Why Contemplative Living is For Everyone paul tillich once lamented how the word 'faith' had become so widely misundersto od (giving us the concept of ultimate concern) ... the word 'contemplative' has been similarly misunderstood, so i'm ready to abandon it & substitute 'eucharist ic living' in its place it's unfortunate that 'contemplative' is so often narrowly conceived as merely a prayer style or even more often misconceived as a personality type contemplation is not distinguished from action such that it could complement or supplement it but instead describes how one orients toward and thus participates in reality, so it entails much more than a set of ascetic disciplines, much mor e than one's periods of sitting contemplative, in my view, refers to eucharistic living, which incorporates all prayer forms, enjoys expression in all personality types & is embodied by all sp iritualitues as such, transcending (embracing all) personalties & spiritualities, a contempla tive or eucharistic participation proceeds 1) with an abiding awareness (anamnesis or not forgetting or always remembering) 2) in abiding thanksgiving (all is gift, hence, with deep gratitude & great humil ity) 3) in an abiding covenant relationship (in a context of loving promises & hope-f illed plans) 4) from an abiding source of sustenance & nurturance (a meal that imparts life i n the fullest sense) 5) with an abiding intimate presence of God realized pervasively in manifold & m ultiform unitive ways thus conceived as abiding eucharistic participation, how might various vocationa l commitments affect contemplative experiences? because vocational commitments are formative & transformative & thus typically m ature us as persons, they often serve to more fully develop our weaker functions (jungian or myers-briggs), so, our contemplative experiences should both deepen a nd broaden, which is to say that they should become both more depthful (constant ly abiding) and more richly textured (less context-specific, less compartmentali zed, more diverse vis a vis jungian functions, iow, essentially more abiding) so, more than one moment of prayer among others (contemplatio remains that, too) , a cultivated contemplative stance or eucharistic outlook will more depthfully ground & more richly texture our engagements of lectio, oratio, meditatio, opera tio, science, philosophy, culture, religion, family, work, play, REALITY (God, s elf, others, creation) because the contemplative stance can be realized by all temperaments & expressed through all jungian functions, the ascetic disciplines that foster this stance are accidental to what we might call an essential contemplation the good news, then, is that we can develop alternative disciplines when thwarte d on our chosen path the bad news, though, is that the hardwiring of our temperaments neither changes
rapidly nor pervasively ... while we do grow our weaker functions thru a lifeti me of psychological individuation, for most these changes are incremental & mode st ... there is no indication that God's plan for humanity is that we all fully develop all jungian functions ... there is every indication that these temperame nt differences are, instead, gifts, whereby we enjoy diversity & celebrate it accordingly, when vocational commitments challenge us temperamentally, not only in our prayer lives but in all aspects of living that can be very sensitive to t emperament differences, we need toÂ€ communicate our needs to family, friends & coworkers who will properly interpret them & compassionately advocate our legitimate concerns, helping us come up wit h creative strategies, some which will allow us to indulge our temperamental nee ds, some which will challenge us to grow our temperaments in new directions see prior discussions here regarding type-falsification, which can present very real dangers Early on the journey, felt consolations play a significant role in our spiritual formation, seems to be the general pattern. Growth in intimacy is quite the ess ence throughout the journey but we eventually realize that feelings are not esse ntial. Intimacy remains important. The 'felt' part, not so much. But how can thi s be? The spiritual literature explores all sorts of reasons for alternating consolati ons and desolations, sensible fervor and terrible aridity, some spiritual, some psychological, some due to virtue, some due to vice. Knowing that under the best of circumstances that our aridity may come from our drawing even more close to God in intimacy may be little consolation, itself, to the poor suffering soul, w ho must persevere, sometimes, for a very long time. Remain in some form of commu nity and you'll be given spiritual bread sufficient for one day at a time even i f the fires of first fervor don't reignite until the beatific vision.
