The Experience of the Holy

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 — Week of 3 Easter

St. Mark the Evangelist

Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER the readings for Wednesday of 3 Easter, p. 961)

Psalms 38 (morning) // 119:25-48 (evening)

Exodus 19:16-25

Colossians 1:15-23

Matthew 3:13-17

OR the readings for St. Mark (p. 997)

Morning Prayer: Psalm 145; Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11; Acts 12:25 – 13:3

Evening Prayer: Psalms 67, 96; Isaiah 62:6012; 2 Timothy 4:1-11

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

I chose the readings for Wednesday of 3 Easter

The Experience of the Holy

In Exodus we read of when God descended upon the top of Mount Sinai in fire, smoke and thunder to speak to Moses and to appear to the people. Their sense of awe is palpable. To get too close would be to die. In Colossians we read of the growing sense of deepening reality that the early Church experiences as they reflect on the wonder of God mediated through Jesus Christ. What they have experienced in his incarnation is an expression of God’s creative presence at all times. And today’s Gospel recalls the baptism of Jesus when the heavens open and God declares him beloved.

From time to time I think each of us experiences the holy. I think every human being has sensed the presence of the More, the Awesome, the Wonderful. Such experiences are so different from our ordinary consciousness; I’m not sure we are always able to appreciate and treasure those holy moments. It’s too easy to let them fade or to rationalize them as something merely odd because we don’t have reality-categories to fit them into. Without categories, we can dismiss the penultimate as merely unreal.

There are times when contemplative prayer goes especially deep. In those experiences, “I” disappear. Any sense of my self as separate from the all evaporates. There is no experience of time. There is only everything. The only sense of having experienced anything comes as “I” emerge out of the state of “no-I.” What is left is a deep sense of peace and connection with all that is. A calm gladness that feels completely rested, at ease, present, content with what is. It is like the echo of a fine vibration that continues in the background. There is an exhilarated “yes” underneath whatever may have happened.

If that is what it is to experience God, then it is exquisite. If that is what it is like not to exist, then it is fine with me. The experience is so self-authenticating, that it feels much more real than ordinary life or ordinary consciousness. It seems like a peek at the reality that is below appearances. I can believe or hope, that in the deepest reality, in God, all opposites resolve, everything is truly reconciled, and a joyful peace that passes all understanding heals and unites everything, even the horrors of this world.

But I don’t know with full certainty that this is really real. It might be a trick of my imagination. Or just some odd brain chemistry. It might have no exterior reality beyond my brain. It would be easy to dismiss. There is nothing outside to authenticate, except the witness of religious mystic traditions. And they could all be as crazy and deluded as I am.

It is a choice for me to accept this experience as real, as an authentic experience of the Holy. That choice changes my frameworks. It influences my interpretations. It grounds me in a faith in something more; something unifying and wonderful. Living out of that reality feels more alive than dismissing or forgetting that reality. If it is truly real, then life is more wonderful than I can imagine. If it’s not, that’s okay too. Just touching the possibility is fulfilling in and of itself.

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