Love is not just the basis on which we build everything, but it’s also the energy with which we proceed, and it’s the final goal toward which we tend. Love has two lovely daughters called Grace and Mercy. Like identical twins, they are often indistinguishable: Grace is the inner freedom to be merciful. Mercy is grace in action. And both are the children of Love.
We do not have to create silence; it is there within us. What we have to do is let it emerge and enter into it, to become silence. Silence is the language of the spirit.
Poetry arises from contemplation and silence. T. S. Eliot says that poets are alone and often prone to suffering brought about by their super sensitivity. Poets see beyond themselves, but are aware of their own inner life and experience, and so empathize and generalize from it.
One of the oldest meanings in Hebrew for salvation is being freed from a trap. God releases us from the traps we make for our selves when our self-consciousness shuts itself off from the deep mind, and gives us hope.
Contemplation is essentially an act of faith, hope, and love. It is not, therefore, the end result of a discursive activity of the intelligence, it is not the reward of learning acquired through study, and it does not result in an increase of speculative knowledge. It tends to foster love under the forms love takes on while awaiting celestial beatitude… To desire Heaven is to want God and to love Him with a love the monks sometimes call impatient. The greater desire becomes, the more the soul rests in God. Possession increases in the same proportion as desire.
When we trust God more, we can afford to relax our self-centered worried efforts to take care of ourselves. In the same movement, we trust our own preconscious feelings and intuitions more. It becomes easier to see the good side of things. They are more available to us, anyway, once we have learned (by meditation or in some other way) to empty the mind and senses of surface strivings and noisy trivia. We have “sold” what usually fragments our attention and divides our energy, so that we can “buy” the beckoning field where our real treasure is to be found.
God does not offer himself to our finite beings as a thing all complete and ready to be embraced. For us he is eternal discovery and eternal growth. The more we think we understand him, the more he reveals himself as otherwise. The more we think we hold him, the further he withdraws, drawing us into the depths of himself.
Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus, the master in the art of prayer, would take the trouble to walk up a hill in order to pray? Like all great contemplatives he was aware that the place in which we pray has an influence on the quality of our prayer.
Notice how sharp is the hearing and the sense of touch of a blind man. He has lost his faculty of seeing and this has forced him to develop his other faculties of perception. Something similar happens in the mystical world. If we could go mentally blind, so to speak, if we could put a bandage over our mind while we are communicating with God, we would be forced to develop some other faculty for communicating with him—that faculty which, according to a number of mystics, is already straining to move out to him anyway if it were given a chance to develop: the Heart.
Take the biblical phrase: “God is love” (1 John 4:18). Repeat it again and again in your heart. As you do so, savor it, relish it and you will find that it is sweet as honey in your mouth. “God is love … God is love … God is love.” Repeat it at your own pace and rhythm. After some time you may wish to stop repeating it and be silent, without words and without thought. This is a rich silence, a sacred silence, a precious silence, a mystical silence. This is indeed the threshold of mystical prayer. So treasure that silence lovingly until after some time (perhaps after one minute or perhaps after ten minutes) you get all distracted, and then you return to your biblical words: “God is love … God is love … God is love.”
The Coptic monks of the desert knew only a single word and a single struggle for designating both the mind and the heart. We tend to separate the mind from the heart. We like to fill the mind; yet, we forget the heart. Or else, we fill the heart with information that should fill the mind. Nevertheless, the two work differently: the mind learns; the heart knows. The mind is educated; the heart believes. The mind is intellectual, speculative; it reads and speaks. The heart is intuitive, mystical; it grows in silence. The two should be held together; and they should be brought together in the presence of God.
Before I can say “God Himself is mine,” I have to let go of everything but God himself. The familiar picture I may have of God is not God himself, and I will have to leave that image behind in the desert. God as he is in himself is wholly Other than I can imagine him, is transcendent Mystery. Likewise, my experience of God, whether in prayer or in my brothers and sisters, is not God himself. And so I will have to let go of my familiar forms of praying and experiencing God as I journey through the desert. I can learn to trust him whom I do not name or experience, trust him because I love him.
The spiritual life is not a set of exercises appended to our ordinary routine. It is a complete reordering of our values and our prioirities and our lives. Spirituality is not just a matter of joining the closest religious community or parish committee or faith-sharing group. Spirituality is that depth of soul that changes our lives and focuses our efforts and leads us to see the world differently than we ever did before.
Religion, or conscious, intimate contact with God, must not only dominate, but must penetrate and permeate all your living. That means you are not only to worship while at work, but your work itself must be worship; you are not to go from play to prayer or from prayer to play, but your play itself must be a form of prayer; you are to sleep, and sleep soundly, but all the while your heart is to be watching; and when you are awake, you are to be wide awake to the God you are adoring with your entire being.
Your spiritual life need not be limited to times of prayer, meditation, or worship. It is portable and exists with you every moment of the day. You cannot leave it behind any more than you can leave God behind; you can only choose to remain unconscious of the presence of what is holy.
Living Faith Day By Day: How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World (Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press, 2006), p. 53.