The Next Time You Read Paul…

St. PaulEvelyn Underhill in her book, The Mystics of the Church, makes the following , startling observation about the apostle Paul. She writes, “This means that the earliest documentary witness to Jesus Christ which we possess is the witness of mysticism; and it tells us, not about His earthly life, but about the intense and transfiguring experience of His continued presence, enjoyed by one who had never known him in the flesh.” (Underhill, 29)

Have you considered this fact? The epistles of Paul are the earliest written Christian literature we have. Within the pages of those letters the dominant impression we get of Jesus is not as a great teacher, not as a great moral example, not as a person who needs to be reinforced and propped up with historical evidence, but as a living, transfiguring, real, powerful–indeed all-powerful–presence within the church. And the guy who wrote these letters is someone who wasn’t one of Jesus’ inner circle, or even among his followers when he was walking the earth. No, Paul, like us, encountered Jesus after his death and resurrection. Paul, then, is just like us. And in this way, St. Paul gives us the pattern for our own mystic life with Christ–not mystic in the sense of airy-fairy emotionalism and wish-fulfillment, but mystic in the profound and life-altering sense of real-encounter-with-the-God-of-the-universe-in-the-living-person-of-Jesus-Christ. Have you read Paul that way? Are you seeking to become a true mystic?

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