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Monday November 25 – A New Creation
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
 
What makes us a new creation?
 
Today's video of Fr. Thomas is a master-class detailing the arc of the spiritual journey, taking us through — and even beyond — what we have received thus far. As we open once again to his gentle, profound teaching and being, we may have the sense that now we are receiving these gifts from a deeper place in our hearts — perhaps into the very cells of our bodies.
 
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that once we dedicate ourselves to the contemplative practices of Centering Prayer and the Work of Inner Christianity, we are accepting God's invitation into a process of Divine Therapy, in which we experience two things at the same time: the affirmation of our basic core of goodness (what the Work calls Essence) and the purification of our unconscious (what the Work calls purification of the emotional center).
 
As we are faithful to our practices, we grow in the sense that beneath and beyond thoughts, emotions and sensations, there lies a realm of silence and peace. Even when we are barraged by thoughts and feelings, we may experience the freedom of disinterest in them as our attraction to the silence grows. Perhaps we go through periods where we experience delight and even joy or we may imagine that nothing is happening. At times, imagination and memory are suspended altogether; God is speaking directly from God's heart to ours. No matter the landscape of our prayer or daily life, as we persist in practice, our hearts are more and more able to intuit and receive that we are deeply loved by God. The gift of interior silence has been planted in us. Ever-so-gently, yet nonetheless inexorably, the Holy Spirit is taking over our prayer and, thankfully, our lives. We have found the pearl of great price and it is within us.
 
As we practice Centering prayer and the Work, our sense of self — who we have believed we are or wanted others to think we are — begins to be dissolved. We become aware of compensatory activity of blaming others to hide from ourselves the painful reality of our own unpleasant manifestations. Without self-condemnation, we are able simply to observe old, tired thoughts, behaviors, justifications and motivations — the human condition or what the Work calls the state of sleeping humanity. Through the experience of deep rest, God is working in us to loosen up, draw out of us and heal us of the repressed trauma of a lifetime. Awakening to our true identity in Christ, we are enabled to face — and even acknowledge to our friends on the journey — who we have been and no longer wish to be. We come to understand, as God does, that we are and always have been in essence  innocent.
 
"[Little] by little or perhaps all at once, there's a breakthrough in which we realize, perhaps for the first time, that we desperately want happiness — unlimited happiness, infinite love, infinite truth, infinite goodness and there's only one place to find it. In other words, happiness can only be found ultimately in the God who is happiness …"*
 
As our over-identification with what is not "I" is surrendered, enormous freedom opens up inside. Interestingly, this new spaciousness may move us into a period of dryness, disappointment, deprivation and even grief. The foundation upon which our lives have been built has crumbled away. With the loss of our "beloved" programs for happiness, everything we cherished — even our relationship with God, as we have known it — may seem to have vanished.
 
"[The] infusion of divine love … is now coming to us not only through … consoling experiences, but is coming to us just as surely — because of the growth of faith — through the experience of God's absence and through the diminishment of the support systems that we've used to sustain our spiritual journey."
 
"[The] office of the Divine Therapist begins to expand; the walls go down and when we leave the room, the inner room doesn't get left behind. In other words, we bring in to daily life this attitude, the sense of deep silence and peace which is more and more aware of God's presence …"
 
We've begun to learn that to "pray in secret" is the hidden, miraculous relationship with God in which "our job is to respond to the inspirations of grace as far as we can see it, and to allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit and to manifest the fruits of the Spirit first, which are charity, joy, peace, gentleness, fidelity, patience, self-control, and goodness. ... This is the empirical evidence … that the Spirit of God is alive in us."
 
The Divine Therapy guides us in the radical Way that Jesus modeled for us through his Incarnation. It takes us through the passion (conscious suffering), death (of the old self) and resurrection as the true Self — a new creation.
 
Finally, even beyond the certainty that we are daughters and sons of Love Itself and that the Spirit is alive in us, there is the mystery of the Ascension (what Bernadette Roberts would call the no-self condition) in which even that union between two is transcended and we become one with God, all other people and all creation.
 
A Meditation
 
"The beginning of the spiritual life is often difficult not only because the powers which cause us to worry are so strong but also because the presence of God's Spirit seems barely noticeable. If, however, we are faithful to our disciplines, a new hunger will make itself known. This new hunger is the first sign of God's presence. When we remain attentive to this Divine Presence, we will be led always deeper into the kingdom. There, to our joyful surprise, we will discover that all things are being made new."
-Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New
 
To Practice
 
Video Reflections: View the video excerpt "What is the Divine Therapy? Part 2" This excerpt is about 28 minutes in length. You will find it and a transcript here. If you would like to stream or Chromecast this video, use this link.
 
Examen: Henri Nouwen says, "If we are faithful to our disciplines, a new hunger will make itself known." Has this hunger awakened in you? Is there a sense of something new emerging?
 
Resources for Further Study:
 
Many of us didn't grow up hearing the terms used in the Christian contemplative tradition to elaborate the stages of the journey — terms like Prayer of Union, Prayer of Full Union, Prayer of Quiet, Night of Sense, Night of Spirit, Divine Union and Transforming Union. Though each journey is unique, it can be useful and reassuring to know about these stages, especially during challenging times. Instead of drawing false conclusions — "Something’s wrong," "I'm doing it wrong," "I'm all alone," "This pain is going to go on forever." — how good it is to realize that countless others have encountered and transcended similar milestones along the way! For more information on Divine Therapy, the process of purification and the stages of contemplative prayer, you may wish to read Chapters 12, 13 and 14 from Manifesting God, by Thomas Keating.

An archive of previous emails may be found here

* All Thomas Keating quotations are from today's video.
 
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