“So now, please remain completely hidden in the crucified Jesus, having no other desire than to be completely transformed by love and to do His good will. In due time you will see a great scene unfold, and a great star will rise, heralding a very clear day, a day with a bright sun that will cast no shadows, and with its vital warmth will cause the snowy mountains to disappear. I am writing you this riddle; you will understand it in your own time.’ (The Mysticism of the Passion of St. Paul of the Cross, Ignatius Press, p. 285)
And Moses grazed the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock into the depths of the desert, and came to Harib, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the middle of the bush. And he looked, and behold, a bush is burning with fire, but a bush was is not consumed. Then Moses said: I will go and look at this great sight, why the bush does not burn.
Times of anonymity and secrecy are necessary in the process of transforming our inner man into the fullness of Christ. Without this time “hidden in the crucified Jesus” fullness cannot come. The hidden years are given as an example in the life of the Lord himself for thirty years. The Word says in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” This increase occurred in the hidden years. There are countless biblical examples of men and women of God being formed in a hidden place, including Joseph in prison, Paul in Damascus, Moses in the desert, David in the caves, and many others.
The hidden years are “crusading” in the sense that this anonymity kills selfish ambitions and self-directed plans that are mostly invisible to us. The season of the hidden wilderness is meant to cast out all that hinders Love and to promote total and complete dependence on God alone. To be “hidden in the crucified Jesus” is a phrase that speaks of this hidden place.
This place is a place of death and birth in that order.
What St. Paul of the Cross refers to in the term “mystical death” is that happy place where the soul is completely cleansed of itself and freed from the agenda of self-interest. Death to self at its highest level takes place in a hidden place – usually for years – where the soul renounces everything, even the calling and appointment of God, and submits to the works of God in the inner part, where the soul is transformed into Christ from within.
In this process the soul comes to a place where it renounces everything else and even wants nothing but God Himself. The thought of doing ministry or moving forward in any capacity becomes a nauseating thought unless the Lord Himself leads the way. (Moses: “If Your presence does not go with us don’t take us out of here.’[i]) The soul actually comes to believe that this season is for life and will never end, and the soul is actually at peace with that place. In fact, the soul will love the place where it is alone with one, and no longer cares about the external life.
The full maturity of the soul at this place occurs without the knowledge of the soul, and this time, known only to God, is a necessary place in the journey where the shift takes place. This shift can be called a mystical birth. The process of transformation is complete and the birth takes place in the soul where Christ can live out His life in the world and through the soul. This moment is the moment when the “harbinger,” or sign, is revealed in the soul. When Jesus was born, the sign was a star; for Moses, the burning bush was a harbinger. The burning bush was a sign that indicated the change of season and had supernatural power to bring about the changes that God desired. For Moses – and for most people – the shift is downhill. Moses found his life in a hidden place, and he did not want to move toward his calling, but the Spirit of God through the burning bush makes him obey and move forward. The soul does not believe in itself because it has a history of failure, but God compels the soul and even pressures the soul to come out of hiding and into the public arena.
For Jesus, this harbinger moment came at the wedding at Cana, when God used His mother to cause Him to enter the public arena and perform the miracle of turning water into wine. Even Jesus doesn’t seem to want to do that. The compelling factor for Jesus, arranged by His Father, is that He is watching the wedding and no doubt thinking of His Bride and the wedding supper that will take place in His own life. This foresight and the longing in His own heart for His Bride lead Him to perform a miracle and enter the public arena and move toward His destination on the Cross.
Mystical death before the mystical birth of Christ in the soul with a sign, a harbinger, a designation of a place – this is for every believer. This transformation is our greatest joy and privilege. This mystical death and subsequent birth are impossible apart from God, and this transformation is necessary for the fruitfulness of our life in Christ. St. Paul’s word from the Cross to remain “hidden in Jesus crucified” is the way to the birth of resurrected life in Christ, which is open to us if we truly “abide in Him.”
[i] Exodus 33:15
This post was originally published on Uppergarden.org and reprinted here with permission.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.