Have you felt that your Christmas celebrations are lacking in real meaning in recent years? Have you wondered what Christmas is really about or why it matters? And have you wished for a more meaningful way to celebrate this coming Christmas? One option that might bring you a significant and rewarding experience this holiday season is to approach Christmas from the mystical perspective.
Every world religion has its own mystics. They share a common preference for direct and real experiences of the divine, choosing real knowing over dogma or theological beliefs. In whatever tradition, mystics approach the scriptures and teachings of that tradition by seeking out an inner meaning, one that gives an experience within their own beings. Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross are all well-known Christian mystics, and they have been an inspiration for many who seek a real experience of the divine.
If you want to make this season more meaningful, try taking the following steps to connect to a mystical experience of Christmas:
Start four Sundays before Christmas, which is the beginning of the pre-Christmas season called Advent. Count out four Sundays before the 25th and have a wreath ready with four candles.
On the first Sunday evening, sit with your family or your spiritual friends and light the first candle.
Before starting your meal, read an important part of the pre-Christmas story. Recommended texts for the story of Christmas, other than the Bible, include Maria Valtorta’s "Poem of the Man-God, Volume 1," and Anne Catherine Emmerich’s "The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary." Both women were Christian mystics and have beautiful writings about the Christmas story. I recommend readings in the following order: for the first Sunday, Mother Mary and Joseph’s betrothal; on the second, Mary’s annunciation; on the third, Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth; and on the fourth, the journey to Bethlehem and the events that preceded the actual birth of Jesus.
As you light one candle for each of the four Sundays of Advent, the physical increase of light symbolizes the inner approach of the Great Light. Everyone can meditate on its meaning and feel the increase of light inside them.
Then, on Christmas Eve, you can choose to make that evening all about the birth of the Light instead of the materialism of gift giving, which you can postpone until the next day. You can attend a Christmas service, meditate quietly on your own, or join with others to pray for peace on earth.
Finally, read the story of the birth of Jesus out loud and meditate on its beauty, what it represents and what it means for you.
During these weeks of Advent, tune into the feelings you get in meditation versus the feelings all around you in the outer world. You will likely feel how the light is increasing in your interior world, even though outwardly the days are becoming shorter and the nights are becoming longer. As you move deeper into your inner self, you will feel the increase of joy and spiritual presence as this light grows within. These are real experiences that you can know for yourself, both in the readings and during meditations.
All these steps provide the opportunity to examine the symbolism of these characters inside of us. Where is Mother Mary in us? Where does Jesus reside in us? Which parts of us are like Joseph, the shepherds, the angels or God? What does the stable, the star and the animals represent?
Every element of the Christmas stories relates directly to our inner being and serves as an inner guide on the journey towards God, bringing us into a deeper awareness of the inner truths of Christmas and the joyful mystery of the coming of the Light. In this way, you can experience the real meaning of Christmas: We can hope, we can fill with Light, because God loves us beyond all measure.
Fifteen Centers of Light across the nation will celebrate this meaningful Christmas journey together. The Center of Light, Minneapolis, located at 2540 Pleasant Ave., is a warm and welcoming spiritual community. The center offers free "Intro to Meditation and Christian Mysticism" classes, as well as daily meditation/communion and Sunday worship services. People from all spiritual backgrounds are welcome to join in awakening to deeper devotion and love this Christmas season. The public is invited for Christmas Eve Service at 11:30 p.m. For more information, call 612.986.5575 or 612.886.3822, email [email protected] or visit http://minneapolis.centersoflight.org.