Contemplation Again

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Tom of Disputations says:

It might be helpful to distinguish between "living in the presence of God," where one's heart is lifted toward God even as one goes about daily life, and "ascending to God," where the soul is more or less captivated by God Himself and any awareness of daily life dims or fades away entirely.

Ascending to God is an attenuated awareness of reality? We call that psychosis, not contemplation. And yet this seems so popular a misconception of what contemplation truly is. Do we really think that the contemplative Saint has some sort of etiolated, breathless, and ethereal relationship with the world? Is the contemplative Saint a wan and otherworldly figure floating through this life just waiting for the gates of heaven to open, unaware, unseeing, unfeeling, a ghost-like wraith? That's not a saint, that's just weird.

If anything, because the contemplative saint has the right ordering of priorities and duties, and the saint that has experienced Union with God becomes God by participation (whatever that means) it would seem that they would see reality as more real. They would love things as God loves them (it would seem.) Their relationship with reality would be stronger, not weaker. They would be able to say as St. Teresa did in advising her nuns, "If you think you are having visions, perhaps you ought to eat more." They would dance in the courtyard and play tambourine. They would sit under the stars of an Andalusian night and see the splendid handiwork of God and love Him all the more for it.

Contemplation is not about breaking away from reality and creation, it is about embracing it in its right and proper order. It is about loving things with the love due them and not with disordered affection. The true contemplative lives constantly in the presence and perhaps even in the heart of God, but he is no less a human being here on Earth. Think of St. Francis among the animals, the canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. This expresses the fullness of the contemplative life. We mustn't think of it as some sort of attenuation of presence in the world. It is a reification of God's love for the world. He gives us the contemplatives so that we can see what reality is all about. They are our examples of how truly to look at the world.

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Okay, so don't distinguish between "living in the presence of God" and "ascending to God."

Should I have said, with St. Teresa, "union" and "rapture"?



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 19, 2004 5:57 PM.

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