Notes From a Retreat IIIB-He is Everywhere Present

What is ecstasy, if it is not an experience?

Ecstasy is to stand outside of every experience, while at the same time not leaving the world behind. It is a world of being, but in a mystical sense, ecstasy is seeing the world of being not as an object anymore. Instead, the world of being is viewed more as a part of one’s self. This is love. To give one’s self to another not as though the other is other, but as it is one’s self.

We see God in the persons and experiences that we love, but many times we do not see Him in experiences that we do not know as love. Therefore, we must unknow. We cannot leave the world of being, but we can allow the world beyond to come to us in Christ. To come to us in a vision of all-embracing love, as Christ Himself loved those who hated Him.

Plotinus and Proclus, as non-Christian neo-Platonists, embrace the concept of reincarnation and annihilation. There is a sense of progress from being, to becoming, to a return.

The cycle is chosen, or annihilation ensues.

In this vision, God is everywhere but is completely inaccessible. He is definitely not incarnate. There are therefore, limits of being and knowing.

Modernism denies the vision of Parmenides and other philosophers.

To Stephen Hawking, philosophy is dead.

Postmodern thinking denies the light-nothing enables us to see, we just happen to see. Thought is then often called text–margin and space in text allow us to understand it, as does light. But postmodernism embraces a more brute understanding of truth, based on a personalized relativism of “text” as understood by the person/culture reading and embracing ig.

Our 21st century society is both modernist and postmodernist at the same time.

There are lots of data, lots of problem solving, but no underlying why to the whole enterprise/effort.

We must, therefore, recover a skepticism about our natural experience. Asceticism is an expression of this skepticism of natural experience. It does not deny natural experience, as the gnostics would deny the goodness of natural experience, but it is an expression of doubt about it. It is a doubt of the capacity of the world to give meaning. There is no experience that shows this limitation of the world, and as such, it is ecstasy. It is going beyond the experience and being of natural life and seeking more. We should embrace our experience of the disclosure of God in us, first as Word.

He, as Word, brings us the fulfillment of our desires through the resolution of the multiplicity of singularity.

Being and non-being can both be at peace, through a mutual surrender of mankind/natural being to God, and God to mankind/natural being. This is a union without confusion.

This is love.

In our society, there is so much ennui and despair, which comes from not loving.

In Dionysius’ writings, we see the world as a message from God, if we can live in the ecstasy of mystery. He uses an appeal to an eclipse to see God in the sun and the moon, when he writes:

…when we were staying in Heliopolis (I was then about twenty-five, and your age was nearly the same as mine), on a certain sixth day, and about the sixth hour, the sun, to our great surprise, became obscured, through the moon passing over it, not because it is a god, but because a creature of God, when its very true light was setting, could not bear to shine. Then I earnestly asked thee, what thou, O man most wise, thought of it. Thou, then, gave such an answer as remained fixed in my mind, and that no oblivion, not even that of the image of death, ever allowed to escape. For, when the whole orb had been throughout darkened, by a black mist of darkness, and the sun’s disk had begun again to be purged and to shine anew, then taking the table of Philip Aridaeus, and contemplating the orbs of heaven, we learned, what was otherwise well known, that an eclipse of the sun could not, at that time, occur. Next, we observed that the moon approached the sun from the east, and intercepted its rays, until it covered the whole; whereas, at other times, it used to approach from the west. Further also, we noted that when it had reached the extreme edge of the sun, and had covered the whole orb, that it then went back towards the east, although that was a time which called neither for the presence of the moon, nor for the conjunction of the sun. I therefore, O treasury of manifold learning, since I was incapable of understanding so great a mystery, thus addressed thee—-“What thinkest thou of this thing, O Apollophanes, mirror of learning?” “Of what mysteries do these unaccustomed portents appear to you to be indications?” Thou then, with inspired lips, rather than with speech of human voice, “These are, O excellent Dionysius,” thou saidst, “changes of things divine.” At last, when I had taken note of the day and year, and had perceived that, that time, by its testifying signs, agreed with that which Paul announced to me, once when I was hanging upon his lips, then I gave my hand to the truth, and extricated my feet from the meshes of error. Which truth, henceforth, I, with admiration, both preach and urge upon thee—-which is life and way, and true light,—-which lighteth every man coming into this world,—-to which even thou at last, as truly wise, hast yielded. For thou yieldedst to life when thou renounced death. And surely thou hast, at length, acted in the best possible manner, if thou shalt adhere henceforth to the same truth, so as to associate with us more closely. For those lips will henceforth be on our side, by the splendour of whose words, as blunting the edge of my mind, thou hast been accustomed by pretexts brought from various quarters, and by a gorgeous glow of eloquence, to vex the innermost recesses of our breast;—-yea, even sometimes to probe us sharply by occasional stings of malice. Wherefore as formerly, as thou thyself used to say, the knowledge of Christian doctrine, although savoury, was not savoury to thee, but when you had brought yourself to it, merely to taste, it shrank from your mental palate, and as it were, disdained to find a resting-place in your stomach; so now, after you have acquired a heart, intelligent and provident, elevate thyself to things supernal, and do not surrender, for things that are not, things which really are. Therefore in future, be so much more obstinate against those who have urged you to the false, as you showed yourself perverse towards us, when we invited you, with all our force, to the truth. For thus, I, in the Lord Jesus, Whose Presence is my being and my life, will henceforth die joyful, since thou also livest in Him.-Letter XI, to Apollophanes, Philospher

The ecstasy of the light and movement of natural experience drives one to a mystical vision of life, to Christ Himself.

Similarly, our experience of God in the mysteries of the Church shows that from the sensible elements of bread and wine, we are taken to an ecstasy of the essential One who loves manking.

The Hierarch makes known these things to those who are living religiously, by bringing
the veiled gifts to view, by dividing their oneness into many, and by making the
recipients partakers of them, by the utmost union of the things distributed with those who
receive them. For he delineates in these things under sensible forms our intelligible life
in figures, by bringing to view the Christ Jesus from the Hidden within the Divine Being,
out of love to man, made like unto us by the all-perfect and unconfused incarnation in our
race, from us, and advancing to the divided condition of ourselves, without change from
the essential One, and calling the human race, through this beneficent love of man, into
participation with Himself and His own good things, provided we are united to His most
Divine Life by our assimilation to it, as far as possible; and by this, in very truth, we shall
have been perfected, as partakers of God and of Divine things.
–Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, II.13

The Eucharist is, then, an ordinary mystical experience. Divinization is the experience for which no skepticism is allowed. It brings true meaning to our lives. The forms reveal the cause as we are divinized. It shows the world to be all the way meaningful, in every component of it. We can, if see the world this way, hymn all things as they come to us in life.

To the extent that we cannot sing out as something comes to us in life, we have missed this mystical vision of life.

As we pray in our preparatory prayers:

O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, present in all places and filling all things, the treasury of blessings and the Giver of life: Come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!

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