"Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversion initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One's way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place, which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond to everyday life with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that happens."
- Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
… I will never forget you.
- Isaiah: 49: 9, 15
… [T]he hour is coming in which
all who are in the tombs will hear
his voice and will come out …
- John 5: 28
In Monday's video we learned of the exuberant approach to Divine Union that is full of light and another approach that seems very dark. John of the Cross calls this the path of pure faith. Both paths are born of the great love of God for us in our particularity. In other words, the invitation that we receive is just the one for us.
Fr. Thomas explains in Invitation to Love, "In other words, we may be invited to the front entrance of the interior castle, or we may be directed to the service entrance. We may be invited to climb the front stairs, or we may be led up the back stairs. The back stairs correspond to the hidden ladder of John of the Cross. Which way is better? Nobody knows. What is certain is that both paths lead to Transforming Union. God … can be fully accessed only by pure faith. The purification of faith and love, not spiritual consolation, leads to Transforming Union.
"Transforming Union is a restructuring of consciousness, not an experience or set of experiences. In the course of this restructuring, the presence of God becomes a kind of fourth dimension to the three-dimensional world in which we have been living. In the light of Transforming Union, therefore, the most important element in contemplative prayer is the practice itself, not in its psychological content. If we fully grasped this truth, it would make the spiritual journey much easier. At the beginning of the journey, our expectation of what should happen and our commentaries about what is happening are the causes of most of our anxiety and distress. …
"One final word of caution is in order. While we may talk of the divine 'plan' and outline the stages of the spiritual journey as presented by the great teachers of our tradition, the only thing we can be absolutely sure of in the spiritual journey is that whatever we are expecting to happen will not happen. God is not bound by our ideas. … If we have read widely and expect that things are going to proceed according to our understanding, God will reverse the normal order for our benefit. One way or another, we will have to take the leap of trust into the unknown."
-Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love
"For I know well the spring that flows and runs,
although it is night.
"That eternal spring is hidden,
for I know well where it has its rise,
although it is night. …
"Its clarity is never darkened,
and I know that every light has
come from it,
although it is night. …
"This eternal spring is hidden
in the living bread for our life's
although it is night.
"It is here calling out to
and they satisfy their thirst,
although in darkness,
because it is night.
"This living spring that l long
I see in this bread of life,
although it is night."
-John of the Cross, "Song of the Soul that Rejoices in Knowing God through Faith," The Collected Works of St. John of The Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
Examen: We hear of others' exuberant declarations of light and love or life-long perseverance in darkness. We have our own experiences of light or dark, or perhaps both. Yes, there are stages in the journey, yet they are unpredictable and individual; God can reverse the normal order for our benefit. Our calling is simply to participate in the fullest, deepest sense possible in this great plan of Creation. And then, "you will come under what really belongs to you, rather than what does not belong to you."*
Each morning and for the next week, consider reading as prayer John of The Cross' canticle to the dark after Centering Prayer.
What are you experiencing at this time? You may wish to share your reflections in your journal or your Journey Group.
*Maurice Nicoll quoted in "Self-Observation," Developing Higher Consciousness Newsletter, August 2019, published by Rebecca Nottingham
An archive of previous emails may be found here.