A Few Words on Contemplative Prayer

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In his letter to Contemplative Network, our hermit-monk friend never tires of reminding us that, whether we are aware of it or not, God is pouring himself and his Love out unceasingly into our heart of hearts in the midst of our brokenness and weakness.  God has a burning desire that we wake up to our unearned loveableness, just as we are, in our helplessness, with all our unfaithfulness.  The greatest Saints knew throughout their entire lives that they were unfortunately “faithful to their unfaithfulness”, yet infinitely loveable nonetheless.  We have to know from experience that unconditional Divine Love is different from conditional human love that has to be earned.  A reward-punishment God of the Old Testament of his very nature would have to be feared and, therefore, this God cannot and does not exist for the Saints.  For them, to “fear” God means to be in “awe” of him, who loves so generously and freely that there is no need to earn his Love with our virtuousness.  That doesn't mean we don't try to be virtuous.  What it means is that God doesn't love us if or when we transform our lives, but so that we can transform our lives.

Gandhi reminds us that –  The most efficacious way to transform the world is to transform ourselves first of all.  Everything begins at home within us.  And when we try to try and transform ourselves, we realize it is impossible for us to change without our merciful indwelling God moving us interiorly.  He alone is the only source of our goodness. 

We start behaving better when we realize how immensely loveable we are to our good God, even with all our failings and helplessness.  We cannot merely tolerate our brokenness, but have to love ourselves in our brokenness like God does.  The “hurting place” and wound within us that seems to separate us from our loving God can, in reality, be used as a means to draw us closer to him by attracting his tender compassionate, merciful heart to us.  We are precious to God in our brokenness and he loves our brokenness out of existence.  Punishing wounds doesn't work.  We only bleed more and try to put on band-aids to cover up, realizing they have no possibility of healing the gash of our wounded “egoitis” with its illusion of separateness.  This false part of our ego has immense difficulty letting go of its programming and falling in love with our Whole or True Self, which includes our weakness and broken ego.  It is constantly trying to earn God's love, which is  Grace = the free gift of God, loving each of us into existence at this very moment.  Although the false part of our ego is very sincere, it remains counterfeit and a mistake.  It will be with us on our death bed, but we have to keep trying to love it out of existence with mercy and compassion.  Then, we pass on that same mercy to the rest of the human family, who don't have a clue of how loveable they are to God in their brokenness. 

Unearned Love seems too good to be true for the false part of our ego, yet what is unbelievable is that we do not believe this beautiful Truth, so evident in scripture, that we are precious to God in our very brokenness.  It is Christ's primary message when he identified himself with us and became human, so that we could become Divine.  “For you to live is Christ” (St. Paul).  We are already Oned with the Father as Christ is Oned with the Father.  We only have to become awake to this intimate union.  It is impossible for God not to love us because we are him “by participation” (St. John of the Cross).  This knowledge is what heals us.  And in its ideal form, we call it Wisdom or experiential knowledge.  It is another way to express contemplation, which is experiencing intuitively our intimate union and love relationship with God beyond our rational consciousness and empirical ego. 

This experiential knowledge of our Oneness with God is like grasping him directly without gloves on, not as an object of our thoughts outside of ourself, but as our very own deepest True Self  =  God living intimately in us as us. (The Divine Indwelling – 2 Peter 1:4)  If we walked into a fancy restaurant and saw deranged people "chewing on the menu" where steak is listed, instead of enjoying the delicious taste of a juicy steak, we might think we are in the wrong place
!  Let's try McDonald's!  The words and thoughts about a steak are not the reality of a steak, which we can only know experientially by tasting the deliciousness of a steak.  So also, our ideas, words and thoughts about God are not God.  We only know God truthfully when we experience him intuitively beyond thoughts and words about him (contemplation).  We experience an intimate Oneness with him so that his Presence living in us as us is known without a doubt to also be – "Who we really are".  We are identified with him.  "I want you to be One with the Father even as I am One" (St. John).  "Taste and see the Goodness of the Lord." 

God emptied himself of his Divinity to become human so that he might awaken us to the Truth that we are already Divine at our conception, and as precious to him at our birth as we will be at our death, when we see him face to face and recognize how much we are like him as we gaze into his comely eyes. 

A precursor to this Divine Meeting and union is experiential contemplative love going on right “now” within each of us, if we are awake to it.  It comes and goes as it pleases, like the wind.  Our mind and ego has no control over making it appear.  Suddenly, a little glimpse, a foretaste, an intuition of how immensely loveable, valueable, important and precious we each are to God, just as we are, with all of our woundedness and daily failings.  We can do nothing to change this pure gift of Love through our mind, thinking it out of existence, or through the brutalities of our own will.  God is simply living in the center of our being as the Divine Light of our Life, and he will never be extinguished in his Timelessness.  As the Alpha & Omega, he never had a beginning and will never have an end.  Nor will we –  because, in him, “we live and move and have our being.”  God living in and as our True Self is what most efficaciously heals each and every one of us of our false ego-identity, making us aware of our Divinization and who we really are.  “I live, no longer I (ego), but Christ lives in me.” (St. Paul). 

Contemplation is an intuitive experience of our Divinization, which makes us aware of who we really are and who we are not (false part of our ego).  Knowing experientially who we really are pours the balm of compassion on the brokenness of who we are not, and heals its fragility and woundedness with mercy.  Trying to punish the false part of our ego only tends to allow it to dig in its heals.  We are precious to God holistically, and that includes the false part of our ego. 

Struggling to live out the ideals of the First Commandment to the full, by loving God directly and wholeheartedly, is simply what contemplation is all about.  It affirms what we already know deep down, that we are created for “God Alone”.  Realizing this enhances our love for others and creation. 

This contemplative prayer is not something we have or come by as a possession,  but someone we already are, as we uncover as hidden treasure within us a direct love affair with God, which he is initiating within our deepest consciousness constantly from moment to moment.  There is no way to “get it” because we already “got it”, and only have to awake to this awesome and unceasing love relationship that God is nurturing within us, as us.  We are already Oned.  “I want you to be One with the Father as I am One.”  This is Christ's primary purpose in showing up on earth to awaken us to our Oneness with him, with ourselves, with others, and with creation.  Unity  =  Love and equality.  Father Thomas Keating called this Divine love affair and Oneness  – “Hot Stuff”! 

So often we hear contemplative prayer experienced as a means or a way to love others better.  Loving others is one of the beautiful fruits of this direct love affair and personal intimacy with God himself.  However, contemplation is more importantly an “end in itself”, and not merely a means to obtain something else.  It is the experience of our Love union with God and, in loving God directly in this contemplative way, we are loving the whole human family in him, and moving them closer to God, which is the only reason they are in existence.  The human family is all inter-connected spiritually in the One Mystical Body of Christ.  Every cell in this Divine Body is brimming with God's own Presence and Light, which makes each of us extremely valuable and important for the health of the rest of the cells.  The intimate love affair of our union with God experienced in contemplation is at the heart of the “wellness” of the whole human family, who rarely have a clue of how loveable we are in our brokenness. 

In contemplation, God is real to us, not as an object of our thoughts or ideas, but as a subject of our experience.  What awakens in us is our intimate personal and spiritual union with God, who gives birth to the intuition of our loveableness beyond our wildest expectations!  Our worts, mistakes and daily failings are absolutely irrelevant to God in the face of this Divine Lover “communing” with us constantly, loving each of us into existence in this Present Moment. 

 

Centering Prayer — a contemplative prayer practice

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