As for you, however, if you do not trust the prophets, and if you suppose both the fire and the men who saw it to be a legend, the Lord Himself shall speak to you, He “who being in the form of God did not count equality with God as an opportunity for gain, but emptied Himself,” the God of compassion who is eager to save man. And the Word Himself now speaks to you plainly, putting to shame your unbelief, yes, I say, the Word of God speaks, having become man, in order such as you may learn from man how it is even possible for man to become a god.
I once heard Richard Rohr tell a charming story of giving a retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton lived. Rohr was surprised to find that not all the monks particularly cared for Merton. When he asked about this, one of the brothers said, “Merton told us we weren’t contemplatives, we were just introverts!” It’s […]
In October 2012 Rowan Williamson, then the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, addressed the Catholic Synod of Bishops in Rome at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI. It was an historic occasion, as this was the first time an Anglican Archbishop had addressed the Catholic Synod. If it were up to me, this talk would be circulated far and wide, read by all Christians and studied in all seminaries. I think this talk is so important because it addresses the centrality of contemplation in the life of Christian discipleship today. Here’s an example of the wisdom found here:
Contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.
To read about the address, including a complete transcript of the entire address, follow this link: www.rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2645/archbishops-address-to-the-synod-of-bishops-in-rome
Silent prayer — contemplative prayer, what the Catholic Catechism calls “wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration” — is an important element of a mature Christian spirituality. The Bible instructs us to “be still and know… God” (Psalm 46:10), and even promises us that “silence […]
Okay: to summarize… Spirituality: the process of being in relationship with God. Belief and Wonder: the mental and emotional qualities of being open to the possibility of Divine presence in our lives. Culture, Ikons, Teachings/Tradition/Scripture: the stuff in our lives that carry the news of God to us; the evidence we have of God’s presence […]
Is contemplation dangerous? Some people think so. This past weekend I read a book that has given me some food for thought on this subject. The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? is by Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm, two psychologists in England who study the idea that practices like yoga or mindfulness meditation have observable health benefits. They […]
We are in time. We practice the active life in time, knowing that our goal is in eternity. The role of the contemplative is to remind us that there is in the world something other than the world, that the goal of human life is beyond the human. Contemplation is the goal and meaning of work just as sabbath is the goal and meaning of the weekdays.
Being Still: Reflections on an Ancient Mystical Tradition (New York: Paulist Press, 2003), p. 51.
The second of a two part series on Byzantine theology by English Orthodox professor Andrew Louth. Here Louth discusses apophatic spirituality, ascetical and mystical theology, and the liturgy.
September 1, 2010
Part one of a two part series on Byzantine theology by English Orthodox professor Andrew Louth. He’s a delight, and his subject is of interest to anyone concerned with Christian mysticism and contemplation.
The third of six videos filmed at a talk I gave last August. Here I look at contemplation, reflecting on the traditional understanding of this prayer (“a form of wordless prayer… with faith and love”) and how the elements of love, silence, and gazing into the mystery of Christ can be such a nurturing form of prayer for spiritual seekers today.
The second of six videos filmed at a talk I gave last August. Here I look at Karl Rahner’s oft-quoted statement (“the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist”) and reflect on what it means for the Christian community to be called into mystical spirituality in our time.
Here is the first of six videos filmed last August — I’ll be posting the others in the near future. This video is a brief introduction to one of my favorite Christian mystics, Julian of Norwich.
The Mystery of Christ in You: The Mystical Vision of Saint Paul (Staten Island, NY: Alba House, 1998)
This is a short little book — 135 pages — but it very clearly spells out the mystical theology embedded in the New Testament letters of Saint Paul. An excellent corrective to the common (but erroneous) idea that “mysticism isn’t in the Bible.” In fact, mysticism is in the Bible the way love is in God — it’s inherent, but centuries of left-brained approaches to reading and interpreting Scripture has meant that, for most people, the mystical theology of the New Testament is hidden in plain sight. Jesuit author George Maloney looks at Paul’s theology of the Body, of Mystery, and of the Holy Spirit to weave together a wonderful introduction not only to the mystical thought of the Apostle, but of Christianity altogether.
Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005)
This is a delightful book. Mysticism is not a topic generally associated with C. S. Lewis, who even claimed in one of his later books that he was not a mystic and never would attempt to be one! But Professor Downing does a wonderful job of showing that this was just Lewis’s humility speaking, and in fact there is a strong vein of mystical wisdom and insight coursing through his writings, especially his fiction. Lewis loved reading the writings of the great mystics, corresponded with Evelyn Underhill, and described his own conversion as moving “into the region of awe.” Like they say, “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…” What I find particularly lovely about this book is Downing’s down-to-earth but spot-on description of what Christian mysticism is. If you’d like a case study of ordinary mysticism, this is it. And if you love C. S. Lewis’s fiction, this book will open your eyes to an entirely new way of thinking about the spiritual writing of this beloved author.