Thisness: Weekly Summary — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Thisness: Weekly Summary


Summary: Sunday, March 18-Friday, March 23, 2018

Each creature is not merely one member of a genus and species, but a unique aspect of the infinite Mystery of God. God is continuously choosing each created thing specifically to exist, moment by moment. (Sunday)

Without truly seeing and valuing individual lives, war and violence become almost inevitable. Unless we can see and honor “thisness,” religion and politics are up in the head, and the heart and body can remain untouched. (Monday)

Father Richard reflects on the past 75 years of his “particular” life, finding God in the “thisness” of his own experience: “I just stumbled into Love again and again. And was held by it. This is entirely true for you, too.” (Tuesday)

Duns Scotus offered us a meaningful and practical way to live compassionately by focusing on the now, the particular, the concrete, the individual. (Wednesday)

We are each one of an eternity. Each of us has come with a gift. And if we do not give our gift, the world misses out. —Mary Beth Ingham (Thursday)

Each being possesses an immanent dignity; it is already gifted by the loving Creator with a sanctity beyond our ability to understand. —Mary Beth Ingham (Friday)


Practice: Awe and Surrender

I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments—
he got so excited

and ran into a hollow in his tree and came
back holding some acorns, an owl feather,
and a ribbon he had found.

And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear,
you understand:

everything imparts
His grace.”

—Francis of Assisi [1]

When Lady Julian of Norwich looked at a little hazelnut and said, “This is everything that is,” [2] I think she meant that one authentic relationship serves as the only real doorway to a relationship with everything else. How you do anything is how you do everything. To encounter one thing in its gratuity and uniqueness is to encounter all of creation—and its Creator—along with it. An authentic I-Thou relationship with one thing opens a universal doorway. How you relate is how you relate.

Contemplation is really the art of full relationship. It is learning how to relate to reality in an immediately appreciative and non-manipulative way. The contemplative mind does not demand, is not needy, and is not easily offended. It allows other things and people to have their own voices without trying to impose its own agenda on them. It takes a lifetime to learn this, it seems.

A daily practice of contemplative prayer will help you to both allow and trust an overwhelming gratuity from outside yourself. It then offers you the safety, the validation, and the courage to relate to everything else as gratuitous gift too. When we see contemplatively, we know that we live in a fully sacramental universe, where everything is a finger pointing at the moon of Divine Reality. Every ordinary moment can be an epiphany.

To let the moment teach us, we must allow ourselves to be at least slightly stunned by it until it draws us inward and upward, toward a subtle experience of wonder. We normally need a single moment of gratuitous awe to get us started.

The spiritual journey is a constant interplay between moments of awe followed by surrender to that moment. We must first allow ourselves to be captured by the goodness, truth, or beauty of something beyond and outside ourselves. Then we universalize from that moment to the goodness, truth, and beauty of the rest of reality, until our realization eventually ricochets back to include ourselves. This is the great inner dialogue we call prayer.

[1] Francis of Assisi, fancifully rendered by Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002), 53. Used with permission.

[2] Julian of Norwich, Showings, chapter 5.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 9-11, 70.


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

Mary Beth Ingham and Richard Rohr, Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2007), CD, MP3 download

Mary Beth Ingham, Scotus for Dunces: An Introduction to the Subtle Doctor (The Franciscan Institute: 2003)

Richard Rohr and James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017)

You can only know anything by meeting it in its precise and irreplaceable thisness and honoring it there. Each individual act of creation is a once-in-eternity choice on God’s part. —Richard Rohr
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