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Center for Action and Contemplation

Experience: Weekly Summary

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Summary: Sunday, January 22-Friday, January 27, 2017

“The interior experience of God’s presence [through prayer] activates our capacity to experience God in everything else—in people, in events, in nature.” —Thomas Keating (Sunday)

Outside of your own inner experience of a God who is “merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, and steadfast in love” most religion will remain merely ritualistic, moralistic, doctrinaire, and unhappy. (Monday)

The word “mystic” simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. (Tuesday)

Most of organized religion has actually discouraged us from taking the mystical path by telling us almost exclusively to trust outer authority (Scripture, Tradition, or various kinds of experts) instead of telling us the value and importance of inner experience itself. (Wednesday)

The most common temptation for all of us is to use belonging to the right group and practicing its proper rituals as a substitute for any personal or life-changing encounter with the Divine. (Thursday)

We all must start with our own anecdotal experience and then build from there. Wise spiritual directors, Scripture, and Tradition tell you what of your experience is worth looking at and what is perhaps a detour or a dead end. (Friday)


Practice: Faith as Unknowing

We are often tempted not to trust in God but to trust in our faith tradition of trusting in God. They are not the same thing! Talking about our saints and theologians who trusted in God is a clever way to avoid the experience itself, to avoid encounter with the living God, to avoid the ongoing Incarnation. We tend to trust the past for its own sake, as if past time is somehow holier than the present. God did not come to earth to protect human traditions. In fact, Jesus pointedly asks the Pharisees and scribes, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3, RSV).

Authentic and mature Tradition calls us to surrender to the wonderful and always too-much mystery of God. This is the apophatic tradition, or the “cloud of unknowing.” It is the very concept of faith—the freedom not to know because I experience myself as being known more fully than I can know or even need to know. “Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood” (1 Corinthians 13:12, RSV).

In silent prayer, let go of the need to use words to approach God. Let go of all ideas about God, self, and reality. Even if you don’t sense God’s presence, trust that you are fully seen and known by the One who is merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, and steadfast in love.

Gateway to Silence:
Awaken me to Love this day.

Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media), 19-20.

For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC: 2016)
Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014)
Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008)

Image credit: Stigmatizzazionedi San Francesco (fresco detail), 1297-1300, Legend of St. Francis, Giotto di Bondone, Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Assisi, Italy.
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