Meeting Christ Within Us
Friday, May 31, 2019
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? —1 Corinthians 6:19
I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me. —Galatians 2:20
Phileena Heuertz is a dear friend, member of our Board of Directors, and co-founder of Gravity, a center for contemplative activism. In this excerpt from her book Mindful Silence she reflects on the gift of contemplation.
Kataphatic prayer comes from the Greek kataphatikos, which in essence means “with images or concepts.” . . . This kind of prayer utilizes our faculties for reason, imagination, feelings, and will. We use words, images, and feelings to communicate with the divine. In this sense, God is mediated through our mental and affective capacities.
Apophatic prayer comes from the Greek apophatikos, which essentially means “without images or concepts.” This kind of prayer lets go of reason, imagination, feelings, and will. And in this way, our encounter with God is unmediated. It is a naked mode of prayer—being to being or essence to essence without filtration through the thinking or affective mind. . . .
Apophatic prayer is rooted in the doctrine of the divine indwelling (Luke 17:21; John 7:38, 14:3; Romans 8:10-11; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20; Galatians 2:20). While God is transcendent, God is also immanent, and chooses to dwell within us. Contemplative spirituality helps us realize God’s presence within us.
The word contemplative derives from a root that means to set aside a place of worship or to reserve a cleared space in front of an altar. In Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, a contemplative stance is obvious. The Israelites cleared space for worship with the Ark of the Covenant and finally with their temple. Jesus honored the temple worship of his Jewish tradition but also tried to enlighten his people to realize that sacred buildings, rituals, and rules are meant to bring us into the awareness of the divine presence in us and in all of those around us.
Jesus drew our attention to the doctrine of the divine indwelling in a radical declaration that he himself was the temple (John 2:19). . . . Paul elaborates on Jesus’ teaching of the doctrine of divine indwelling by declaring that not just Jesus’ but our body too is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). How marvelous! The Creator of the universe resides within our being.
But unfortunately, we’re not very well acquainted with God-within. We’ve mastered the theology of God’s transcendence but have failed to embrace God’s immanence. There’s a part of us that doubts our deep connection to this divine love. Contemplative spirituality helps us overcome this disconnect. It’s one thing to have a “personal relationship” with the transcendent Jesus [or Christ]—much like a relationship with a friend or lover. It’s quite another thing to become one with Jesus, by growing familiar with his immanence (John 17:21). It’s from this oneness that enduring love of God and neighbor is possible.
Phileena Heurtz, Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation (InterVarsity Press: 2018), 146-147. Learn more about Gravity at gravitycenter.com.