In the Beginning...
oops. wrong book. sorry. ;)
Let's see....ah, yes, here we are:
The book starts with the word 'mystery'. In the West, it's a puzzle, something to be solved. Something that we (or if not us) someone can figure out the answer to, making it not a mystery anymore. In the East, he says, it 'lies at the heart of the Eastern Orthodox experience of God.' A mystery, to him, is 'an area where the human mind cannot go, where the heart alone makes sense - not by knowing, but by being.' The actions of God that have 'specific, decisive, and eternal significance' on the lives of those who take part in them are called 'mysteries' in the East. So, what I (and the Catholic Church) would call a Sacrament is termed 'Holy Mystery' in the Orthodox Church.
The Mysteries are meant to lead us deeper and deeper into the Mystery which is the presence of God Himself. They aren't experienced as mental exercises or are the participants emotions of any particular significance. As the author says, 'Participating in the Mysteries is an encounter with God in a very intimate and direct way. As nearly as I can put it into words, such an encounter brings thinking and feeling to a halt, albeit briefly.' He compares it to looking at something of extreme beauty or being in a life or death situation. Something deeper and more profound that thought is engaged. The 'fathomless state of awareness that exists, yet lies hidden and dormant, in all human beings.' The heart (he also uses the word nous interchangeably).
One of the consequences of the Fall, he states, is a fragmentation, disintegration and estrangement of the human. People and the world they live in were 'torn apart by their behavior, and vast gaps came to exist between God and man, between heaven and earth, between one person and another, between the genders, and finally even within the human personality itself....Fragmentation within the human personality is...the division between the mind and the nous(heart).'
*Without* quoting the entire first chapter, which I feel I am in serious danger of trying to do, Webber establishes that the mind is ascendant in human beings, and this a problem because the mind is the most effected by the Fall. The mind runs constantly, even when we're not deliberately using it. Even when we're asleep. A person lives with a running commentary because the mind insists on asserting itself and it's existence. The mind is an emotive addict - it creates emotions so they can be manipulated - it enjoys this. The mind cannot live in the *now*, because the now doesn't have any context to it, yet. So the mind lives in the past (memory) and the future (fantasy). It takes these and judges the now. Out mind labels everyone and everything that we see. He actually suggests an exercise - try sitting somewhere and people watching (don't make the people uncomfortable...) and *not* labeling them, at all. Even the most innocuous of labels - just watch. Try and silence your mind.
He says it's harder than you'd think - inevitably some thought intrudes, even if the thought is 'look how good I am at sitting quietly and not thinking!'.
The *heart*, on the other hand, exists in a perpetual and eternal state of now, of stillness. It doesn't judge, it simply exists - which is why the mind over rides it all the time.
The goal, then, is to get down into the stillness of the heart, past all the chatter of the mind. It's only in that stillness that we can get close to God and begin healing the damage that was wrought. And, of course, the Mysteries (or Sacraments) are the means to learn to get to this point.