Close your eyes for a minute and think about “truth.” What kinds of images come to mind? For most people, truth is closely associated with solidity, finality, permanence, universality, and security. But Jesus used the metaphor of “living water” for truth. This is another of his outrageous teachings. While we tend to visualize truth as some kind of sacred rock, Jesus visualized it as water: amorphous, adaptable, and incapable of being grasped. The adjective “living” should not be neglected either. For truth is a living thing that grows in us and with us.
Underneath all the moralizing and polemic in the New Testament, there is a message of divinization, theosis; that is to say, in the way appropriate to humans we may once again through grace, by our kenosis, our self-forgetfulness in our lived beholding, realize our glory, our shared nature with God that was obscured in Eden, and all this entails.
We can no longer rely on being supported by structures that may be destroyed at any moment by a political power or a political force. You cannot rely on structures. The time for relying on structures has disappeared. They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and if everything is taken away, what do you do next?
Silence, both external (a silent place) and internal (the quieting of the heart and mind), is a prerequisite to genuine prayer. It is not simply a question of removing exterior noise but a disciplined willingness to shut off the distractions of the environment, even “good” distractions, in order to listen to the promptings of God in the heart. Silence, in the tradition of prayer, means nothing more than alertness or readiness to receive God; it is another form of saying “yes” to the promptings of God’s self-gift.
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.