Spirituality Talk: The Mystic Heart of Christianity with Reverend Hans Christiansen

On Saturday 17th of October 2009, our very own Reverend Hans Christiansen, gave a talk on “The Mystic Heart of Christianity” at the Shiva School of Meditation & Yoga. This talk was part of a series of talks conducted by Shiva Yoga in preparation of the Parliament of World Religions (3-9 December 2009 in Melbourne). It was hosted by the spiritual director of Shiva Yoga Swami Shankarananda.

Huddled together in a marquee, over 150 participants were entranced with Hindu chants, the beauty of the Christian Mystic Faith, and the empowering words from Swami Shankarananda (Swamiji). 

Swamiji opened the program saying, ‘Each path of every religion has something worthy, something to give and something to offer. The true path of religion is to create oneness… Once you get the notion that we can know God directly, we start to do the work that’s necessary’.  He then went on to introduce the speaker, Reverend Hans Christiansen, who is the Assistant Priest of the Anglican Parish of Sorrento and Rye and an Oblate in the Camaldolese Benedictine Order.

The Reverend Hans began his talk by defining a Christian Mystic as ‘Someone who desires union with God and has experienced some form of union with God. A Christian mystic is a person who has Jesus at the core… The Christian practitioner experiences full union with God just like Jesus’. The first Christian mystic was Saint Paul.

The mantra in Christianity is ‘Lord Jesus have mercy on me’. Hans said, ‘Once the mind is quiet and a person reaches stillness beyond the mind, then it is darkness for many people. Christianity has a profound theology about darkness or the way of the cross. It is about Gods presence in what seems to be dark, void or empty’.

Hans spoke about paths to God or divine union in Christian Mysticism. He described two main types:

- Kataphatic: path of devotion, adoration or bhakti. It includes rituals, like Eucharist, chanting, spoken prayer, song or dance. Hans referred to the kataphatic statement: ‘I no longer live but Christ lives in me’

- Apophatic: the way of images and the way of darkness. It includes meditation. Hans described it as the ‘way beyond, the way we can’t say what God is’. In this approach the aim is to experience God in the darkness. He referred to John of the Cross, who was a monk in the 16th Century in Spain. John wrote poems about ‘the dark night of the soul’. He said, ‘All images and attachments will fall away’, ‘Even the notion and idea of God must be left behind’

Hans said these paths are ‘not mutually exclusive. They complement each other’.

Referring to a question on the Christian Ritual, Eucharist, Hans described it as ‘losing the little ego in the new Self, the resurrected Self. It is about coming one with Christ in his dying and rising. Therefore it is a symbol of our own dying and rising. The dying of the little self and rising to the new larger Self. We drink from the same cup and break the same bread. It is a symbol of the one God, one spirit that flows through us all’.

To end his talk, Hans directed us to inwardly repeat the mantra in one of the chakras. As we began to meditate he sang a Christian Hymn that is traditionally sung in the evening before going to bed. It was a fantastic night shared by all.

Revererend Hans Christiansen