Jubilation Through the Seventeenth Century

Jubilation, the wordless prayer of ordinary worshipers in the “age of faith,” occupied an even greater place in the prayer lives of mystics during that period and the centuries that followed. The writers speak of jubilation and spiritual inebriation in referring to the entire spectrum of spontaneous bodily and vocal prayer which might include glossolalia, inspired songs, dancing, and intense bodily movement. Until the seventeenth century, this kind of prayer was mentioned by the majority of religious writers and was experienced by most of the well-known mystics.

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Jubilation in the “Age of Faith”

The medieval world at its high point was far from a time of dry metaphysics, religious rigidity and conformity, or darkness and superstition. In actuality, it was a time of creative intellectual ferment, and of tender and warm faith. The age that produced the great cathedrals and inspired scholastic theology was also a time of spontaneous worship that produced many charismatic movements. Ordinary Christians expressed their wonder in much the same way that modern charismatics express theirs: by praying aloud without words and by singing inspired songs. This tradition continued for several hundred years after the end of the Middle Ages.

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Jubilation in the Patristic Era

The time from the conversion of Constantine until the dawning of the second millennium was the formative period of the church, the era of the church fathers. It was a time of lively faith but also a time of controversy. During this period the expressive worship tradition of the church was shaped and formed and given the roots it needed to grow in richness in the following centuries. An important aspect of this worship tradition was a form of wordless prayer known as jubilation, which the church fathers understood as a natural human response to the mystery of God.

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