Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Into the Mystic

I'll always remember the moment when I first became a Van Morrison fan. I was maybe 19 years old, home from college and flipping through the channels when a movie called "Immediate Family" came on. I don't know anything about the film (I just looked it up a moment ago to be sure of the title). What struck me was the song playing during a powerful mother/daughter/healing scene. The song was Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."

There was something magnetic and mystical in that song that made me stop my surfing in mid-click. Maybe it was the slow and steady ryhthm of the guitar, or the line "Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky." It could've even been the spaces between the words and the music that opened me up to sweet contemplation. Isn't it always the silence, the rest within the notes that moves us most? Whatever it was, it sent me on a journey to the music store, to pick up the Moondance album and a host of Van's other works since then.

"And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home. And when the fog horn blows, I want to hear it. I don't have to fear it."

Into the Mystic led me into the Mystery! The sense of wonder that song stirred up in me was an invitation to ask the deeper questions. It's the sense of wonder and mystery that the modern heart, I believe, longs for more than any material possession or position of power. We want always that open door, that path before us that leads to the More that we are made for. The one who no longer thirsts for answers drowns in his own Narcissian pool.

Getting answers is great, don't get me wrong; it sets us on the path to begin the walk. But those unanswered questions, those mysteries, are what keep us moving, searching, and seeking. Boy did it take me forever to learn that lesson; that life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived.

In last Sunday's gospel, John the Baptist drew people out into the desert. They brought their questions, their ponderings and wonderings. They wanted answers to life's deepest questions. And John gave them solid answers. "What should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed." Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."

John was short and to the point when it came to those nitty gritty questions. But he openly admitted that he was only paving the way for Something Deeper; his water would yield to fire, his mediation would turn over to the mystical. Enter Jesus.

Jesus doesn't always give us the straight answer. In fact, He rarely does this. In contrast to John, when questions come, Jesus simply invites us into them. "Consider this parable..." He says to the questioner. "Follow me..." He invites the inquisitive.

When two disciples of John's followed Jesus, he turned and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" He said to them,"Come, and you will see."

"Hark, now hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky.... Let your soul and spirit fly into the Mystic."

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