In a conference with Trappist monk Thomas Keating, Father Richard Rohr considered how contemplation is an antidote to violence:
The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, and from being one with everyone and everything. When we don’t know we are connected, we will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power we lack. Contemplation of the gospel message gradually trains us not to make so much of differences, but to return to who we are—our True Selves in God—which is always beyond any nationality, religion, skin color, gender, sexuality, or any other possible labels. In fact, we finally can see that those are always and only commercial labels, covering the rich product underneath.
When we can become little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, then we will ironically find that we are more than enough. At this place of poverty and freedom, we have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. Here we can connect with everything and everyone. Everything belongs. This cuts violence at its very roots, before there is even a basis for fear or greed—the things that usually cause us to be angry, suspicious, and violent.
To be clear, it is inconceivable that a true Christian would be racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, homophobic, or bigoted toward any group or individual, especially toward the poor and vulnerable, which seems to be an acceptable American prejudice. To end the cycle of violence, our actions must flow from our authentic identity as Love.
One of the reasons I founded the Center for Action and Contemplation was to give activists some grounding in spirituality so they could continue working for social change, but from a stance much different than vengeance, ideology, or willpower pressing against willpower. Most activists I knew loved Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings on nonviolence. But it became clear to me that many of them had only an intellectual appreciation rather than a participation in the much deeper mystery. The ego was still in charge, and I often saw people creating victims of others who were not like them. It was still a power game, not the science of love that Jesus taught us.
When we begin by connecting with our inner experience of communion rather than separation, our actions can become pure, clear, and firm. This kind of action, rooted in one’s True Self, comes from a deeper knowing of what is real, good, true, and beautiful, beyond labels and dualistic judgments of right or wrong. From this place, our energy is positive and has the most potential to create change for the good. This stance is precisely what we mean by “being in prayer.” We must pray “unceasingly” to maintain this posture. It is a lifelong process.
We wait in prayer, but we don’t wait for absolutely perfect motivation or we will never act. Radical union with God and neighbor should be our starting place, not private perfection.
Adapted from Richard Rohr and Thomas Keating, Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer (Cincinnati, OH: Saint Anthony Messenger Press, 2002), CD.
Explore Further. . .
- Read a week of Daily Meditations on “Healing Our Violence.”
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Frank J. Aleksandrowicz, Clark Avenue and Clark Avenue Bridge (detail), 1973, photograph, Ohio, public domain, National Archives. Chaokun Wang, 轮胎 tyre (detail), 2021, photograph, Pingyao, creative commons. John Messina, Drainage of Marsh Leaves (detail), 1970, photograph, Louisiana, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: War, bitterness, consumed and discarded goods. Why are we sustaining the spiral of violence? Do we not see that we are part of the creation we are destroying?
Story from Our Community:
My practice has been contemplative devotion for 30 years. I left the Anglican Church to follow Vedic teachings and Bhakti meditation. I discovered Richard Rohr and was led back to Jesus with a new understanding of The Cosmic Christ. Today I am holding my arms and my heart open to the enormity of the violence in Ukraine, as well as fear for the whole world. Jesus, help me to deeply know that we are all one, especially in the deep vulnerability of today.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.