Week 3: Bloom Abundantly
This month, we’re dipping into Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader (compiled and translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher). The past two weeks, we looked at selections from Hildegard’s major theological work, the Scivias.
Hildegard was also a prolific correspondent. She wrote letters to rulers, other religious, and friends. These letters are full of admonition, advice, and encouragement.
In the excerpts below, Hildegard writes to Empress Irene, the wife of Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Commenus. She speaks prophetic words of encouragement to the empress. Let yourself be encouraged, too:
Listen to what God’s Spirit has to say to you. In winter, God lets the tree He loves hibernate, but in Summer, He makes it bloom abundantly and protects it from every disease. This is you. Remember also that every polluted body of water is purified by the stream gushing from the rock in the East, a clean, fast-running river. Who is like this river? Those whom God grants success and honor. They’re not ruled by the poisonous North wind and its advancing evil.
Turn to God. Be confident that He has touched you. Continue to give Him the burnt offerings of your heart’s openness. Sigh, and know He hears you. . . . Yes, the Living Eye watches over you. He wants you to live eternally.
Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.
Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.
Author Tuesday: The Divine Dance (Mike Morrell), via Cara Meredith (an interview with Mike Morrell, co-author with Richard Rohr of The Divine Dance)
Tuesday Tip with Rich: A Mystic Love via Rich Lewis (with a quote to encourage you as you pray)
Jesus Is King, America Is in Chaos, Now What? via Ed Cyzewski (no matter what your politics are, read this post about turning to prayer in times of chaos and crisis)
Returning to a Ritual: Reading a Writing Book Each Day via Andi Cumbo-Floyd (with suggestions to get you started)
Why Reading Fiction Is Good for the Soul via Ashley Hales (I agree with everything in this essay because — true confession — fiction is what I love to read the most!)
Practicing From the Inside Out: Balancing Our Working Life via Greg Richardson (how’s your work-life balance right now?)
Week Three: Prayer without Judgment or Evaluation
In Finding Grace at the Center: the Beginning of Centering Prayer, a collection of essays by M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, and Thomas E. Clarke, Thomas Keating provides an extremely helpful introduction to centering prayer based on The Cloud of Unknowing, a Carthusian monk’s prayer guide for novices dated to around the 14th century.
Keating is especially careful to avoid overselling what “happens” during centering prayer. One may not expect incredible revelations or to even be fully in control of what happens during this prayer. Rather, intention becomes essential as we enter this form of prayer.
“[Centering prayer] is not an end in itself, but a beginning. It is not to be done for the sake of an experience, but for the sake of its fruits in one’s life.”
“The presence of God is like the atmosphere we breathe. You can have all you want of it as long as you do not try to take possession of it and hang on to it.”
“Accept each period of centering prayer as it comes, without asking for anything, having no expectations. In that way its fruits will grow faster.”
“We always want to possess. That is why it is so hard to leg go–why we want to reflect on moments of deep peace or union in order to remember how we got there and thus how to get back. But charity is non-possessive. It gives all back to God as fast as it comes. It keeps nothing for itself.”
“Take everything that happens during the periods of centering prayer peacefully and gratefully, without putting a judgment on anything, and just let the thoughts go by. It does not matter where they come from, as long as you let them go by. Don’t worry about them.”
“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38, NLT
How do we live by faith today? Mary faced one of the greatest stretches of faith that anyone could face, and she remained able to fully trust in God’s provision and plan because she knew her place.
As God’s servant, Mary only had to trust what God showed her.
It wasn’t up to Mary to figure out the plan or to provide the means. She didn’t imagine that she was in charge in any way, and with herself entrusted to God’s care, she didn’t have to be worry about what happens next.
Living by faith as the servants of God makes it possible to approach the challenges of each day with a peaceful confidence in God’s provision.
Week One: We Are Made to Love and to Be Loved
In Finding Grace at the Center: the Beginning of Centering Prayer, a collection of essays by M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, and Thomas E. Clarke, we find a brief and generally accessible (2 out of 3 essays at least) introduction to centering prayer and contemplation. The most important step at the outset is to reorient ourselves around God’s reality rather than our own.
