The Prayer of Unveiling — Center for Action and Contemplation
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The Prayer of Unveiling

A Time of Unveiling

The Prayer of Unveiling
Monday, January 4, 2021

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. —1 Corinthians 13:12

When we celebrate the beginning of a new year, we celebrate the rebirth of time. We wait for God to do new things. We wait for who we are. We wait for the coming of grace, for the revelation of God. We wait for the truth. We wait for the vision of the whole. But we cannot just wait. We must pray. We say that prayer is not primarily words. Yet prayer can be words, and if the words come out of that empty contemplative place, then we can trust that we really mean them.

Contemplative prayer is a form of unveiling, because it reveals what is going on beneath the polished and busy surfaces of our minds, our hearts, and our bodies. When we finally get still enough, contemplation can live within us in pure, open moments of right here, right now. This is enough, this is fullness. If it is not right here, right now, it doesn’t exist. If we don’t know God now, how would we know God later? The mystics say we won’t. We will not recognize God later if we cannot recognize God now. It is a matter of seeing God now through the shadow and the disguise.

Contemplative prayer lives in a spacious place, free of personal needs or meanings or even interpretations. Life does not care what I like or don’t like. It doesn’t matter a bit. If we stay in the world of preference, we keep ourselves as the reference point. Does it really matter what color I like best or what my current favorite movie is? It changes from moment to moment. No wonder people have identity crises. No wonder people have a fragile self-image; they have nothing solid to build on beyond changing opinions and feelings. If formerly we said, “I think therefore I am,” now it might be “I choose therefore I am.” That’s not a solid foundation to build on.

The real question is “What does this have to say to me?” Those who are totally converted come to every experience and ask not whether or not they liked it, but what does it have to teach them. “What’s the message or gift in this for me? How is God in this event? Where is God in this suffering?” This is a prayer of unveiling, asking that the cruciform shape of reality be revealed to us within the very shape and circumstances of our own lives.

Reference:
Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 90–91, 154.

Story from Our Community:
It was a hot summer day in New York City. As I stood clinging to a pole in the midst of a packed, noisy subway car, I longed to be anywhere else. But as I looked around, I became aware of the incredibly diverse array of humanity. No two were alike: each one was dressed differently, with different accents, hair styles, body types, skin color, and faces. Yet each one was aglow with Life. I realized that the whole subway car was full of the presence of God. If that’s true of a subway, it’s true of everything, everywhere. —Carol F. J.

Image credit: Basket and Tree Root (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
Like the exposed roots of a tree, reality unveiled can be many things at the same time: sharp, smooth, ugly, beautiful, painful, and healing.
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