The Ecstasy

By contrast, say all the mystics, life in the presence of God is not only full of light, but supreme joy and bliss. Teresa of Avila tells us that union with God "is above all earthly joys, above all delights, above all consolations, and still more than that." As with Marie of the Incarnation, St. Teresa says that the "soul is left so much in love that it does for its part all it can to avoid disturbing this divine betrothal." God gives the soul "raptures... true raptures." This "quick rapture of the spirit... is such that the spirit truly seems to go forth from the body." Once experienced the person wants to tell everyone, "for the joy is so excessive the soul wouldn't want to enjoy it alone." Almost every time God shows himself "the soul is in rapture."40

John Ruusbroek says that in "meeting the light, the heart experiences so much delight that it cannot contain itself but bursts out in a cry of joy... of jubilation." The heart "swims in a state of bliss...." In "this light the spirit immerses itself in a rest of pure bliss... blissful love." The encounter brings "consolation, peace, joy, beauty, riches, and everything else that brings delight is revealed in God to the enlightened reason without measure...." Union with God brings about "blissful unity." Beyond this, if one "wishes to penetrate further into this blissful love with his active love, all the powers of his soul will give way and will have to suffer and endure the penetrating truth and goodness which is God himself."41

Hildegard lets us know that the just "love God of whom they can never have too much but from whom they have bliss forever and ever." By comparison, "there is no true joy in sinning," but "just as God has established heaven in the full joy of heavenly things,... the soul accomplishes in joy its good deeds of a heavenly nature." Further, God "wished to bring humanity back to the bliss of heaven." In one vision, the "Lord of the Universe" told Hildegard that he would show her "the bliss of eternal life." Ever since her childhood days, these visions "brought joy to [her] soul."42

St. Symeon states quite plainly that he who "perceives the light in his soul... is in ecstasy." Symeon felt "a great spiritual joy... the ineffable joy of that Light." When the Divine Light appears, "it fills one with joy," and carries one "up to heaven." The "infinite light of His gracious Godhead" brings "unutterable and unending joy." To "live with the ineffable light" also means to live with "joy unspeakable." When Symeon's friend George had his vision of the light, described earlier, George was "filled with tears and with ineffable joy and gladness." For Symeon, as well, the vision of God brings "joy and consolation." This "unexpected marvel" filled his "heart with joy, so much so that it seemed to me as though my body partook of that unspeakable grace."43

George Fox likewise makes frequent reference to the wondrous joy that accompanies the luminous Divine encounter. The light of God turns the mind into a dwelling place "of endless joy and peace."44 Through "power and light you will see God," and "through which your hearts will be filled with God's love."45 Moreover, the power and love of God "will be your joy and refreshment."46 For Fox, to "live and walk in the spirit of God is joy, peace and life."47

Jacob Boehme similarly contends that "heaven is a pleasant palace of joy."48 Within the Divine Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, "The Son of God... is the moving springing joy in all the powers of the Father, and shineth in the Father."49 This means that "paradise is the divine joy... the unutterable joy of God."50 To encounter God is to encounter an "elevating, penetrating spirit, a triumphing or joy, an elevating source of laughing...."51 While this kind of "rapturous state rarely continueth long," when it does,

Oftentimes when his soul eateth of the divine love-essence, it bringeth to him an exulting triumph, and a divine taste into the temperament itself. So that the whole body is affected and even trembleth for joy, being lifted up to such a degree of divine sensation, as if it was on the very borders of paradise.52

Other Christian mystics concur with these assessments. Gregory of Palamas says that "through the mysterious sweetness of his vision he is ravished beyond all objects...."53 Catherine of Siena writes that with "that light I sense my soul once again becoming drunk!"54 Marie of the Incarnation says that she would need "the powers of the Seraphim... to be able to narrate what transpired in this ecstasy and rapture of love."55 Thomas Merton, a 20th century mystic, speaks of "our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed." This "joy of emptiness, of nothingness,... is the true light that shines in everyone... It is the light of Christ."56


Divine Encounters


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