Joy and Hope: Weekly Summary

Joy and Hope

Summary: Sunday, November 25-Friday, November 30, 2018

The Gospel is primarily communicated by highly symbolic human lives that operate as “Prime Attractors”: through actions visibly done in love; by a nonviolent, humble, and liberated lifestyle; and through identification with the edged out and the excluded of the world. The very presence of such Prime Attractors “gives others reasons for spiritual joy,” as St. Francis said. (Sunday)

Bonaventure pays little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully! (Monday)

For Bonaventure, God is “the one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And now you know that all things, including you, live happily inside of that one good circle. (Tuesday)

Joy proceeds from the inner realization of union with God, which descends upon us at ever deeper levels as we walk our faith journey. (Wednesday)

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 (Thursday)

The journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Friday)

 

Practice: Centering Prayer

Thomas Keating was one of the founders of Centering Prayer, a Christian contemplative practice based in early desert monasticism, texts like The Cloud of Unknowing, and mystics Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) and John of the Cross (1542–1591). Centering Prayer is a practice in letting go of thoughts, one after the other after the other. Our thoughts are habitual and repetitive, so this may seem like an exercise in futility. Yet each thought is simply an opportunity to return to God, to awareness of Presence.

Keating wrote about the gift of contemplation, not only during our times of prayer but throughout the rest of our day:

The Spirit presents us with the true source of happiness, which is the experience of God as intimate and always present. . . . After we get used to the fact that God is the only source of happiness, we have no more energy to invest in these hopeless expectations and so begin to experience peace. The Fruits of the Spirit—Charity, Joy, Peace, and the rest—begin to emerge as habitual dispositions in daily life. . . . Through the exercise of the Fruits, we are not held back anymore by the residue of the emotional programs for happiness that we brought with us from early childhood and that we have been more or less dominated by all our lives. . . .

Hope is not based on what we have done in the past, whether good or bad. No matter who we are, even if we are the greatest sinner on earth, we can always hope, because hope is not based on past actions. It is based on the infinite goodness and mercy of God here and now—a mercy that never changes. . . .

Whenever we feel discouraged, especially when we feel despair over some misdeed in our life, we should immediately remember hope: that God is always waiting for us with unconditional love. The moment that we turn to [God] with trust in the divine mercy, the past is completely forgotten. God relates to us in the present moment, not in the past or future. [1]

Here is the simple method for Centering Prayer as taught by Keating. You might practice this for twenty minutes every day. Over many, many years, it may bear fruit as a deep, unshakable joy and hope.

Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

When engaged with your thoughts [including body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections], return ever so gently to the sacred word.

At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. [2]

References:
[1] Thomas Keating, Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit (Lantern Books: 2007), 71-73.

[2] Thomas Keating, “The Method of Centering Prayer: The Prayer of Consent,” Contemplative Outreach, http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/category/category/centering-prayer.

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001)

Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium (Libreria Editrice Vaticana: 2013)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Avery: 2016)

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

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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