On the first day of our 2011 annual retreat, Michael Fallon MSC spoke with us about religious experience. He explained the word 'religion' from its Latin roots 're' and 'ligare' - to bind back. What does religion bind us back to? Our centre, our heart, our God. Religious experience, therefore is our experience of our communion with God. Teillhard de Chardin sees God as 'The Heart and Beyond of Everything'. We can tend to make God too small. 'I've been with her for fifty years and every day she is more of a mystery' said a jubilarian on his golden wedding anniversary.
God is experienced in nature, in people and events, in words spoken and written and in works of art. In 1877, Victorian poet and Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of the experience of God in his famous poem God's Grandeur. God is loving the world, not running the world. We all have freedom. All religions are responding to God. 'Better to light a candle than to curse the dark' says Confucius. Icons of Jesus reveal Him looking with love (icons have their characters with big eyes and small mouths). We get to know God through Jesus. 'No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father's side, He has made him known'. John 1:18.
Finally, Michael spoke about the mystical dimension of religious experience. 'The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of truth' (Catechism n234). He recalled a meeting he had with a friend who described the Trinity in the following way: God the Father is the Dance, the Song, the Love. God's Word (the Son) is the Dancer, the Singer, the Lover and God's Spirit is the Dancing, the Singing, the Loving. We have access to God through the Word and the Spirit. For Teresa of Avila, prayer is 'the intimate sharing between friends'.