Young mystics


Rev. Justin Lanier

Warning: the following are simply the thoughts of young Anglican priest.

Recently I have come back from some continuing training at my old monastery in Colorado. They had me up in one of the hermitages on the mountain. I was invited to chant in choir with them as I’d done in years past.

Something folks might not know about this monastic choir is that about seven of these brothers are in their 20s and early 30s. That is a little less than half of the choir is "young" for religious standards today. Since I am rather young for a priest, in my mid-thirties, the abbot often introduces me to some of the young guys so we might talk about the spiritual life and what teachings we are working with, about our sacramental practice and Christ in the Scriptures, and we may even hit on what kind of prayer/meditation we are engaged in these days and some of the obstacles we are coming up against in our interior life.

None of us are "conservative old schoolers" who want to go back to the way things were in the 1950s (before we were born) or the 1930s (also before we were born) or even the 1350s (before any of us were born). But, all of us are deeply committed to "realization" or "divine union" in whatever depth God has planned for us, and so we have come to live and train in this monastery.

What you might want to picture as life in the monastery is daily Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion, daily contemplative prayer/silent meditation, chanting the liturgy, manual labor, scared reading, communal life and an intimate practitioner-guide relationship with one of the masters of the monastery. But really it’s what you can’t picture or imagine that is so profound; the prayerful silence, the deep openness of hearts and minds.

I believe we can see a glimpse, at least partly, or the younger generation of spiritual seekers, who are undertaking training of how to seek deeply and how to actually find. Even as the analogy of a seeker and thing found is absolutely misleading, the training itself helps to dispel this kind of confusion, not only in understanding, but in living and moving and being.

Young Christians in the monastery and outside of the monastery are perhaps SR (Spiritually Religious) rather than CR (Culturally Religious) or even SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious). This glimpse seems to me to bode very well for the future, since the SR will in actuality learn to go beyond their own likes and dislikes, beyond the conceptual mind and the separate self sense. Perhaps we are seeing the "prophesy" of Karl Rahner, S.J. ‘The Christians of the future will either be mystics, or cease to be Christians at all." (paraphrased from his essay Christian Living Formerly and Today, 1971)

The Rev. Justin Lanier is rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bennington.


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