‘Contemplation is available to any man, woman, or child who is humble enough to want God, and want Him very much for His own sake’ (Michael Ramsey).
Through the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we lost that pure desire for God. Our state of ‘being’ in the image of God became one of ‘seeing’, ‘wanting’, and ‘having’, the beginning of modern ‘consumerism’.
As we give time to God, with no strings attached, ‘going in and shutting the door’, so god begins to build back into the soul that desire for him for His own sake. In that way time and desire are two sides of the same coin.
‘The heart of man is deceitful and wicked. Who can know it ?’ (Jeremiah 17, 9). It is the Word of God living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes and of Him with whom we have to do’ Hebrews 4,12-13). ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly’, says St. Paul (Col. 3,16). The Blessed Virgin Mary encourages us here, ’Mary kept all things pondering them in her heart’ (Luke 2,19).
God introduced himself to Moses at the burning bush as, ’ I AM ’ (Ex. 3,14). Therefore the ‘I AM’ sayings are especially pertinent in riveting the attention of our hearts upon Him ’with whom we have to do’. ‘I am the way’; ‘I am the truth’; ‘I am the life’, are examples from the New Testament. As we stand still, ‘taking the shoes off our feet’, so God begins to direct our lives by speaking to our hearts, the centre of our emotions. The word is repeated inwardly, silently, until it is God speaking to our hearts as ‘I AM’ spoke to Moses. A physical parallel is in putting up a saline drip into the body.
On the journey into God there are many stages, as many as there are making the journey. One could sum up the stages as in the way of purgation, the way of illumination and the way of unity, leading us to the abiding truths of St. John’s Gospel, ‘Abide in me and I in you. Ask what you will and it will be done for you’ (John 15).
A Road Prayer: ‘Lord of the Road we beseech Thee, Guide us upon our way, sending Thy light in the darkness, turning the night into day. Make us to walk where we cannot, held in thine arms lest we fall, leaving the all behind us, till we rest in the ALL. Love in the midst of the Godhead, Father and Spirit and Son, Lost in Thy glorious oneness, make us by union one’. Amen.
The journey into God who dwells in us through the desert of self has been described as the most perilous journey in this world. As Jesus says, ‘The way is narrow and few there be that find it’ (Matt. 17,4). It is indeed, ‘The pearl of great price’. (Matt. 13,45). Direction by a soul that has walked that way is necessary, if not essential, and there are pitfalls and few signposts in the desert apart from those God may graciously provide. The soul knows if God has called it, and in setting out will never be satisfied in turning back. ‘As the hart desires the water brooks, so longs my soul after thee’ (Psalm 42,1).
Meditation is an aid on the Way, but contemplation is the norm. ‘Seek ye my face. Thy face will I seek’, says the psalmist. So contemplation is that which God infuses in the soul by His call, and that which we attain to by our response to that call.
Kevin Joyner is a retired priest who lives in Victoria, Australia.