Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Mystical Encounters with the Absolute
circumstances, suffering the want of any and all external and internal support, that St. John found the superlative invitation of divine love," el divino extremo, the "divine extreme." God alone! Solo Dios basta!
Aquésta me guïaba
más cierta que la luz del mediodía,
adonde me esperaba
quien yo bien me sabía,
en parte donde nadie parecía
It lit and let me through
More certain that the light of noonday clear
To where One waited near
Whose presence well I knew,
There where no other presence might appear.
Here, then, is the proof of St. John's experience in the words of Aidan Nichols: "Let us take the most repellent human situations and see what comes of them if we approach them as the hidden presence and invitation of the love of God." The "pure" experiences such as these suggest that God is real.
St. John of the Cross did just this, and "the triumphant survival of his humanity through a personal holocaust," as Aidan Nichols describes it, bore fruit in his poetry and prose, and especially in that poem, "The Dark Night." "The existence of that poem, written in that place," is itself theistic evidence," suggests Nichols.
More contemporaneously, St. Maximilian Kolbe did a similar thing, and "the triumphant survival of his humanity through a personal (and even more literal) holocaust" bore fruit when he never doubted God amid the horrors of Auschwitz, and willingly exchanged his life for one of his fellow prisoners--a father with a wife and children--in an act of great love. The self-giving of St. Maximilian Kolbe, in that horrible and repellent place, is also theistic evidence.
Even more modernly, François-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, Archbishop of Saigon (later Cardinal), who was detained for thirteen years amid the horrors of a Vietnamese re-education camp, nine of which were in solitary confinement, nevertheless remained unshakenly convinced in God.
As Pope Benedict XVI, who mentioned him in the encyclical Spe Salvi, stated: "During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness of hope--to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude." Yes, the dedication of Nguyen Van Thuan and his witness to God is also theistic evidence.
In the likes of these "pure" experiences, when God is experienced in the most unlikely and repellent places and without semblance of internal psychological or emotional support--and the Catholic Church has a plethora of them to which it can point since its altars are full of saints and they multiply each and every day--that we find theistic evidence.
All of these "pure" experiences have their source at the Cross, where a Jew who claimed to be God, was scourged, nailed to a cross, and abandoned--so it seemed--by both God and man. And yet, here at Calvary, in the most implausible of circumstances, when God seemed to all most distant--Eloi, eloi, lama sabacthtani, My God, my God why have you abandoned me--that the Lord's glory and the Lord's love revealed itself in the most invisibly true and pure and most intense way, like the hottest of flames.
For the penitent thief, Jesus Christ on the Cross was theistic evidence. Jesus! God! If we could have the penitent thief's spiritual eyes!
The existence of the Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross, lifted in the place of Golgotha, the place of the skull, and repeated bloodlessly on Catholic altars, is itself theistic evidence. Its veracity is mercifully confirmed in the Resurrection, as perhaps the Cross would have been too much naked reality for man to believe true without it being clothed and confirmed by the historical miracle of Christ's Resurrection.
This sort of proof converts. St. Teresa de Jesús (also known as St. Teresa of Ávila) was another mystic soul with these "pure" experiences, and she, like her Carmelite reforming cohort, St. John of the Cross, wrote about her mystical ascent to God and her encounter with Him.
The moment that the Jewess intellectual Edith Stein read about the mystical experiences of St. Teresa in the latter's Autobiography (which she happened to read quite by "accident") she knew that God as described by St. Teresa existed.
As Aidan Nichols summarized Edith Stein's thought process in his A Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century, Edith Stein concluded: "If Teresa is real, then God is real."
We can say the same for all "pure" souls: "If St. John of the Cross is real, then God is real." "If St. Maximilian Kolbe is real, then God is real." "If the Servant of God Nguyen Van Thuan is real, then God is real." Beginning with St. Dismas, the penitent thief, and on and on . . . .
All these "pure" souls recognized the Truth made Flesh, loved Him, and made Him the driving force of their lives. It is this which gives them their superlative attractiveness, resulted in oustanding integrity, and which makes them proofs of the existence of the God to whom they gave themselves with such abandon in the circumstances of seeming abandonment: If Jesus is real, then God is real.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: existence of God, proofs of God, mysticism, St. John of the Cross, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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