Contemplation is not the stuff of charlatans, telepathists, and magicians. Contemplation is about very basic, very real things. It is about seeing God in everyone, finding God everywhere, and responding to all of life as a message from God. Contemplation is not a road show of visions. It is not spiritual snake oil. It is not an exalted state of being. It is simply consciousness of the Ultimate in the immediate. (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB. Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light).
I am really not able to write more or better than Sr. Joan Chittister wrote so eloquently in the quote above. Instead, I want us to reflect for a while on what does the quote have to do with Advent?
In many ways, our most sacred text known as the Holy Bible is misleading due to the many stories of miracles and extraordinary events. Before my readers get too worked up about what I just wrote concerning Sacred Scripture; I want us to continue to ponder what Sr. Joan wrote above. She is attempting to help us understand that contemplative prayer is about our relationship with God in the ordinary here and now. We want God to send us some magical bolt of lightening that takes all of our problems away. We want to use contemplative prayer and often centering prayer as a way to escape the reality of what is around us. However, God is seeking union with us, so that we may seek union with God in what is happening in front of us, or around us at this very moment.
In this Season of Advent, we are focusing on awaiting the arrival of our Savior to rescue us. We long for Christ to come in glory and take us away from the violence and misery we are witnessing in our world. There is another piece of Advent that is just as important. The God we are waiting for and seeking, has already come to us in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. God who is one with us in Christ is still among us in The Holy Spirit.
In the same book of Sr. Joan’s that I quoted above, I now conclude this reflection with the following quote.
Genuine Spirituality is not spent escaping from life to live in a mental state of unconcern or other worldliness. Contemplatives do not seek “visions.” They simply seek to know God, the God present in them and around them, in others and in everything, in Goodness and Truth, in universal love and universal peace. To contemplatives God is not a magic trick. God is the very breath they breathe.
How are you contemplating the presence of God in the here and now this Advent?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB