~ More On Contemplative and Active Living ~
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The three great powers are faith, hope and love (Corinthians 13:13). These cannot be even touched by the intellect or exercise of reason. They are understood by the silent rest of contemplation.
The contemplative spirit forsakes all thought and plans. There is nothing to “figure out.” Even images of God are forsaken and prayer is silent, wordless, for “he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27, NIV). In this sacred communion we realize “he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17, NIV). The Sacred Heart of Christ beats in our souls, with our gratitude and joy.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2, NIV). While pondering the Psalms, Augustine remarked, “Let us love God with a pure and chaste heart. The heart is not chaste if it cares for God for the sake of the reward…God is loved gratis; one asks for no other gift. Whoever seeks another gift from God, makes what he desires to have a more precious gift than God himself. God’s gift is himself.” “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing…You yourself are my prize” (Psalm 16).
We can relate to that as humans. Gift giving delights both God and us. Gifts celebrate our love but the gifts turn into bitter sorrows if we discover that those we love, love us only for our gifts. When love withers as the gifts decline, we suffer anguish in realizing it was not us who were ever loved. Can you feel God’s sorrow too? Contemplation in God’s presence for only Him must bring God great delight. So much so that He desires to increase our awareness, peace and joy of His presence.
In response, we must not use reason or intellect to penetrate deeper into His presence. We rest in faith, hope and love. We let God be God to us in total self-forsakenness and trust. Without any effort or work on our part, God’s presence and love become a healing balm to our hurting souls, both body and spirit. “You are my hiding place, my fortress, O Lord” the psalms frequently proclaim. Thus in His presence we rest in a pervading cloud of wisdom, power, and protection from adversity and evil. Any knocking on contemplation’s door by malice that wants to steal our souls from Love’s consumption makes us sigh deeper and more trustingly into His presence. We were taught to pray for the Father’s deliverance from evil, not for His help in our efforts to deliver ourselves.
This is not a meditative
exercise in “getting in touch more with our inner self” or other “feel
good” or “self-empowering” practices. If you feel yourself more than God
(and you will know the difference), pause in sorrow and prayerfully desire
with all your heart, strength and mind to rest unselfconsciously in the
loving Father and Creator. Christ said “Without me you can do nothing”
so do nothing except cry out for His love and Spirit. Christ said “Seek
first the kingdom of God and all else will be added to you,” but there
is no need to reflect upon the “all else” in contemplation. We trust Him
for the purest care and perfect gifts and recall that “No eye has seen,
no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those
who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV).
However, Paul does add, “ but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit” (v.10a). We must remember, though, such revelations do not come from any efforts of ourselves.
Virtues are the
fruit of such grace, “and over all these virtues put on love, which binds
them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14, NIV). As a result
of daily prayerful contemplation, we can “let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly” (v.16) which then merges with our activities “as you teach
and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns,
and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (v.16b-17).
When the deer “panting
for streams of water” finds one, she doesn’t drink while thinking about
where she’ll sleep that night. She just drinks, mindfully, gratefully.
The soul panting for God does not think about unpaid bills in contemplation.
Mindfully washing dishes in gratitude to God for daily bread can be an
act of contemplation.
Drinking cool water from a water fountain in a grocery store in mindfulness of God can be an act of contemplation. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed,” become acts of worship and contemplation when you “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Gradually, the “you” is lost in Him, forsaken for Him, as He taught it must be.
Once Jesus was publicly baptized by John, the baptizer and herald of Christ announced “He [Christ] must increase and I decrease.” In a ceremonial way, John presented Christ to the world: “Behold the Lamb of God!” The words of John’s self-decrease apply to everyone of us who follow him in heralding the presence of Christ, the Immanuel, the God-with-us.
John was a very
active contemplative. Paul was a very contemplative activist. Jesus summoned
us to be the active light on a hilltop, and also the silent salt resting
unseen on the earth. The light must not be hidden and the salt must not
lose its flavor. Contemplation preserves the salt’s savor and activity
keeps the light burning. And that
“which binds them all in perfect unity” is love. “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © November 30, 2002
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