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Mysticism and Christian Unity
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Michael O'Carroll, CSSp
Bearer of the Light, Vassula (Belfast, Northern Ireland:  JMJ Publications, 1994.  177p.)

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Vassula was a Greek mystic of our time who received a great burden for the unity of the Eastern and Western Christian Churches.  She was a member of the Eastern Orthodox Communion, but developed a greater following among the Roman Catholics and some among Protestants in the west.

Michael O'Carroll was one of her attendants and studied the phenomenon of her revelations and messages of exhortation to Christians to focus on their spiritual unity and work toward greater practical unity.  One interesting aspect is that within the Catholic context, she seems to have avoided the wild disconnect of free personal revelation sometimes associated with the cultic or Pentecostal prophet-preachers.

Scriptural Focus
She was a true mystic in the Medieval sense, with a great concern for focus on the person and character of God in contemplation, prayer and worship.  Her practical message, as interpreted by O'Carroll, expresses a concern to relate directly to the foundation of scripture.  Her messages and his writings on her experiences and messages are replete with New Testament references.

On the other hand, Protestants will have some difficulty relating to the very traditional expressions of devotion in the traditional medieval format or rosary, devotion to Mary and the saints and other Catholic and Orthodox characteristics.  One excellent point O'Carroll makes in this volume is to clarify and emphasize the symbolic and metaphorical character of mystical terminology.

The metaphors used by Vassula and other mystics to express the meaning of the Kingdom of God are quite similar to the metaphors used by Jesus in his teachings, using organic daily metaphors, like the vine and the fruit, the wine and the bred, the water of life, as expressions to create an intuitive concept of the spiritual relationships envisioned in Gospel.  He exposes the reductionist, literalistic linguistic analysis of our modernist worldview, so vividly expressed in the Fundamentalist approaches to the supernatural.

The Mystery of God
Carroll points out that the point of mysticism, and of Vassula's messages in particular, the broader image is to give us a bit of insight into the mystery of God and the divine dimension that our minds cannot grasp due to the limitations of our human experience.  This is a limitation very difficult for a rationalist to grasp.

Many seem not to realize that this is the problem with as the reactionary fundamentalism so common today.  What is commonly called "Fundamentalism" is just the more expression of the Modernism they decry.  Everything needs to be analyzed, rationalized, objectified and mastered mentally in our theories of God and the universe.  Even though the Modernist worldview and has fallen out of popular fashion, they cling to it.  

Mysticism and Postmodernism
This is the main reason "Postmodern" thinking is such a threat to conservative and Fundamentalist figures.  Their rationalist, literate, scientific — and ironically secular — worldview is threatened by the postmodern focus on relationships over rationalist systems and abstract concepts.  God is seen in personal, living terms, not in cognitive rational terms of abstract propositions.

Truth is seen in terms of relationships, much like the way Jesus portrays the "Kingdom of God."  Jesus declares "I am truth" (not a standardized list of abstract statements).  For the Postmodernist, the Group is more important than the Individual.  Relationships and Community are more important values than rationalist knowledge and infacts, much like the more traditonial cultures.

These characteristics are compatible with the emphases of Mysticism.  again there is a fascinating irony here.  Mysticism, and even Postmodernism, in this regard, actually have very much in common with the Christian Revivalist emphasis on personal salvation.  Revivalism stresses oneness with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Most Christian Mysticism stresses this same oneness with God, through the same approach of repentance and personal renunciation, seeking to be more and more unified in Spirit with God.  

Vassula, perhaps more so than some more well-known mystics, emphasizes this aspect of personal faith in repentance, and especially the work of the Holy Spirit.

Rational Barriers to Knowing God
All the rational attempts to master the mind of God, whether Liberal or Fundamentalist, can keep us from hearing the call to the higher values which go beyond knowledge and facts.  This seems to be the prime contribution to the mystics make.  Vassula follows this great trend calling us to give in to the overwhelming and amazing Love of God to become one with him.  But she does not seek first the simple personal experience of the mystical union, the ecstasy of worship in being accepted by the One True God.

Holy Spirit
Vassula worked over her productive life to bring about practical unity, to help Christians worldwide refocus their attention on the basis of the practical gospel calling all to become one in Christ, through repentance.  Repentance is a hallmark of her scripture-based message, responding to God's grace in His inner call to us, through the outer word of her messages form the Holy Spirit to the people of faith today.

There is a great emphasis on the reality and work of Holy Spirit in her ministry and throughout the portrayal in O'Carroll's book.  This was a short-run book, which may not be available any more in current bookshops.  I found it in a used book store.  If you find it, take the time to reorient your thought to its unusual style and topic, and hear the great call of the High Gospel of God.

This is a call for revival and faith, though some will not recognize the terms they are familiar with for these emphases.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review] Julian of Norwich, Medieval English Mystic
[Review] Mysticism, the Wound of Knowledge
[Review] Postmodern Challenges to a Rising Evangelicalism
[review] Postmodernism — The Church's Challenge and Opportunity
[Review] Practicing the Presence of God
[Review] Recurring Classic of Western Christian Mysticism
[Review] South African Spirituality

For More of Vassula:
[TXT] Vassula and the Notification

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First written 16-17 March 2007
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 19 March 2007
Last edited 23 December 2008

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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