From the moment of his conception, Man becomes a witness to the presence of the sacred and Divine. He alone, of all creatures knows God’s Name. Man is an Icon, a living image of the living God. Humbly, and with great simplicity, Man carries God’s loving kindness through the deserts and valleys, seas and oceans of life and death. The deepest mysteries of faith, hidden in the most simple and common acts of our daily lives, reveal us as co-redeemers and co-creators with Christ in the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
This is the simple foundation, the simple reality of prayer and contemplation. It is the Spirit praying in us, the Spirit filling our hearts with God’s desire. The Spirit has chosen Man for His humble abode, and in which He is the lover.
Every breath the body takes, every beat of its heart, the body knows as prayer. Consider- the lungs breathe the breath of all breathing; the heart beats with a pulse that is the surge of all rhythms arising in the Mystery of what we call God, where all is sustained- an intimate, endless, passionate embrace.
Does not the night continue to divide from the day, and the death of every thought and every cell become the mother of each new thought and the embryo of each new cell? Does not the body’s struggle with death end in victory by surrendering itself onto Life? Does not this breathing and the beat of the heart become the expression of time in the eternity of each moment? Is not the fleshy embodiment of each moment the mystery and reality of the Incarnation, and does not all that is incarnate in the vast reaches of Creation carry the promise of Resurrection in its own flesh?
Prayer is a turning of the experience of being to its Source, a longing born in our flesh and the vision of our truest desires. This longing is our first experience of God.
The heart of all Creation prays without ceasing in its rhythms of breath, blood, tissue, and purpose. Every cell, every atom, comes forth from this silent, attentive moment, the moment just now of an overwhelming necessity to love and be loved, that fills the heart of every event and every Being. It is the Word, the Light, the first and Maternal Waters of Creation, ever present, close and embracing, the ground of every cause, every event. Consider in silence. Consider in the first moment of silence, in the first moment of each silence reaching between the movements of thought. And let the breath, let the heartbeat, instruct the insatiable and restless mind- in simplicity.
Contemplative prayer is first and foremost hearing, a listening. It is the Word speaking. Words that speak in our bones and blood, words of the passionate, enfolding, and intimate embrace of that which we can know but never own. A unity so complete that at moments, we are unaware of being or not being, moments where memory is lost. Contemplation does not lead to knowledge but to Knowing. It arises out of the fruitful chaos of all Beginnings and is new and surprising every time we trust its promise- even if just for a moment.
Contemplation can have words, but is beyond all words. It can have thought, but is beyond all thought; takes place in time, but is eternal. It is as close as the beat of the heart and as distant as infinity. It is intimately personal yet touches all that arises in the womb of Creation, and is the song of all creatures. We must remember that the words commun-ity, commun-ion, and commun-ication all come from the same Latin root, communio which means being unconditionally joined together, being two as One in love. All things and all manner of things, fulfill their destiny within one another. We are One Body, two as one in love.
Contemplation is not a tool nor a method, it is not used to achieve anything; it is our poor heart reaching out for the living Joy, a longing that goes beyond need.
We enter into communion with God to be fully ourselves, where sin and perfection, weakness and strength are not contradictions, but life discovering itself in-love. Here we do not search for God, but allow God to find us, waiting naked and silent, allowing ourselves to be defined by the One Who defines all things, the One Who is the cause, the meaning, the reason, and the Fulfilling.
Only by ceasing to live from what we think we have, and be willing to abandon the riches of our achievements and strategies, only by releasing the mind from its addiction to restless distractions, can we live in relationship rather than ideas, conventions, and conditions. About this abandonment, Jesus said: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and follow me.”
St. Francis called this Poverty.
Poverty is the Grace of inviting God’s gentle, faithful presence into the humble events of our daily lives. This intimate prayer, the prayer of the 'poor in Spirit', alters our lives by allowing God to define us, to call us His loved one, to fill the simplest spaces and events of our life with the intensity of His Joy and Passion, to hold every space as our fulfillment, allowing God to Be, to be God.
Simple contemplation therefore, is not so much a specific prayer than it is a ceaseless openness to our neediness and longings, our need to be fully alive, our need to be continually in awe. It turns this need into a passionate participation in the gift of life and all of its unpredictable circumstances, allows us to enter into every event with hope, and carry Grace into every darkness. It allows us to experience the breath of God in each breath we take and confirms our living as precious and worthy, with its goodness and sin, belief and confusion, suffering and health. It allows us to face each other, to face death, to face Life.
This St. Francis called Joy.
Contemplation is a turning to attentiveness, to know as we are known; an eternal stillness in the Mystery of unconditional love that reaches gently and insistently through the fraternity we share with all creatures- we, who together, are the prayer of true praise that rises to the Father through the One who is One with the Father. It is the most humble and joyous of all prayers.
Pray without ceasing.
David Russell OFS,
San Xavier del Bac