Birthing a New Normal with Help from Present Day Mystics

In honor of the 12 days of Christmas we are sharing 12 teachings of current day mystics who can help us create a “New Normal” especially when, eventually, we emerge from our lockdowns due to coronavirus.  And to prevent our returning to an “Old Normal” of empire building, patriarchy and killing of the earth that has not been kind to our and other species.

Matthew Fox sharing some mystic wisdom from Meister Eckhart and how it relates to our current times. Originally posted to YouTube by New World Library.

Hopefully, these meditations help underscore the truer meaning of Christmas than sentimental offerings such as the carol of “the twelve days of Christmas.”

Following is another teaching from theologian Dorothee Soelle:

Christolatry is the opposite of what it means to be “in Christ.” Soren Kierkegaard practiced this distinction between those who esteem Christ and those who follow him. 

If I esteem him then I lift him ever higher and have nothing to do with him; I use my admiration to keep myself free of Christ. He is big, I am dependent on him, yet I do not want to go his way. 

Christ crucified by consumerism. Work of art originally done by the artist, Banksy. Photo taken from Flickr.

But if I try to follow him, . . .  “Come along,” he says, and that above all, “Come along into God’s kingdom — to our home country, where no one is beaten, no one is thrown out and shoved away. Look and see,” he says to me and shows how the lame begin to walk. He does not say, “close your eyes; I’ll do everything.”*

Soelle warns what hagiography can do to us: We put people (Jesus included) on pedestals often to get them out of our hair so we don’t have to change our lives or be bothered with their distant greatness. Following Christ is very different from idolizing him. 

It is doing what he did, healing and carrying on his work, since he cannot do everything. Is this your experience? Have you ever felt “safer” idolizing someone, seeing their greatness as beyond you? Can you replace that notion with the Christ of mysticism and being “in Christ”? The Christ of panentheism, Christological panentheism — we in Christ and Christ in us?

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, public theologian and ELCA Minister on her journey from addiction to ministry. Pastor Nadia’s story showcases the power of grace and meeting people where they are at. Video was produced by MAKERS Conference and originally posted to the MAKERS YouTube Channel.

Consider this poem by Soelle:

every day I am afraid that he died in vain

because he is buried in our churches, because we have betrayed

his revolution in our obedience to

authority and our fear of it.

I believe in Jesus Christ who rises again and

again in our lives so that we will be free from prejudice and arrogance, from fear and hate and carry on his

revolution and make way for his kingdom**

Soelle laments what has happened to Jesus’ revolution. She is afraid on a daily basis that he might have died “in vain,” for he is often “buried” in ecclesial institutions and thereby “betrayed.” How does this happen? By our obedience to and fear of authority. Soelle believes that his resurrection is ongoing “in our lives,” not a past event, and this will one day empty us of fear, hate, arrogance. Thus would his kingdom/queendom be born. 

*Dorothee Soelle, Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), p. 92.

** Dorothee Soelle, Dorothee Soelle, Revolutionary Patience (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1977), p. 23.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 275, 271.

Banner Image: People March at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington DC 6/6/2020 (IG: @clay.banks). Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Do you also recognize the two ways to respond to the Jesus story—by esteeming him?  Or by imitating him?  Do you also fear for Jesus’ revolution, and how would you describe it at work today?  Do you believe in the kind of Jesus Soelle believes in?

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2 thoughts on “Birthing a New Normal with Help from Present Day Mystics”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for these meditations to accompany us on our journey to Epiphany.
    I wanted to share that There is a much deeper meaning to The Carol Twelve Days of Christmas. In a time of persecution the teachings of faith were Encoded in these words. Many folk songs also are encoded with the messages of hope faith and freedom. The folk songs of Latvia and The negro spirituals are a powerful example. Offering the blessings of Three French hens on this third day of Christmas. Ellen.

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