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Lecture for IS 500 Independent Study on Special Topics:

Lecture for IS 500 Independent Study on Special Topics:
"Overview of Christ Consciousness in Mystical Union in the Holy Catholic Church"
+David Leon Cooper, OMM, KTG, OCC
Metropolitan Archbishop
Apostolic Confraternity Seminary of the SOC/EACS

St. Gregory Palamas Archbishop of Thessaloniki
St. Gregory Palamas
Archbishop of Thessaloniki

Abstract

An overview of Orthodox mystical practice is included along with a brief discussion of the practice of Hesychasm. A discussion of the “Uncreated Light” experience is presented along with a comparison and analysis of Roman Catholic experience from several saints. The mystical practice is analyzed in the context of the transcendent experience of the “uncreated energies” of God and the awareness of the self and experience of the soul. An analysis of the relationship between the uncreated energies of God and purification of the soul is also briefly explored.

Christ Consciousness in Mystical Union in the Holy Catholic Church

Introduction

Saint Gregory Palamas is one of the best known Orthodox Christian mystics. He is one of many saints in the one, holy, catholic church who sought union with God by deep meditation and prayer. He was a theologian, archbishop and practitioner of “Hesychasm.” "Gregory Palamas" (2009) We will look at this saint and others in the holy church. Let us examine the experience of elevated consciousness in Christ via deep meditation and prayer. He is remembered in the second Sunday of Lent or November the 14th. "Gregory Palamas” (n.d) He studied and practiced contemplative prayer on Mount Athos . ("Gregory Palamas," 2009) He is one of many in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that have chosen to experience deep meditation and prayer in a quest for union with God. Let us examine some of them in our overview of this subject.

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“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner”

These are the words that are used in the Hesychast prayer. (Orthodox Wiki, n.d.) The great defender of the Hesychast movement was Saint Gregory Palamas. (Orthodox Wiki, n.d.) A form of the prayer was used by Saint Symeon the New Theologian and has from that time been associated with an experience of the “light” of God. (Halsall, 1997) Hesychasm actually means “tranquility” and is a quest to experience the “uncreated energies” of God. (Mahoney, n.d.) The practice has also been defined as a quest for “stillness, rest, quiet, silence” grounded in the admonition of Christ to “go into your closet to pray” recorded in Matthew 6:6. (The New World Encyclopedia, n.d.) It is a practice of “direct experience of God’s light and love. (The New World Encyclopedia, n.d.)

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Christ Consciousness and the Higher Self

Recognition of the soul as an image of God is a responsibility that lies with every individual. The higher self or the soul as understood in the light of the Holy Spirit is a matter of profound Christ awareness. It is rested on the seat of love that is at the heart of every professing Christian seeking the truth. The manner in which the individual seeks to bathe the self in the bosom of Christ is essential for elevation of consciousness. The answer is prayer and allowing the attention to go deep into the quest for the experience of the light of God. The self must be opened to this experience. It has been described by St. John of the Cross as a need to empty the self in order to be open to God. Catholic Encyclopedia (2009) The Hesychast considers the light to be the one that “surrounded Christ in the Transfiguration.”(Mahoney, n.d.)

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Uncreated Light as God’s Action and Love

God’s action is differentiated from his essence in this theology and is a mystic light. (Fortescue, 1910) The mystic experience has been practiced for centuries on Mt. Athos . (Fortescue, 1910) The practice is not to be confused with the heretical form of “Quietism” found in Spain in the 17th century. (Maccaffrey, 2005) It is more in line with the theology, experience and practice of the Roman Catholic Saints Teresa, John of the Cross and also Louis of Granada. It can be stated that their practice and explanations of the mystic experience were not condemned as was the “Spanish school” and Molinos, a priest. (Maccaffrey, 2005)

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Flame of the Soul: Fire of the Holy Spirit

Saint John of the Cross tells us that God wants to “inflame our souls.” (www.doctorsofthechurch.com, n.d.) That flame is the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is there to burn the earthly fixations from our consciousness. As we burn the material focus and matrix of illusion from our minds we have more room for God. This does not mean that we can not participate in the world but it can not be the focus of our attention more that our prayers and meditations on God. We have the awareness of the self bathing in the consciousness of love with the intention of emptying it in expectation of a filling with the Holy Spirit. That allow for the oxygen for the flame of God to burn further into our souls in purification.

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Longing for Eternity

We begin to “long for eternity” as the result of having the “presence of God’s love” according to Saint John of the Cross. (www.doctorsofthechurch.com, n.d.) We are also told by this saint that our biggest problem in spiritual development will be that we have not loved enough and loved to be charitable. (www.doctorsofthechurch.com, n.d.) Can we say that the deep prayer and meditation in the stillness of the self and resultant direct experience of the “uncreated energies of God” causes our soul to long for its true home? The experience of the energies of God is a purification whereby we have the love of God close to us in Christ’s light. That surely can cause our consciousness to lose fear of death and long for the bosom of Christ Jesus.

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Catherine of Siena and Dialogue of the Soul With God

St. Catherine of Siena tells us that the soul rises up to God and has dialogue with God. ("Catherine of Siena ," 2009) She referred to this intimacy with Christ a “Mystical Marriage” with Jesus. ("Catherine of Siena ," 2009) In our transcendence in prayer and meditation, we allow the soul via our attention and devotion to be consumed and uplifted in communication with Almighty God. We allow the lower self to be consumed by the Holy Spirit and thus have room for the soul to be absorbed in dialog with Christ. This level of transcendence is the best communion with God in the higher consciousness of the soul enlightened by the spirit of truth in Christ Jesus. We enjoy the experience of being uplifted in the light of love in the Holy Spirit’s light. The intimacy of the persistent practice of experience of the light of Christ’s Transfiguration can be likened to the marriage of Christ with his holy church. We as members of the holy Bride of Christ must have an uplifting of our Christ consciousness and the enlightenment of our soul in love of God.

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Transformation, Inward View and Peace of Christ

Saint Catherine of Genoa points to a lowering of the human will to that of God. By so doing she experienced a transformation of the soul. She held that this was her source of peace and guidance from God. (answers.co, (n.d) She seemed to experience a timeless transcendence while in her state of spiritual development which was an ongoing goal with performing good works. (answers.co, (n.d) The continued discipline of the mystical practice of the seeking stillness is a surrendering of our will to that of Christ. This lowering of our own materialistic human will to that of God allows us to experience the Light of Christ more clearly. We then may be purified in that light and moved toward the greater love of God in following the path toward Christ. This allows us to experience the peace of Christ which is beyond human materialistic understanding.

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Comments: Views in Modern Practice, Science and the Future

I remember meeting a Roman Catholic deacon who was also a chemistry teacher in a Catholic high school. We had a few opportunities to talk at the Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles . We shared views and information regarding science—especially concepts of quantum physics—and God. He was quite excited about the field which really indicates the reality of a conscious universe.

It is notable that there are Russian Orthodox monks-- who are also scientists-- working in this area. (Antonov, 2004)

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Conclusion

The experience of the light of Christ in the practice of Hesychasm, or a stillness seeking God in a quiet, tranquil and totally surrendering state will bring about clarity to our Christ consciousness. As we progress toward higher states of purification we may more fully experience the love of Christ and illumination of our heart and soul. The consistent discipline to enter into one’s “closet” to stop and allow the attention to be absorbed in God so as to purify the soul and experience the radiance of Christ’s light, the uncreated energies, is more significant for spiritual development than intellectual activities and outward prayers before men.

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References

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