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Center for Action and Contemplation

Joy in Contemplation

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Joy and Hope

Joy in Contemplation
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Joy proceeds from the inner realization of union with God, which descends upon us at ever deeper levels as we walk our faith journey. This deepening is the goal of Christian contemplation and is the heart of perennial wisdom from every faith. This is how contemplatives “know” things: The soul itself is an image of God, to which God is so present that the soul can actually grasp God, and, as Bonaventure wrote, “is capable of possessing [God] and of being a partaker in [God].” [1] Ironically, it is in letting go that we most truly “possess” God and participate in God’s fullness.

Jesus modeled and taught contemplative prayer. He invited us to “go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Our beloved Father Thomas Keating (19232018), who recently passed away, explained how such prayer helps us access the joy of experiential union with God:

In Jesus’ formula for waking up to who we are, he suggests entering this inner room. Then he says shut the door, meaning stop the interior dialogue. Get free or detached from our over-identifications with our thoughts, experiences, past life, future hopes. It doesn’t mean leaving anything behind, but changing your attitude to everything, so it’s a non-possessive attitude, which is the nature of [God] or the Beloved, or the Ultimate Reality. . . .

[We are] in the process of awakening to the divine image within us, the supernatural organism where faith, hope, and charity, the divine indwelling, and the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit are sitting, so to speak, in our ontological unconscious, gathering dust, waiting to be used. And they can’t come into full action until our over-identification with the false self and its programs for happiness that can’t possibly work have been reduced.

So life, then, is constant death and resurrection at every moment. We die to our own will and enter the present moment by consenting to whatever it is, either by accepting it or doing something that the Spirit suggests to improve the situation. This divine enlightening process sometimes gives us an Aha! experience. It’s still on the egoic level, so it’s penetrated with some misunderstandings, but nonetheless, this is what Alleluia means. “Aahh”—this is the primordial sound that that you hear in Allah or in Alleluia or in Aum [Om] as the Hindus put it. It’s waking up!

. . . Everybody has personal, unique relationship with God and capacity to manifest something of that infinite goodness that is a torrent that simply moves from relationship to relationship in the Trinity in a kind of moving ocean of infinite love that is reaching out and drawing everybody back through the unspeakable groanings of the Spirit that dwells even in matter [see Romans 8:22-23], but especially in our inmost being and conscience, calling us into freedom, into peace, into joy, which we already possess at the hidden level. That’s why we need to find out who we are!

We are already all these things. We just think we aren’t. Stop thinking, and you’ll find out. [2]

[1] Augustine, De Trinitate, 14.8, no. 11, as quoted by Bonaventure in The Soul’s Journey into God, 3.2. See The Soul’s Journey into God, trans. Ewert Cousins (Paulist Press: 1978), 81.

[2] Thomas Keating, The Inner Room, disc 6 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 80.

Image credit: Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan (detail), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2013.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. . . . And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy. —Desmond Tutu
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