Wake up. Be alert.
Henri Nouwen told Richard Rohr in Nouwen’s later years: “Stop traveling, stay home, and teach contemplation.” This was a startling request for Rohr to receive. However, Rohr knew it right and has diminished his travel and increased his teaching on contemplation.
Teaching contemplation has long been the work of Thomas Merton and other Franciscan and Ignatian monks. They received the tradition from their church fathers and mothers, including Theresa of Avila.
Contemplation gets a bad name because it too often gets translated “empty your mind.” The fear is that if we empty our mind, it will make room for the devil to enter it. However, emptying is a Christ word. We see this in Philippians, “He emptied himself.” Sometimes I would prefer to translate the Greek word, kenosis as, “He gave himself away.” The act of Christ is first an act of generosity, so is contemplation
Contemplation is not emptying but making room; it is a generous disposition to God as to say, “Please come in; abide with me that I might abide in you.” Contemplation is releasing ourselves from being stuck in the spin cycles of our minds. It is asking God to take all of the noise in our lives and to enter our lives through silence. This is what happens on Mount Horeb for Elijah:
“Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard the silence, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13
This is also what the Psalmist declares:
“For to you, O Lord, silence in praise” Psalm 65:1
Finally, Jesus invites the disciples to silence:
Jesus said to them, “Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.”
No wonder Nouwen told Rohr to stop talking and to teach silence.
The parable from this past Sunday asks us to be alert, to keep watch, and to be prepared, for we do not know the day or hour. This is not an invitation to perpetual anxiety or fear; The Bible charges against this time and again. It is an invitation to patient presence and wise waiting; this is contemplation through centering prayer. Christian tradition suggests this attentiveness comes through the discipline of silence.
We tried this exercise briefly on Sunday during worship. The instructions are simple. We encourage you to try this 2-3 time over the coming week. We pray you experience what Paul foretells:
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5
Instructions for Centering Prayer
These are borrowed from Gordon Cosby’s sermon from Church of the Saviour, “Instructions in Centering Prayer.”
Pick a suitable time and place,
Find a position that is relatively comfortable
Choose a sacred word that expresses your intention of connecting to God. Let it be a single word of one or two syllables with which you feel at ease. Some examples: God, Jesus, Spirit, Abba, Peace, Love, Cross, Shepherd, Mercy, Grace.
Say it. Then every time you get distracted in the silence, say the word to bring you back to quiet.
Close your eyes.
Breathe in and out, slowly.
Sit quietly for 20 minutes. This is from Thomas Keating: Twenty to thirty minutes is the minimum time necessary for most people to establish interior silence.
Open your eyes.
Go about your day more alert and attentive to the presence of God in the world.
The Kingdom of God is breaking into the world every day. The parables call it many things. The way to find it, however, is largely through a quiet life that centers us enough to see it unfolding before our eyes each and every day. My hope is that centering prayer opens our eyes to the presence of Christ.
Grace & Peace,
The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids[a]took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids[c] got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids[d] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.[e]