Love: Week 1 Summary

Love: Week 1

Summary: Sunday, December 27, 2015-Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Judeo-Christian creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God—who is love. (Sunday)

Jesus’ reality, his cross, is to say a free “yes” to what his humanity daily asks of him. (Monday)

The contemplative is not just aware of God’s Loving Presence, but trusts, allows, and delights in it. (Tuesday)

You don’t need to push the river because you are already in the river. (Wednesday)

You cannot not live in the presence of God. (Thursday)

Jesus says we have to love and recognize the divine image even in our enemies. (Friday)

 

Practice: Centering Prayer
This is what you are to do. Lift your heart up to the Lord with a gentle stirring of love, desiring him for his own sake and not for his gifts.

—Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 3

In the 1970s, drawing from The Cloud of Unknowing and other Christian mystical writings, three Trappist monks—William Meninger, Basil Pennington, and Thomas Keating—developed a simple method of silent prayer. This method came to be known as Centering Prayer, referencing Thomas Merton’s definition of contemplation as prayer “centered entirely on the presence of God.” (You can learn more about Centering Prayer through Contemplative Outreach.)

Centering Prayer is simply sitting in silence, open to God’s love and your love for God. This prayer is beyond thoughts, emotions, or sensations. Like being with a very close friend or lover, where words are not required, Centering Prayer brings your relationship with God to a level deeper than conversation, to pure communion.

Because our minds are so attached to thinking, Father Thomas Keating sometimes suggests choosing a sacred word, with one or two syllables, “as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. [Then,] sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce your sacred word. . . . When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to your sacred word. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.” [1]

Two sessions of 20-30 minutes of Centering Prayer are recommended each day, but if that is too much for you, begin with five or ten minutes. Let go of all expectations or goals during this time. It is not about achieving anything, whether emptying your mind or finding peace or achieving a spiritual experience. There is no way to succeed at Centering Prayer, except to return again and again to love. Allow thoughts to come and go without latching onto them, without judgment. “Ever-so-gently” bring your sacred word, the symbol of your intention, back to mind and return to resting in Presence.

Gateway to Silence:
God’s life is living itself in me.

Reference:
[1] Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel (Amity House: 1986), 109-115.

For further study:
Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer
Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

Photograph by chamomile.
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