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Center for Action and Contemplation

Fully Human

Monday, May 16, 2016

Action and Contemplation: Week 2

Fully Human
Monday, May 16, 2016

Many have said, and I totally agree, that true religion is not trying to make human beings spiritual. We’re already spiritual beings. Great religion is trying to make human beings human. That’s not a lightweight cliché. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI invited then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to address the Roman Synod of Bishops. Williams, too, makes the point that contemplation is to make us human. Then at the core of human personhood, we discover that what it means to be human is to also be divine, the same journey I believe Jesus made on this earth. We also are constituted as persons by the same relationships that constitute the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, the abiding relationship of unconditional love. In fact, that is what the word person (“a sounding through”) theologically and metaphysically means. At our core and foundation, we are not just our own, but our identity is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), with “our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Williams :

To be fully human is to be recreated in the image of Christ’s humanity; and that humanity is the perfect human “translation” of the relationship of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, a relationship of loving and adoring self-giving, a pouring out of life towards the Other. Thus the humanity we are growing into in the Spirit, the humanity that we seek to share with the world as the fruit of Christ’s redeeming work, is a contemplative humanity. [1]

Williams then explains how contemplation prepares us for action:

And we seek this not because we are in search of some private “religious experience” that will make us feel secure or holy. We seek it because in this self-forgetting gazing towards the light of God in Christ we learn how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation. . . . [This] allows us to see created reality for what it truly is in the sight of God—rather than what it is in terms of how we might use it or dominate it. [2]

Such seeing with the eyes of God is seeing with the eyes of Love, for “God loves all that God has made” (Wisdom 11:24). Contemplation teaches us how to see. When we see that the world is enchanted, we see the revelation of God in each individual person and creature. Our first job is to see correctly who we are, and then to act on it. All I can give back to God is what God has given to me—no more and no less.

The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the full mystery of our own humanity and divinity—operating as one.

Gateway to Silence:


[1] Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Address to the Synod of Bishops,, paragraph 5, emphasis mine.

[2] Ibid., paragraph 7, emphasis mine.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, with Lawrence Freeman, Transforming the World through Contemplative Prayer (CAC: 2013), disc 1 (CD, MP3 download);

and Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 99.

Image Credit: Soup Kitchen (detail) photograph by GeoffS.
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