We simply won’t proceed into centering prayer without accepting God’s love for us, learning to stop expending effort in order to pray, and stepping away from our many priorities and activities.
This opening essay by M. Basil Pennington offers several grounding statements that can provide the foundation we need to move forward into prayer:
“We have been baptized into Christ. We are in some very real, though mysterious way, Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. ‘I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20). As we go to the depths we realize in faith our identity with Christ the Son.”
“In a movement of faith that includes hope and love, we go to the center and turn ourselves over to God in a simple ‘being there,’ in a presence that is perfect and complete adoration, response, love, and ‘Amen’ to that movement that we are in the Son to the Father.”
“In practice most of us work as though God could not possibly get things done if we did not do them for Him. The fact is there is nothing that we are doing that God could not raise up a stone in the field to do for Him.”
“No one else can give God our personal love. It is uniquely for this that He created us.”
“If we expend great effort, then when it is done we can pat ourselves on the back and salute ourselves for our great accomplishment. This prayer leaves no room for pride. We have but to let go and let it be done unto us according to His revealed Word.”
Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.
Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.
Seasons of the Soul via Adam McHugh
How Gratitude Made Ann Voskamp a Contemplative Activist
Tips for Handling a Toxic Co-Worker (The contemplative response? compassion)
Thoughts on Contemplative SilenceThoughts on Contemplative Silence
Sleepy Wasps and Ecclesiastes via Tanya Marlow
10 Predictions for the Days After November 8 (Deep breaths folks…)
Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable
The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.
Learn how your support, through a one-time gift or small monthly gifts can keep this website running: Support Us Today
“But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Luke 12:7, NRSV
God is intimately acquainted with us, knowing our desires, faults, and needs as well as mental, physical, and spiritual identities. We are known deeply and intimately by our creator, and whether that sounds like good news or bad news for you, Jesus assures us that we are deeply valued by God.
Our creator has been deeply invested in our every detail. How could he stop caring for us?
We can talk ourselves out of his love. We can argue that we have sinned too much, become too complacent, and not done enough for God.
When God sees you, he sees a beloved creation that is known from head to toe. You are worthy of love and restoration simply because he is intimately invested in who you are as your creator.
Today’s prayer is from the Divine Hours:
“Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Read more in The Divine Hours.
Week Three: Real Freedom… from Ourselves…
What gets in the way of our freedom? Most of the time, we do!
In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr writes about the way the ego, our desire to uphold our self images, and the ways that we judge others all can lead us away from our true selves, union with God, and union with others.
This week’s quotes include the following:
“When we live out of the ego, we impose our demands on reality. But when we live in God’s presence, we await reality’s demands on us. “
“As long as we are comparing and differentiating from the other, we can’t love the other. We judge it.”
“Most don’t know how to surrender to God. How can we surrender unless we believe there is someone trustworthy out there to surrender to?”
“We don’t live in our bodies where we can feel our own feelings and trust our own experience. Instead, through commercials and advertisements and jingles we live in images and appearances.”
“I’ve seen far too many activists who are not the answer. Their head answer is largely correct but the energy, the style, and the soul are not.”
Week Two: Replacing Illusion with Reality
In his book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr writes about the great surrender that must take place before we can find God and our true selves in prayer.
He is quick to note that God is already present. In fact, we cannot escape God’s presence but we can obscure it or overlook it. Our illusions about ourselves or about God can get in the way.
Therefore the great goal of every spiritual practice is to help us move past our illusions, distractions, and oversimplified answers so that we can be truly present for God.
“We have no real access to who we really are except in God. Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can ‘everything belong.’ All other systems exclude, expel, punish, and protect to find identity for their members in ideological perfection or some kind of ‘purity.’”
“We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in every breath we take.”
“All spiritual disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be present.”
“When we look at the questions, we look for the opening to transformation. Fixing something doesn’t usually transform us. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. We must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the path, the perilous dark path of true prayer.”
“When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God, who works in the darkness—where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control.”
Read more in Everything Belongs…