Mysticism is one of the many elements of religion that seem to exist in every faith. It is present in monotheistic religions and Eastern religions alike: there are Christian mystics, Muslim mystics, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu mystics.
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines mysticism as “either a religioustendency and desire of the human soul towards an intimate union with the Divinity, or a system growing out of such a tendency and desire.” In that sense, it’s easy to see why mysticism is a religious universal.
Yet by and large, there are no Protestant mystics. Indeed, part of the Reformation was a rejection of all that’s non-Biblical, and so reformers viewed mysticism skeptically.
Catholic history, though, is filled with mystical visions and experiences. As with so many other aspects of Catholicism, it seems to me to be something admirable regardless of one’s personal take on it. To so vehemently defend the importance of something the rest of the “modern” world explains away is the height of either or trust. Or perhaps a mix of the two.
It stands to reason that Catholics would be more included to accept mysticism than Protestants: at the heart of the Catholic faith is mystery. “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” says the priest at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, to which English speaking parishioners make one of four responses:
- Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
- Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.
- When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.
- Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world.
The mystery the priest speaks of is not a Mystery Machine type of mystery. In this sense, mystery simply means something we cannot fully grasp through reason.