Silently Gazing upon God

Rebuilding on a Contemplative Foundation

Silently Gazing upon God
Monday, July 10, 2017

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI invited Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Church in England, to address the Synod of Bishops on the topic of evangelization. Williams is a brilliant theologian and man of prayer. His address to the synod shares the foundational importance of contemplation in rebuilding Christianity. Let his words speak to you:

To be fully human is to be recreated in the image of Christ’s humanity; and that humanity is the perfect human “translation” of the relationship of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, a relationship of loving and adoring self-giving, a pouring out of life towards the Other. Thus the humanity we are growing into in the spirit, the humanity that we seek to share with the world as the fruit of Christ’s redeeming work, is a contemplative humanity. . . . We could say that we begin to understand contemplation when we see God as the first contemplative, the eternal paradigm of that selfless attention to the Other that brings not death but life to the self. All contemplating of God presupposes God’s own absorbed and joyful knowing of . . . and gazing upon [God’s self] in the Trinitarian life. [1]

To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the Trinitarian life. St. Paul speaks (in 2 Corinthians 3:18) of how “with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord,” we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance. That is the face we seek to show to our fellow human beings. [2]

And we seek this not because we are in search of some private “religious experience” that will make us feel secure or holy. We seek it because in this self-forgetting gazing towards the light of God in Christ we learn how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation. In the early Church, there was a clear understanding that we needed to advance from the self-understanding or self-contemplation that taught us to discipline our greedy instincts and cravings to the “natural contemplation” that perceived and venerated the wisdom of God in the order of the world and allowed us to see created reality for what it truly was in the sight of God—rather than what it was in terms of how we might use it or dominate it. And from there grace would lead us forward into true “theology,” the silent gazing upon God that is the goal of all our discipleship. [3]

I do not need to speak when Rowan Williams has spoken so well.

Gateway to Silence:
Build on the positive; build on love.

References:
[1] Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address
to the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” 5, http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2645/archbishops-address-to-the-synod-of-bishops-in-rome.
[2] Ibid., 6.
[3] Ibid., 7.

Numbers only; no punctuation

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