Ways of Knowing: Weekly Summary

Ways of Knowing

Sunday, February 9–Friday, February 14, 2020

God calls us to “not conform to the pattern of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds” through relationship with those who see differently than we do (see Romans 12:2). (Sunday) 

The vast majority of people throughout history have been poor, disabled, or oppressed in some way (i.e., “on the bottom”) and would have read history in terms of a need for change. (Monday) 

As a pastor I refuse to separate the reality of this world from the reality of the Bible by preaching a “cheap gospel” that neither challenges the present reality nor is challenged by it. —Mitri Raheb (Tuesday) 

She takes my face gently in her hands and holds me in Her gaze as She tells me what She thinks I need to know, forming the words slowly so I can remember them and let them sink in. —Steven Charleston (Wednesday) 

Black Theology is the story of black people’s struggle for liberation in an extreme situation of oppression. Consequently there is no sharp distinction between thought and practice, worship and theology, because black theological reflections about God occurred in the black struggle of freedom. —James Cone (Thursday) 

What a gift to be on earth during an era when the universe is making itself known to and through the human race. —Barbara Holmes (Friday) 

 

Practice: Meditation and Prayer 

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form—without filters, judgments, or commentaries. The ego doesn’t trust this way of seeing, which is why it is so rare, “a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14, New Jerusalem Bible). The only way we can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing our own compulsive mental grids—our practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything 

Depth psychologist David G. Benner offers the following framing of Christian contemplative practices in a way that can help deepen our experience of them: 

The Christian forms of meditation bring us to the question of the relationship between meditation and prayer. This is an important question because I think there are limits to what meditation can, in itself, accomplish that are overcome when meditation is placed within a context of prayer.  

Although contemplative prayer and meditation may share many features, contemplative prayer is wordless openness to God. Hence it involves a relationship. It is this intentional openness to God while setting aside thoughts that makes contemplative prayer so deeply transformational.  

Contemplative prayer always requires hospitality to your deep self, to the deep parts of your self. It demands the openness to receive whatever might arise in you and then gently release it into God’s hands. But in prayer you are not alone as you open yourself to whatever might emerge. You do so in a relationship that provides a safety and support in holding whatever emerges. That which arises might come with a flood of emotional intensity. Sometimes, being still before self and God releases a torrent of emotions. Tears may be intermixed with joy. . . . But whatever emerges in silence and stillness before God emerges in the place within you in which you are held within God. It emerges, therefore, within the context of prayer, whether or not you are thinking of God or talking to God. Your openness to God makes it prayer. 

Thomas Keating describes what happens in stillness and silence before God in unworded presence as divine therapy. It may involve an unloading of the unconscious, but this is only the visible face of the invisible process of reworking your unconscious, a process that is going on as you sit in stillness before God and yourself. . . . This isn’t the time to try to understand the things that float to the surface of your consciousness. Instead, it’s the time to simply note them and then release them to God. But as you recognize their presence, you become aware of what exists within you, and you have an opportunity to peek at the deep hidden work of healing and transformation that God is doing in your soul. This is the transformational way in which contemplative prayer works.    

Reference:
David G. Benner, Spirituality and the Awakening Self (Brazos Press: 2012), 226-227. 

For Further Study:
Steven Charleston, The Four Vision Quests of Jesus (Morehouse Publishing: 2015)  

James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed (Orbis Books: 1997)  

Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos, rev. ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020) 

Mitri Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes (Orbis Books: 2014) 

Richard Rohr, Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2019) 

Richard Rohr, Scripture as Liberation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2002), MP3 download 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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