am not sure if the Seer or his disciple would agree with Father Au’s comment about seeking a spouse. In Judaism the importance of finding one’s beshert or zivug (soul mate) is prominent.
Father Au then applies his logic to one’s vocation. Just as there are many possible marriage partners so there are many possible vocation choices. As one who is inclined to the ‘romantic myth’ I believe just as one has that special soul mate so does one have a special and unique vocation waiting for you to embrace as a mystical bride or spouse.
I especially enjoyed his discussion on the Will of God. So many people see the Will of God as a forceful dictator rather than that of a lover yearning and desiring their beloved. God will never force anyone to choose a path that isn’t already hidden in their deepest desires in their heart. Au also gives advice on the role of desires in decision making. He speaks of ‘holy and spiritual desires’ which we can embrace and offer as a gift to God.
In the past I have allowed lesser voices and desires to sidetrack me from my deepest desires and vocation. My deepest desire is to live and love in the intimacy of the Divine Will and to teach and share this with others. It is intimate face to face encounter and relationship that I need and desire, everything else is only a means to this end. I also need to be vigilant that I don’t lose focus and fall into satisfying lesser desires at the expense of my deepest desires and their vocational manifestation in my life.
 Ramban in his commentary on Genesis associates the term Bereshit with Bat Reshit (Daughter of the Beginning or First Daughter) who is the Divine King’s Daughter, Mother and Sister –Spouse as well as Kneset Yisrael (Community of Israel) and Sabbath Queen.