The eremitic vocation aspires to realize many of the kingdom values articulated here. To aspire to realize these same values in a life not lived as a hermit pre sents special challenges but no too few souls seem to find themselves living out apostolic commitments but with eremitic sensibilities? in a sort of blended voc ation, which has both very special blessings & very challenging burdens. Vocatio ns and spiritualities are often reflective of temperament preferences but life d oesn't always afford us the ideal situation. Those of us who live in affluent, m obile societies take for granted how many choices we have vocationwise of which others could never even dream? there is something about DESIRE & longing, in and of themselves, that, even in a ridity, becomes a consolation, strange at first but which later becomes a famili ar companion, almost a cherished affliction that keeps one's beloved in heart & mind even when out of sight, like a pebble in our shoe we call 'dare' to the extent Merton sought to democratize contemplation, it seems to me that he was discussing how it is we grow in intimacy, as a matter of degree ... and the re are many vocational paths & spiritualities that reflect different temperament preferences, all which can enjoy the highest degrees of intimacy, though in man y different ways ... it is the contemplative stance in this democratized sense t hat i thus broadly equate with eucharistic living but i appreciate that the contemplative approach has also been more narrowly con ceived traditionally & in a manner that precisely reflects vocational and/or spi ritual paths, not reflecting different degrees of intimacy but different types o f intimacy, a different way of being present
as a vocational call, it can draw one irresistably! the meaning of the contemplative life per Merton i offerred the eremitic vocation as analogous not exhaustive, particularly affir ming of the notion that, as a vocational calling, the contemplative life is este emed and valued ... i refer folks to those paragraphs on the eremitic life in th e catholic catechism this democratization beyond forest cells & cloister walls is providential for ou r times ... it affirms that all prayer and vocations can be graced, mystical, fr om the same Origin, which is to acknowledge that distinctions such as super/natu ral and acquired/infused become irrelevant theologically, prayer experiences dif fering not in kind vis a vis Origin although still very much differing in degree , which is of signal importance in spiritual direction vis a vis discerning a di rectee's level of cooperation (even docility) to the Spirit & what prayer forms and ascetic disciplines are thus variously suitable the three articles below elaborate on prayer forms available to modern contempla tive aspirants & the latter part of the Merton article more precisely addresses strategies for the lay contemplative as you well articulate, the contemplative approach has become much more broadly conceived ... i would add that, while distinctions between ordinary & extraordin ary degrees of experience remain salient in spiritual direction settings, certai n other classic distinctions are less defensible theologically, which is very im portant because it reinforces the notion that the invitation to contemplative pr actice is, indubitably, extended to all still, i think we might properly distinguish between life's ubiquitous contempla tive dimension, which all need to develop as part of their vocation and a contem plative vocationper se ... in the same way that all are called to eucharistic par ticipation but not all are ordained as eucharistic presiders, all are baptized a s priests, prophets & kings but not all have a juridical sacerdotal ministry ... some contemplatives bear cosmic tensions in their being and midwife transformat ion --- not only their own, but --- for a creation groaning in the great act of giving birth THE MEANING OF THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE ACCORDING TO THOMAS MERTON by Fr. James Con ner, OCSO. The Carmelite Tradition and Centering Prayer/ Christian Meditation By Ernest Lar kin, O.Carm. Today's Contemplative Prayer Forms: Are They Contemplation? By Ernest E. Larkin O. Carm. Originally posted by Phil: Knowing that God was present and loving was a good th ing, but that kind of intellectual affirmation is no substitute to realizing thi s in the depths of one's being -- in one's bones, as it were. JB: Perhaps some of you might comment on this point. What is the essential nature of such a 'knowing in one's bones' ? We do not validate contemplation psychologica lly, such as via affective overtones, but spiritually via manifested fruits? We authenticate ortho-doxy via ortho-praxy with a deemphasis on experiences and an emphasis on fidelity to practice? The contemplative stance gifts us with love &
compassion as essentials but whether it otherwise takes one down the path of lif e via joy or sorrow, light or darkness, deep fervor or desert aridity (usually v arious mixtures thereof) - those are more accidental? This 'knowing in our bones ' then is holistically characterized in terms of ... ? I don't offer this rhetorically or over against as I suggest that such knowing w ill be grounded in that reality we know in our bones as love, which needs no apo logetic, which enjoys a radical just-because-ishness as it claims its victims, w ho emerge always as victors. It would be heretical to deny an erotic dimension i n our relationships vis a vis God, others, self, ego and creation, but the conte mplative life precisely goes beyond it in its realization of agapic dimensions ( cf Bernardian love per Merton). Our pursuits of truth, beauty, goodness and unit y are their own rewards (intrinsically so & quite often with few extrinsic rewar ds, save those gratifications often deferred to the eschaton, otherwise even tem porally very punishing) as we surrender understanding to faith, memory to hope, will to love. It is robustly relational, intensely personal, beyond the evidenti al, empirical, logical, rational, moral, practical and functional, even as not w ithout these horizons of concern. The Carmelite Tradition and Centering Prayer/ Christian Meditation By Ernest Lar kin, O.Carm. http://www.carmelitanacollection.com/larking.php Today's Contemplative Prayer Forms: Are They Contemplation? By Ernest E. Larkin O. Carm. http://carmelnet.org/larkin/larkin091.pdf THE MEANING OF THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFEÂ€ ACCORDING TO THOMAS MERTON by Fr. James Conner, OCSO. http://www.thomasmertonsociety.org/conner.htm