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Contemplation

Life transformation in Contemplative Living

I am called to wholeness and integration into our community, our culture, and our society.  My response to this is to be in contemplative living, the activity in daily life prompted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Contemplative Living and Contemplative Prayer

I use contemplative prayer to help me with my daily life.  This prayer is the development of my relationship with Christ to the point of communing beyond words, thoughts, and feelings.  I move from the simplified activity of waiting upon God to the ever-increasing predominance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as the source of my prayer.

To refresh my memory, these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, reverence (wonder and profound adoring awed respect) and faith.  With all these gifts wrapped up into one state of being, I find myself looking at Jesus face to face, talking with God in silence as One Spirit.

Two Streams of Consciousness

In living life and just being, I find myself in two steams of consciousness.  My exterior life with everything and everybody that surrounds me, I find God in all things.  As Matthew Kelty, O.C.S.O., says in Sermons in a Monastery, “I touch eternity and eternal life in God by the trivial things I do every day, in every breath I draw, every time I have a drink of water, …”  As we are made in God’s image, I see God in my brothers and sisters.  As God has made nature, I see God in the dew drop coming off a leaf blade and, in the sun, setting at the end of the day.  In all this, I give thanks to God for letting me participate in God’s joy.  This joy stirs my heart and allows me to go the bottom of my heart.

In my interior life, where I am silent with God in the bottom of my heart, I commune with God praying with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  It is here that I acknowledge that I don’t have to be holy to love God, I just have to be myself with all my gifts and talents but also with my faults and inadequacies as God loves just the way I am.  It is here where I don’t have to be holy to see God in all things, but as Matthew Kelty says, “I only have to play as a child”, full of innocence and with an unselfish heart, devoid of pride but full of humility and reverence for my God.

I can use Lectio Divina to help me move into contemplation.  There are four stages as I pray in the style of Lectio Divina: reading (a passage from the bible), meditation (reflecting and pondering upon the words from my reading), prayer (as the reflections lead my will to accept myself being in the presence of the Lord), and contemplation (as I rest in the Lord, speechless and hopefully thoughtless)

I can also use the Jesuit style of praying as I place myself in the scene as I meditate on the scripture reading.

Praying in Capernaum

As I ponder about these thoughts, I find myself in Capernaum with Jesus and the disciples.  In Matthew 16, Jesus was in Caesarea Philippi and has told Peter that he will be His rock and the cornerstone of the church.  In Matthew 17, Jesus has taken Peter, John and James up the mountain top and has undergone the transfiguration.  Now in Capernaum in Matthew 18, Jesus finds himself with the disciples in the middle of the day.  I too find myself in prayer as I participate in their meeting and talking.  The dry air feels hot but there is a breeze going through my shirt.  My forehead is slightly moist from sweat.  I am a little tired from the walking we have been doing through the town.  One of the disciples has asked Jesus,

“Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

As Thomas Keating explains in Open Mind, Open Heart, “A childlike attitude makes sense in this situation.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just rest in God’s arms.  It is an exercise of just being rather than of doing.  You will be able to accomplish what you have to do with much greater effectiveness and joy.”

As I rest with this explanation by Jesus, I let the gifts of the Holy Spirit envelope me and I remain quiet in my heart, in awe and full reverence for God as I let the child in me look at Jesus face to face.

References

  1. Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton, Book Eight.  Ave Maria Press, 2011.
  2. Sermons in a Monastery: Chapter Talks, by Matthew Kelty, O.C.S.O., 1983.
  3. Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating, 20th Anniversary Edition 2006.

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