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Center for Action and Contemplation
Mending the Breach
Mending the Breach

Repairers of the Breach

Sunday, October 15, 2023

If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech;
If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday….
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined dwellings.” —Isaiah 58:9–10, 12

Many of the Hebrew prophets maintain a restorative vision of “repairing the breaches” in our lives and world. Father Richard writes:

Polarities, dualisms, and seeming opposites are not opposites at all but part of a hidden and rejected wholeness. The task of true religion is to rebind (in Latin, re-ligio) that which is torn apart by temperament, ignorance, and institutionalized evil. Christians are led and grounded by Jesus the Christ, “in whom all things can be held together … and in whom all things are reconciled” (Colossians 1:17, 20).

Mere information tends to break things apart into competing ideologies. Wisdom received through contemplative seeing puts things back together again. At the CAC, we have found that the most radical, political, and effective thing we can do for the world and the church is to teach contemplation: a way of seeing beyond the surface of things that moves people toward credible action.

Contemplation, in non-mystified language, is the ability to meet Reality in its most simple and direct form. When I let go of my judgments, my agenda, my emotive life, my attachment to my positive or negative self-image, I am naked, poor, and ready for The Big Truths. Without some form of contemplative surrender, I see little hope for breakthrough, for new ground, for moving beyond ideologies, the small mind, and the clutching ego. Action without contemplation is the work of hamsters and gerbils. It gets us though the day, it gives us a temporary sense of movement, but the world is not made new by spinning wheels going nowhere.

Even religion has its own equivalent of hamster spinning wheels going nowhere. Since Jeremiah’s time, we clergy have been shouting, “The sanctuary, the sanctuary, the sanctuary!” And God keeps telling us through the prophets, “Only if you amend your behavior and your actions … if you treat each other fairly, if you do not exploit the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, if you do not shed innocent blood … only then will I be with you here in this place” (see Jeremiah 7:3–7).

Contemplation without action is certainly not contemplation at all. Jesus seemed to think it might even be the greater danger: “If the light inside you is, in fact, darkness, what darkness that will be!” (Matthew 6:23). Concrete action in the world of relationships keeps us from a world of self-delusion about our own “enlightenment.”


Adapted from Richard Rohr, foreword to Grace in Action, ed. Terry Carney and Christina Spahn(New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1994), xiii–xiv, xv.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Alma Thomas, Snoopy—Early Sun Display on Earth (detail), 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Snow Reflection on Pond (detail), 1973, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Loïs Mailou Jones, Jeune Fille Français (detail), 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

We accept the breach as an invitation to repair: piece by piece, thread by thread, we heal together.

Story from Our Community:  

After a childhood of religious trauma and a young adulthood of struggling with addiction, I was heartbroken again in 2016 to hear the hateful things tumbling out of mouths of the Christians in my family and in my church community. This was my final break from the church. I found myself adrift, isolated from my family and struggling with addiction again. It took me 5 more years to find Richard Rohr’s work. When I did, it felt like coming home. I have not yet found a church that reflects my new beliefs, but it doesn’t matter. I finally feel that the fences of my Christian faith have been mended. —Michelle G.

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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.