Wednesday, May 3, 2017


Maroon Bells, Colorado, Internet Domain

Hiking into Maroon Bells Colorado on a cool summer morning and emerging from the aspen trees into view of a clear mountain lake reflecting the twin Maroon Bells peaks was one of those memorable transcendent experiences. The entire glacial valley is shaped like a grand cathedral with the wind playing the quaking aspen leaves in chorus with the bird songs echoing from the pines. I turned to my wife and whispered, “If God seeks sanctuary anywhere in the universe, it has to be in this place.” Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that nature is a manifestation of and a portal to God. If you look deeply into a blooming flower, you see the face of God.

And then there was the experience a few years ago in our own church sanctuary that even over-shadowed walking into Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on a Sunday morning as the choir raised a hymn in praise. Our choir was breaking out into the classic Easter hymn of Christ the Lord is Risen Today on a very overcast morning. Then as the choir and congregation unified into a spirit-charged crescendo, sunbeams burst through the clear glass vertical windows in concert with the raw human emotions being expressed at that moment. Time stood still for everyone in attendance and we were transformed into a greater reality or mode of being, comprehending a deep and powerful sense of meaning.

Emily Smith in The Power of Meaning notes that “This is the power of transcendence. The word transcend means to go beyond or to climb. A transcendent, or mystical, experience is one in which we feel that we have risen above the everyday world to experience a higher reality…transcendence is sometimes described through the metaphor of flight…Many people have had transcendent experiences and they consider them among the most meaningful and important events in their lives.”

These transcendent moments inspire a sense of awe within our whole being. They also leave us with a calm spiritual feeling of mystically being one with a greater divine consciousness as the ego is absorbed and connected into it. As I traveled in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land recently, I fully expected to have multiple experiences of elevated awe. But the reality is that most locations where significant events took place are only approximations and generally have stone churches built over them. Of course, it’s important to understand that you are acknowledging the event and not the precise GPS location. However, there was one highlight of simple calm and awe as we embarked onto the Sea of Galilee. Our captain shut down the engines and allowed our replica boat to drift in the middle of the lake as scattered morning rain drops created circular rivulets across the mirrored surface. Just knowing that the Son of God and his fishermen disciples had undoubtedly been part of many similar experiences transcended the moment into one of peaceful awe.

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