He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Protestant Mysticism: "Jesus is my Girlfriend" Music

Tonight I was listening to a Christian radio station on the way back from my quite traditional Catholic liturgy.  I had prayed my daily Rosary on the way to Mass, and I wanted to continue my religious approach to travel on the way back in a different way.

About halfway back home, I was struck by one song that reminded me of the trope of Christian pop songs in which the name "Jesus" could easily be replace by the name of the girlfriend or desired girlfriend of the singer without changing the tone of the song in the slightest.

I'm sure that I'm not the only former Protestant-turned-Catholic who has laughed about that trope, but it was my heart that was convicted as I listened to the singer croon the lyrics...these lyrics that could have easily been a young man's prayer that he be allowed to have as a girlfriend the lovely young woman that had caught his eye recently.

I understood in that moment that in these quite generic pop songs that sound a lot like Jesus is similar to a girlfriend for which a man has the sappiest of feelings of being in puppy love, there is a genuine longing for the kind of profound of intimate union with the divine that mystics speak of so eloquently.

These post-Reformation brothers and sisters of mine know intuitively that their hearts will be restless until they rest in the Lord.  With the ancient Psalmist, they feel keenly that their soul desires communion with the God of Abraham, and their bodies long for the Lord of the resurrection which returns them to the innocence and glory which belonged to Adam and Eve in the primordial Garden of Eden.

Like the early Christian mystics of the Apostolic Age, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the medieval Saints who spoke of a nuptial union with Christ, they are trying to find an anthropological language powerful enough to express their longing for that which transcends the anthropological and fulfills its potential for glory.

These beloved children of God are unfortunate to live in a place and time of such impoverished anthropology, a place and time in which the highest common language of love has been reduced to a mere vaguely sentimental romanticism.

As Catholics, we should not look down on our post-Reformation brothers and sisters for using this language, which is the best that the popular culture of our time and place can offer when speaking of love.  Instead, we should recognize that they are searching for a language of love that can express the inexpressible groanings of the spirit...and help them find it.

This is a language we Catholic mystics and ascetics, rooted in the early Church, conversant with the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and familiar with the medieval Saints, have to give.  We ought to give it generously.

Note:  Above is a picture of Martin Luther's edited Bible translated into German.