Friday, December 11, 2009

The art of contemplation -- December 11, 2009

There is a thread that runs through Wisdom Distilled from the Daily that claims the spiritual life is not an escape from the world but a deeper engagement with it. In the 8th chapter, Chittister indicates that holy leisure is the foundation of contemplation; and further, that contemplation is not a vacation from life. Contemplation, she writes, is the ability to see the world around us as God sees it. (page 103-104).

I learned this the hard way. Years ago, when I first began making silent retreats to monastic communities, I had the sense that I was getting away from everything and devoting myself solely to God. What I discovered was that not only did nearly everything come along with me, but the combination of space apart and silence brought me closer to the center of the world's distress. And closer to the heart of God, who also sees and feels the world's distress.

The grace in this -- and the deepening desire to continue in contemplation, is that God is a companion on this inward journey. And that what we see is what God sees -- and hears. A TV reporter once asked Mother Theresa of Calcutta what she did when she prayed. 'I listen', she said. The reporter then asked, 'what does God say to you?' 'Oh, she replied, God is listening too.'

1 comment:

  1. Finding time for quiet contemplation is not something I do easily. That’s probably because I’m not a big fan of quiet time; except possibly if I have a headache. My spiritual advisor is working with me on this but without much success. The recent twenty degree temperatures have brought me indoors forcing some of that quietude on me. When I had to run out to the car to get my reading glasses, without a coat, a lot of disturbing thoughts forced their way into my few quiet moments. Well, that was the end of that. I started thinking about the homeless living on the streets. The next morning I took a perfectly good winter coat over to Bridges Outreach in Summit. While talking to Francis who works there, he told me of the urgent need for warm blankets and winter coats. That escalated into a talk with my pastor who allowed me to make an announcement in church this morning. I told the congregation of the desperate need of the homeless. I told them a story my brother, a retired NYC cop, told me years ago. In severe winter weather, the cops would check the alleys in the morning for dead homeless. It never made the news papers because nobody really cared about them. They were invisible, marginalized. I guess this is what Chittister means on p. 102 where she writes “Contemplation, therefore, is not a vacation from life.”


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