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Center for Action and Contemplation
A Prayerful Rhythm of Life
A Prayerful Rhythm of Life

An Unexpected Sense of Freedom 

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Independence Day (United States) 

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 these. —Rowan Williams, Holy Living 

Author Cassidy Hall considers the paradoxical freedom she experiences through contemplative ritual:  

Routines and rituals can also meld together. The morning cup of coffee becomes a sacred process of movement and pauses, senses and stillness. The evening walk shifts into a meditative trance of watching the ducks in the nearby pond. My routines become rituals the second I sense an internal bow to the moment’s entanglement with holiness, with mindfulness, with love, wonder and awe. In ritual, I am rooted and invited to dive deeper into the expanse of myself and my own unfolding. The mindful shift of acknowledgment takes me into more spaciousness, questions, and curiosities. Without my routines and rituals—and my routines shifting into rituals from time to time—I don’t think I’d be as alive and awake to my own personhood.…  

Ritual also frequently offers me some inexplicable sense of freedom. While traveling to Trappist monasteries, I often felt a strange sensation of freedom. Hearing the bells calling the community to prayer seven times a day felt like a homecoming. The hours of work combined with prayer gave me a sense of rhythm that soothed me. The irony—of rituals feeling like a loving freedom—is not lost on me. When ritual comes as an invitation, a choice to engage or not engage, limits are expanded because freedom is present. And from this place, where ritual meets freedom, our relationship to self, others, and the Divine can be continually deepened. [1] 

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams considers the importance of a rhythm or “rule” of life in Benedictine spirituality:  

The idea that all of time can be sanctified—that is, that the time we may instinctively consider to be unproductive, waiting or routine activity, is indispensable to our growth into Christian and human maturity. How we spend the time we think is insignificant is important. It is not only the well-known Benedictine union of laborare and orare [work and pray], but the wider commitment to a life under “rule,” a life that takes it for granted that every aspect of the day is part of a single offering.… 

Christ’s human life is open to the divine at every moment; it is not that God the Word deigns to take up residence in those parts of our lives that we consider important or successful or exceptional. Every aspect of Jesus’ humanity and every moment of his life is imbued with the divine identity, so that if our lives are to be images of his, they must seek the same kind of unbroken transparency. [2] 

[1] Cassidy Hall, Queering Contemplation: Finding Queerness in the Roots and Future of Contemplative Spirituality (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2024), 75–77. 

[2] Rowan Williams, The Way of St. Benedict (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2020), 47, 48. 

Image credit and inspiration: Jenna Keiper, windows + sky fire (detail), 2020, photo, Albuquerque. Click here to enlarge image. Like these everyday windows at sunset, it’s possible to create conditions that reflect the beauty of Spirit in our very normal, everyday lives. 

Story from Our Community:  

In this tumultuous year, I’ve been drawn to a new morning ritual. I rise before dawn, light a candle, read the Daily Meditations, and then sit in Centering Prayer and writing. In the rhythm of receiving, releasing, and returning, I have found a pattern that carries me through my day. As news of politics and injustice continue to come in, I absorb what I can and let the rest go. I am restored in the Divine, as I pray others are as well. 
—Susan S. 

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