„CONTEMPLATION AND COMPASSION: THE SECOND GAZE”

„Prayer is not the avoiding of distractions, but precisely how you deal with distractions. (See note)

Contemplation is not the avoidance of the problem, but a daily merging with the problem, and finding its full resolution.

What you quickly and humbly learn in contemplation, is that how you do anything is probably how you do everything.
If you are brutal in your inner reaction to your own littleness and sinfulness, your social relationships and even your politics will probably be the same—brutal. One sees a woman overcome this split in St. Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography, Story of a Soul. This young contemplative nun is daily dealing with her irritations, judgments, and desire to run from other sisters in the convent. She faces her own mixed motives and pettiness. She is constant in her concern for those working actively in the missions, and her goal is always compassion and communion.

Yet she suffers her own powerlessness to be compassionate until she can finally
break through to love. She holds the tension within herself (the essence of contemplation) until she herself is the positive resolution of that tension. Therese always gets to the second gaze.
It has taken me much of my life to begin to get to the second gaze. By nature I have a critical mind and a demanding heart, and I am so impatient. These are both my gifts and my curses, as you might expect. Yet I cannot have one without the other, it seems. I cannot risk losing touch with either my angels or my demons. They are both good teachers.

A life of solitude and silence allows them both, and invariably leads me to the second gaze. The gaze of compassion, looking out at life from the place of Divine Intimacy is really all I have, and all I have to give, even though I don’t always do it.
I named my little hermitage East of Eden for some very specific reasons, however, not because of John Steinbeck’s marvelous novel (and movie) of the same name. On a humorous level, it was because I moved here thirteen years ago, 300 yards “east” of Holy Family Friary where I had previously lived. (…) All my needs and desires were met in very good ways. It was a sort of “Eden.”
But I also picked the name because of its significance in the life of Cain, after he had killed his brother Abel. It was a place where God sent Cain, this bad boy, after he had failed and sinned, yet ironically with a loving and protective mark: “So Yahweh put a mark on Cain so that no one would do him harm. He sent him to wander in the land of Nod, East of Eden” (Genesis 4:15-16).

By my late 50’s I had had plenty of opportunities to see my own failures, shadow, and sin.
The first gaze at myself was critical, negative, and demanding, not helpful at all, to me or to others. I am convinced that such guilt and shame are never from God. They are merely the protestations of the false self as it is shocked at its own poverty—the defenses of a little man who wants to be a big man. God leads by compassion toward the soul, never by condemnation.

If God would relate to us by severity and punitiveness, God would only be giving us permission to do the same (which is tragically, exactly what has happened!). God offers us, instead, the grace to “weep” over our sins more than to ever perfectly overcome them, to humbly recognize our littleness rather than become big. It is the way of Cain, Francis, and Therese of Lisieux, who called it her “little way.” It is a kind of weeping and a kind of wandering that keeps us both
askew and awake at the same time.
So now my later life call is to “wander in the land of Nod,” enjoying God’s so often proven love and protection, and look back at my life, and everybody’s life, the One-And-Only-Life, marked happily and gratefully with the sign of Cain.

Contemplation and compassion are finally coming together. This is my second gaze. It is well worth waiting for, because only the second gaze sees fully and truthfully. It sees itself, the other, and even God with God’s own eyes, which are always eyes of compassion. It is from this place that true action must spring.
Otherwise, most of our action is merely re-action, and does not bear fruit and “fruit that will last” (John 15:16). It is all about me at that point, so I must hold out for the second gaze when it becomes all about God, about others, and is filled with compassion for our suffering world.

This alone deserves to be called Christian activity, and is far beyond the mere political or doctrinal correctness of either the Right or the Left.”

By Richard Rohr

Note

This text is from

The Eight Core Principles of the Center for Action and Contemplation

  1. The teaching of Jesus is our central reference point. (criterion)
  2. We need a contemplative mind in order to do compassionate action. (process)
  3. The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same. (emphasis)
  4. Practical truth is more likely found at the bottom and the edges than at the top or the center of most groups, institutions, and cultures. (perspective)
  5. We will support true authority, the ability to “author” life in others, regardless of the group. (non-tribal)
  6. Life is about discovering the right questions more than having the right answers. (primacy of discernment)
  7. True religion leads us to an experience of our True Self and undermines my false self. (ultimate direction)
  8. We do not think ourselves into a new way of living, but we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. (praxis over theory)
Reclame

Doi întelepti si o binecuvântare împartasita

E vorba de Fr Thomas Keating, monah cistercian, si de rabinul Zalman Schachter Shalomi.

O întâlnire în spirit între doi contemplativi care împartasesc aceeasi revelatie.

