Friday, February 24, 2017
Guest writer and CAC teacher James Finley continues to share insights on meditation (another word for contemplative prayer).
Imagine that you have a dream in which you are climbing a high mountain. The valley below is where you grew up, where you experienced pain and made many mistakes. You are trying to transcend and leave this place by reaching the summit, on which you will be sublimely holy and one with God.
As the summit comes into view, the wind rising from the valley brings with it the sound of a child crying out in distress. You realize that there is no real choice but to go down the mountain to find and help the hurting child. Turning back, you descend into the valley. Following the child’s cries, you arrive at the very home you tried to leave behind.
You gently open the door and look inside. Sitting in the corner on the floor is your own wounded child-self, that part of you that holds feelings of powerlessness and shame. You sit down next to the child on the floor. For a long time you say nothing. Then a most amazing thing happens. As you are putting your arms around this child, you suddenly realize you are on the lofty summit of union with God!
To be transformed in compassionate love does not mean that you do not have to continue struggling and working through your shortcomings and difficulties. It means learning to join God who loves you through and through in the midst of all your shortcomings. As you continue to be transformed in this way, you come to realize that right here, right now, just the way you are, you are one with love that loves you and takes you to itself just the way you are.
Immersed in love, you look out through compassionate eyes to see the world. Here the dream in which you return to your wounded child-self takes on new, social dimensions. In this expanded version of the dream, you follow the child’s cries to the home in which you grew up. You go inside to compassionately embrace the preciousness of the hurting child. As you are putting your arms around the child, it turns into your mother, your father, brother, sister. It is every nameless face you have passed in the street. It turns into the world that “God so loved . . . as to send God’s only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
God loves and is one with the communal preciousness of all that is lost and broken in everyone. So, too, you begin to realize that you are falling in love with each and every person in the world. As you go on in this love for others, you fail again and again. This is no obstacle so long as you see your failure to be compassionate as just another opportunity to renew your faith in God’s compassionate love for you and for all of us in the midst of our wayward ways.
As our fidelity to meditation continues to deepen, we experience within ourselves how God’s compassionate love uses us for its own purpose by inspiring, even impelling us to do what we can to ease the burden and calm the distress of those around us. Meditation embodies compassion that forms the essential bond between seeking God in meditation and all forms of social justice. The more we are transformed in compassion, the more we are impelled to act with compassion toward others.
Gateway to Silence:
Rest in God resting in me.
Adapted from James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God (HarperSanFrancisco: 2004), 283-286.