There are many misconceptions surrounding contemplative prayer, and perhaps one of the most damaging has been the belief that contemplative prayer is self-centered or self-emptying, disconnecting us from others. However, the Christian contemplative tradition aims to make us more aware of God’s loving presence.
For Christians, God is a loving trinitarian relationship that we participate in because of our adoption by Jesus. Contemplative prayer helps us clear away distractions in order to be more fully present for God’s love, and once we have been impacted by God’s love, we are in a better position to love and serve others. In fact, the desert fathers and mothers were often sought out for their wisdom and advice. Their greatest ministry followed their solitude and contemplation!
In this featured blog post, Carl McColman shares how contemplation has become distorted in some circles as a purely individual pursuit and then offers helpful clarification:
“Christian mysticism actually involves relationship in its most intense form — because it is a trinitarian expression of relationship: relationship with God, relationship with self, relationship with others. All three are necessary for Christian mysticism. For Christians, all three forms of love are necessary for contemplation.”
“It’s a paradox: we retreat into the inner room (including the solitude of silent prayer) not to escape from relationships, but rather to deepen relationships: all relationships (with God, self, and others). When we directly cultivate our relationship with God (as we do during contemplative prayer), we are simultaneously cultivating our capacity for authentic care of self and compassionate love of others. We are called into the silence but then led out of the silence, a rhythm similar to all the great rhythms of life: breathing in/breathing out, the heart beating/resting; work and Sabbath, day and night, summer and winter. Life is an alternating current: and so is the mystical life. We sink into solitude only to be sent forth into relationship.”
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