to be alone with the Alone

A reflection from a solitary bird.

Contemplative spirituality is a love-driven way of knowing God that is centered in constant awareness of the Divine presence.

It is not a set of beliefs, and not (only) a set of practices. It is an attitude, a way of seeing things, a way of relating to the Divine and to the world.

Those who are drawn to contemplative spirituality hunger for an ever-deepening experience of one-ness with God. They are searching for something deeper and more personal than they can find through intellect and study. John of the Cross wrote, “As long as your spirit is filled with a God constructed from your images and words, there is no room for the God who goes beyond words.”

Contemplatives are sometimes contrasted with theologians. Contemplatives are more interested in love than in logic or knowledge. Contemplatives embrace mystery (hence they are sometimes called mystics) and are perfectly comfortable not fully understanding; whereas theologians are not satisfied until they understand. For contemplatives, the balance is shifted from knowledge to mystery; from understanding to love.

In contemplative prayer we use silence to focus our mind and heart totally on God, not to ask for anything, not to say anything to God, but to open our heart to listen and simply rest in God’s presence. In contemplative prayer we seek to quiet all distractions, the better to be open to God’s voice. The highest experience of contemplative prayer is simply to be aware of God’s presence and delight in it. There is no agenda other than: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Prayer is the center of contemplative life. But although contemplative prayer is more receptive than active, it does not require turning away from the world. In union with God in love, we see others through God’s loving gaze and we face, with him, toward our suffering world in loving service and just action.

This spiritual path does not appeal to everyone. God calls some people to activity, intellect and study. But the Holy One calls the contemplative to seek the Divine in this interior landscape, in a cloud of unknowing, in love and by faith.

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