May 25, 2012

Spiritual Contemplation

The following is a beautiful response by Richard Foster to a selection by Thomas Merton, "What is Contemplation?".  This selection was part of my devotions this morning from the book, "Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines" (Whew! Long name!):

"In discussing contemplation Thomas Merton reaches us in the most simple way possible, namely, by calling us to the love of God. He speaks directly to our condition when he says, "so many Christians...have practically no idea of the immense love of God for them, and of the power of that Love to do them good, to bring them happiness." In saying this he is teaching us that at its core contemplation is simply and profoundly falling in love with God over and over and over again. 
     In contemplation we are coming to dearly love and constantly delight in the "heavenly Father" who has been made real to us in Jesus Christ. We "see"- see with the eyes of the heart- that God is out to do us good always. We see, truly see, that there is no limit, no "catch" to God's goodness toward us. 
     Merton wisely reminds us that this perfecting love is not necessarily tied to what he calls "weird phenomena- ecstasies, raptures, stigmata and so on." Rather the transforming vision of divine Love and of our responding love is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes by means of "Wisdom and Understanding." In saying this he is following the lead of Thomas Aquinas who writes, "Love follows knowledge." In other words, love is the response of our heart, aroused in our will, by means of our mind's enthralling vision of the goodness of God. That is all. That is contemplation."

I hope it is as encouraging to you on this day as it was to me this morning. It's a completely mysterious thing- the discipline of contemplation to bring about wisdom and understanding. And it's only in that place that I realize the power of God's love. I so often forget that he is ultimately in control over my thoughts and emotions, even my worries which seem to pervade my mind each and every day. In this space of contemplation, I have realized it is the only time when I am able to feel complete and overwhelming peace and joy. It is a release of control and a realization that God all-powerful and all-knowing. This is when I feel the full effect of the Love of Christ.

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