With Great Reverence and Above Reason

But now see what it is to adore God: it is, in the Christian faith, with great reverence and above reason, to gaze in the spirit upon God, the Eternal Power, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth and all that in them is.— John Ruysbroeck, The Seven Steps of the Ladder of Spiritual LoveThe Anglican contemplative Maggie Ross is well known for her advocacy of beholding as a core element of contemplative practice, as seen in the title of her most recent book, Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Si … [Read more...]

The Great Blue Beautifulness

After this he said nothing for a while, and I laid myself on the floor of his garret, and stared up and around at the great blue beautifulness. I had forgotten him almost, when at last he said, 'Ain't you done yet?' 'Done what?' I asked. 'Done saying your prayers,' says he. 'I wasn't saying my prayers,' I answered. 'Oh, yes, you were,' said he, 'though you didn't know it! And now I must show you something else.'— George MacDonald, At the Back of the North WindThe Apostle Paul enjoins his r … [Read more...]

Are Contemplatives Privileged?

For some time now, I've noticed how gatherings of contemplatives often seem to consist largely of individuals who are well educated and/or affluent. As much as I love exploring the contemplative dimension of Christianity, I worry that only those folks who seem to enjoy a lion's share of our society's abundance appear to be pursuing the spirituality of silence. Is this just a projection of my own socio-political angst — or am I on to something here, some sort of blind spot within the c … [Read more...]

Two New Books on Prayer

I see in [Flannery] O'Connor an example of a person who has integrated her faith and her art so thoroughly that they have become one practice. In an era wherein such integration is not only rare but is considered by many people in both the sacred and secular realms to be anathema, O'Connor demonstrates that this can be done and done beautifully. Her own art becomes sign and symbol of the creative force that generates and governs the world, and so her writing becomes, both in practice and in … [Read more...]

In Reality You Are Precious

To yourself you seem of little worth, but in reality you are precious. Insofar as you forsook him whose image you are, you have taken on the colors of strange images. But when you begin to breathe in the atmosphere wherein you were created, if perchance you embrace discipline, you will quickly shake off and renounce this false make-up which is only superficial and not even skin-deep. Be wholly present to yourself, therefore, and employ yourself wholly in knowing yourself and knowing whose image … [Read more...]

Guigo II’s Definition of Contemplation

Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.— Guigo II, The Ladder of MonksThe most commonly taught method of lectio divina — involving reading the Bible or some other sacred text, reflecting on the text, responding to it in prayer, and then resting in God's presence in contemplative silence — comes from a short essay called "the Ladder of Monks" written in the twelfth century by a Carthusian monk c … [Read more...]

Contemplation and the Mind of Christ

Some folks — especially those who are familiar with my interfaith work, or my books from before 2005 about neopagan and non-Christian Celtic spirituality — might wonder why I am so committed to the path of Christ. Couldn't I explore mysticism and meditation and contemplation in a non-sectarian or exclusively interspiritual way?Well, yes, of course I could, and I hold no judgment for those who seek their spiritual maturity in such a transreligious way. But I would fear that, for me at least, t … [Read more...]