O revelatie care ajunge la om prin natura, prin Scriptura, si prin actiunea directa a lui Dumnezeu asupra unui suflet deschis, receptiv, doritor.

Lessons on Prayer

Seven Lessons on Prayer I learned from Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich Stained Glass, Norwich Cathedral. Photo by Ian-S, used by permission.
Julian of Norwich Stained Glass, Norwich Cathedral. Photo by Ian-S, used by permission.

The great medieval mystic Julian of Norwich is renowned for her theological optimism (“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”) as well as for her willingness to color outside the gendered lines (“As truly as God is our father, so too is God our mother”).

She certainly demonstrated a clear contemplative sensibility (“The fullness of joy is to behold God in all”) — so it surprises me that more people do not think of her as a master teacher in the art of Christian prayer.

That may be because she is somewhat overshadowed, in that department, by her contemporary, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing. But Julian has plenty of solid teaching, in her own right, on how to pray. The other day I was asked to give a talk at a nearby Episcopal Church on the subject of Julian’s teaching on prayer, so it seems to me it’s worth summarizing that talk here on the blog.

What Julian of Norwich taught me about prayer.

  1. God is the ground of our praying. In other words, God is the foundation of all prayer — vocal prayer as well as more meditative or contemplative prayer. Scripture is explicit that “We love because God first loved us,” in a similar way, we pray because God is in our hearts, inspiring us with a longing for prayer, for heaven, and indeed for the heart of God.
  2. Prayer unites the soul with God. Prayer makes the soul like God. In her original middle English text, Julian says that “prayer oneth (ones) the soul with God.” What a lovely and powerful image. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us one with God, but it is also the Holy Spirit who is the ground of our praying. Prayer is the means by which we recognize the oneness/union that the Holy Spirit has already given to us.
  3. God wants us to be generous in prayer and trust alike. To be honest, I’m still working on this one. I tend to be stingy with prayer — at least with the amount of time I give to prayer — and I’m very stingy with my ability to trust. Julian challenges us here: “Do you truly want union with God? Be generous, give your trusting heart and your praying soul to God, holding nothing back — and watch what happens!”
  4. It is God’s will that we seek God, gladly and merrily. Sure, everyone has bad days, but Julian warns us to keep from turning prayer into a dour duty or grumblesome obligation. Pray like you’re dancing with your beloved, not like you’re filling out your tax forms. And if you do tend to fall into tax-form-face when you pray, well, do something about it!
  5. Pray inwardly, even if it seems to give you no pleasure. It is bringing great benefit, even if you do not perceive it. Pray inwardly, even if you sense nothing, see nothing, even if you think you are achieving nothing. For it is in dryness and emptiness, in sickness and weakness, that our prayer pleases Christ most. See this in the light of #3 and #4 — sure, the ideal is to pray joyfully and generously, but in truth we don’t always pull that often. Yet Julian brings grace even to our messy, botched attempts at prayer. She suggest that when prayer feels the driest or drudgeriest, that’s precisely when the Holy Spirit is more at work in our hearts! Moral of the story: keep praying, no matter how it feels.
  6. In Christ’s eyes, our whole life is a prayer. A Jesus-music band from the 1970s called 2nd Chapter of Acts sang a song called “Make My Life a Prayer to You.” In itself a prayer, I’ve always loved that way of thinking about prayer — and about life. Julian says we don’t even have to ask: in God’s eyes, our life is a prayer. So, the question we must consider: what, exactly, are we praying to God with our life?
  7. The more the soul sees God, the more the soul desires to see God. Our longing comes from this grace. Indeed, The fullness of joy is to behold God in all. The corollary to recognizing that all of life is a prayer is to learn to see God in all of life. And that leads to joy — but it also leads to longing. The more we recognize God in all things, the more we yearn for God. It’s a beautiful, never-ending process: love opening up to greater desire and greater love.
The Showings of Julian of Norwich
The Showings of Julian of Norwich

Read Julian of Norwich for many reasons. Her visions are colorful, earthy, and insightful. She is truly a great mystic. But leavened within her writings is plenty of solid advice about how to deepen your own prayer life. So read Julian in order to learn how to pray.One of my favorite modern language translations of Julian of Norwich is by Mirabai Starr, called The Showings of Julian of Norwich: A New Translation. Another good option is the Halcyon Backhouse translation, Revelations of Divine Love.

Maybe the best way to finish this post is to quote Julian herself, with perhaps her most eloquent and lovely prayer:

God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I may ask nothing less that is fully to your worship, and if I do ask anything less, ever shall I be in want. Only in you I have all.