The Christian Contemplative Journey
I pray that you are all experiencing a deeper experience of Love as we move forward into the second week of Lent. Love, as mentioned last week comes in the form of a deeper awareness of God’s presence and the grace of restoration that is most profoundly known in Christ Jesus. Lent can be a great time to experience God’s restorative grace and justice within the context of our relationship with God, self, others and all creation. Knowing and extending forgiveness as those whom God has forgiven combined with belief that opens our eyes to the kingdom of God all around, in, and through us is a wonderful expansive way to be. It cannot be done it can only be. Be still, be open, be non-judgmental, be in the moment; for it is by just being that we come to know God intimately. Paradoxically this yada, intimate knowing, comes by way of unknowing. For we must surrendering to God, allow, even invite God to draw us into periods of forgetting and unknowing the things we are sure of and think we fully understand about God. When this occurs, by the grace of God, we allow for a more expansive, and dare I say true, way of being that is closer to how God desires us to be. For it is out of this naked being before God, without supposition or agenda that life flows. A true fully alive life that glorifies God flows out of intentional forgetting and unknowing, as we sit and simply be fully open to God. In this way the image of Love in which we are created becomes awakened to, thus aware of, and responsive to God who is Love, who is the Creator of the image, in amazing ways that cannot be learned or done, they can only be known and received by this way of being. This is what it means to be contemplative. This is the way of belief in Christ Jesus, which opens the eyes of the blind and sets the captives free. It reveals our sinful nature, (which may be why so many shy away from the contemplative way of being), but also reveals the astonishing Love of God, God who is Love, who forgives and restores, and brings us to the fully alive, God breathed life God desires for us all. Lent is a time to be contemplative. Contemplation, the with God fully alive life, is what God is calling us to. The big issue however is all that might distract us from this way of being. We want it, but we tend to be self-destructive, always finding ways to not do that which we want to do. This is due to our susceptibility, especially in today’s fast pace world of sound bites and a pervasive inattention to one another, to be distracted. Undistracted inner stillness is essential to move toward the contemplative (with God) way of being, but we have become pathological stimulus, or information junkies, who find even one minute of silence unbearable. The irony is, this way of being is not something we do (or even can do) as much as it is a way of fully alive being that we receive by the grace of God. It is a gift, it costs us nothing, while paradoxically costing us all that is not conducive to the contemplative way.
As promised last week we will, in the coming weeks spend some time pondering contemplative practices from the perspective of both repentance and belief that will help us to be more aware of God’s presence, the presence of Love, which removes the power of sin from our lives. In so doing we will approach, this week and next, two important questions. This week we ask, “What is the Contemplative Journey?” Then next week we consider, Distracting Thoughts and Inclinations, Within the Context of Centering Prayer. The first will better orient us to the path and the second will help us to deal effectively with that which can greatly interfere with the contemplative, fully alive, with God way of life.
As we begin, let us center ourselves in Christ Jesus. Allow yourself to rest in the present moment to know God’s presence with you. It is good to be still as we pray for the Lord to speak to our hearts.
The Christian Contemplative Journey
The Christian contemplative is a journey, one in which we discover sanctifying and transfiguring Love in an ever more fervent, profound, and known manner. The Christian contemplative journey occurs within an atmosphere that includes the awareness of Love, purification by Love, illumination by Love, union in Love and a kenotic way of being by which we become vessels who receive and then let Love go into the world around us. This is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, who brings new life, new creation, to our once dead human spirits, and purification of sin by, in and through Jesus Christ. This born again and purifying movement opens our eyes to the Reality of the image of God in which we are created and gives us eyes to see, know, and respond to Emmanuel, God with us. In this born again, purified movement, which occurs solely by the grace of God, our eternal souls are healed and expanded. In this divine process our minds are renewed, and our perishable bodies become the seed for the imperishable body “in Christ Jesus.” This born-again spirit, purified existence, healed and expanding soul, renewed mind and imperishable body is the image of God, in all its glory, that we can know in union with God the Creator here, now, and for all eternity. This is the Christian contemplative (with God) journey. This is a sanctifying journey. However, it must not be forgotten that it is in fact a journey. Like the prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) it is a journey of burgeoning awareness that ends where it began, albeit with a whole new depth of knowing. Knowing God, knowing self, and knowing self in connection with others and all creation, now perceived as one, in Christ Jesus. The culmination of the Christian contemplative journey is the answer to our Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer when he prayed…
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. NRS John 17:22-23
Next week, and for the remainder of Lent we will consider various impediments to the journey, both self-imposed and from other sources. Our goal is to develop holy habits that will make us more receptive to God’s overtures of grace. In a very real way, we must become less reactive and more receptive if we are to better respond in accordance with God’s will. Next week, Thoughts, Inclinations and Centering Prayer.
May God Bless You All, Gene Yotka
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