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Has anyone ever experienced a "mysterium tremendum et fascinans" - mystery causing both trembling and yet fascination? I'm thinking about the saints, too, and specific moments from their own lives.

A good example might be the vision which urged Aquinas to compare all the volumes he had written on theology to be of less value than straw.

Here's an example of what I mean, from my own life:

One of my fondest memories of friendship and of God is a day-trip which I took with two Franciscan brothers to a rural coastal area on the Feast of St. Louis IX, 2012.

During my visit, we went away from their quiet novice-house and walked down the road to a small path that went into the grassy yellow hinterland. We ate wild berries along the way, and before I knew it we had reached the massive Atlantic Coast.

The sky was like a gigantic clean sapphire - the sea was of a deep, majestic royal blue colour. The distant clouds, though pure white, seemed like a mix of diamond, lapis lazuli, and argent. The three of us stared into what could have been eternity itself. There were a few boats on the water, but the vast and calm world of the sea dominated everything in the scene with its splendour.

I was sure, for a split second, that the humongous form of the clouds, towering above the waves, were like the "everlasting hills" or "eternal mountains" of Psalm 75. It was as if the New Jerusalem was flashing onto Earth for a brief moment.

This is what I mean by "mysterium tremendum et fascinans", which makes us aware of God's presence. Any similar stories?  Smile

I've experienced this a number times, thanks be to God, sometimes -- usually -- out the blue, not in response to external stimuli. But in that latter category, God using the sea is the most common means for me to have this experience (even just remembering or thinking about the sea is something God uses to give me a sense of His Mystery, power, and Beauty).

I so wish I could visit the sea some time soon -- just be there with it for as long as I can be, in a place where the waves come rhythmically rushing in, just to be with it and feel God, and and think and write and whatever... Sigh.



I too had an experience like that.  My family and I were driving back from California to Nebraska.  As we were drinving through Utah, I saw how beautiful and grand the mountains were.  It reminded me of God's Majesty.  It is hard to explain, but I was enthralled seeing the red and orange hues of the massive walls of strength around me.  Amazing!!
Being in the Michigan woods of my youth always brought me that sort of mysterious moment of encounter with God; that and being alone outside right before the break of a thunderstorm, or praying alone sometimes in an empty chapel when He empties my mind of everything and gives me a few moments of total stillness and rest. That sense of God has always been present for me in some way, even in the utter blackness and godless void of Theravada Buddhism there was that still small voice calling out to me to rescue me from the many waters of it's pelagian fable of self induced salvation from suffering in a completely chaotic meaningless selfless soulless universe (which is what ultimately Buddhism teaches).
I experienced it once at the Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage. After the Pilgrimage, exhausted during the Solemn High Mass at Chartres we were unable to be inside the Cathedral and were outside in the baking sun. Fortunately we were in some shade able to sit on a block wall in the courtyard. 3/4 of the several thousand people were in the direct sun. We were able to follow along with the Mass by means of large tv screens.during the Consecration we could here the top alter bells through the speaker systems. Then the massive bells started to peel in the bell towers of Chartres. They gained momentum at started to get louder and went on for several minutes like this. I could physically feel the Offering being carried by the Angels to God in Heaven. And all the personal offerings as well. The exhaustion had a lot to do with it.
Alleluia, Christus resurrexit vere, sicut dixit.

Thank you all for these contributions. Great indeed is the mystery of God...

Of course, many of us will have experienced this tremendous mystery in Church itself.

During the course of Great & Holy Friday 2011, when the local cathedral still had a semi-orthodox and fully-zealous rector, the liturgy was kept under tight control. No nonsense or abuses crept in, and so there was an air of mystical beauty even before anything happened. When the choir began singing the Popule meus and eventually got to the Stabat mater, I wept for the first and only time in public. It seemed as if the mystery of the Cross was brought fully present before my eyes. The air was heavy and thick with somber majesty. I truly prayed. The Easter Vigil was more prosaic, but when I was baptized I had the most intense experience of the Holy Trinity's loving presence. That was truly "tremendum et fascinans".