The Fundamental Need for Contemplation

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I have read several times in the past week items that convince me more and more of the fundamental need for every Christian to engage in the contemplative life.

At Pax Nortona Joel says I feel the same about abortion: we should concentrate on bettering the world for the children to come so that women who do face the awful choice might be moved to choose single motherhood as a viable option.

In comments at Disputations, Rob says:

Yes! Changing the hearts of prospective practitioners of any immoral behavior is, in the long run, the only fix that rescues both the prospective sinner and that sinner's potential victims. This should be the goal.

At one point I made a comment somewhere about eliminating the perceived necessity of abortion and the retort was "Abortion is unnecessary." That is a statement that is easy to make when one lives in a suburban middle-class neighborhood and has the luxury to spend much time blogging and commenting on world affairs. But I fear it is not the view of most of the young women who are driven to this extreme.

Before legislation will work, the society must be so fundamentally changed as to make the legislation essentially useless anyway. There need to be options for young women who find themselves in this "Sophie's Choice" in which the apparent choice is between "my continued existence on a subsistence level" and "the existence below subsistence I would have with this child." I know it is not the reality, but fear is rarely rational.

But this post is only peripherally about abortion. I bring up the comments above by Joel and Rob to acknowledge a fundamental agreement with the mindset. My solution, as always, is prayer--contemplative prayer.

Why contemplative prayer? How is it a solution? Our society is prone to a deadly invasive species of selfishness. Like fire ants, this selfishness builds edifices strong and large. If you stir it up, through legislation or most other means, as with a fire-ant nest, they immediately abandon the present burrow and set up one even stronger.

The only way to fight fire ants is by stealth. You don't disturb the mound, you quietly poison it. The culture of death is that fire-ant mound, it needs to be quietly poisoned. To do this, each Christian needs to show the alternative. I need to show the joy of the Christian life. Too often Christians are seen as angry, agitated, nearly irrational, in their approach to other people.

Each Christian needs to approach society with deep love, and love that goes beyond anything any person is capable of by himself. Only the instilling of the divine that comes through the intimacy that springs from conversation with God can effect this deep love. Vocal prayers, are a beginning, but not enough. Mediation is great, but insufficient. The only thing that can stand in the way of the juggernaut that threatens to undermine us all is contemplation and perhaps Union with the Divine. I think of St. John of the Cross' description of contemplation as "divinity by participation." Each Christian needs to truly become the hands, feet, eyes, lips, the person of Christ to a world in turmoil. It isn't possible to do this without God. To stand as Christ one must stand with and in Christ. He must be the one who speaks when one speaks to the world.

And I need to be prepared to sacrifice my feeling of comfort and "being at home" in the world. In this post Tom of Disputations is saddened by the number of Christians who seem to accept a life without joy He says, "They draw from the Resurrection not so much the Good News of salvation as an indictment of reprobation." And this is often true. While it is necessary to correct, it is rarely effective to make an indictment. Guilt is only rarely an antidote; more often it is a source of alienation. Jesus did not spend an hour lecturing the woman caught in adultery. Instead, he asked those who would condemn her whether they had any standing to do so. It is far too easy to think that I do.

Contemplation helps to cure this sense of superiority. In contemplation, the person praying encounters God as God and comes to Saint Catherine of Siena's conclusion as stated in the dialogues, "I AM who am, you are she who is not." If I acknowledge and live in this state, then I can have no standing for casting stones. Rather, first I rescue through Christ's redeeming love, and then I guide to the source of that love. Contemplation gives a true mirror of self which helps in all of these goals.

You ask me, "What is the solution to the problem of abortion?" And my answer is "Love Incarnate. Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and who calls us to life."
How do I best know Him? Through talking to Him, through intimate conversation and through abandonment of self.

If we are to change society, we must start by allowing God to change us. We must approach society not as Visigoths but as Michelangelos. We must bring not the promise of destruction, but the light of God's love. I cannot do this if I myself do not know that light.

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While I was studying for my MA in Theology, one of my professors loved to remind us that the best thing we could do for the church was become holy ourselves. Just as you say, Steven.

I like your fire ant analogy! Putting a life of prayer and holiness into action is a very stealthy way to make a difference in this world.

oooh...I have too many little circular scars on my ankles from fireant bites for that analogy(comes from gardening barefoot), but yes, it is the sneak attack that works best. The old saw about preach the good news always and if you have to use words, do it, is a good rule...but to do that, you have to be there.

For me, it's deep contemplation of the passion, and the wonder of a loving God who would go through so much that gives me a foundation that lets me do what I do...(and maybe has kept me from killing a teenager who has the ability to burst every one of my bubbles about me being a holy long-suffering never angry person!).

The passionate love of God lets us be passionate about him in our lives...and it shows, like being in love shows normally...

I thought your post and analogy as well as plea for prayer very beautiful Steven.

As a woman who has gone through 6 pregnancies and has 5 living children, I feel a need to roll up the shirt sleeves and do some corporal works in addition to the prayer and I'm sure you would agree with that.

The baby I lost at 23 weeks I got to hold in my arms and he had a humanity to him. He even died in a pose that looked as if he was trying to comfort himself and rest. It is that reality to me that makes this personal. These are real children being lost. We need to use every skill and tool in our command to save the children. The sooner, the better.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 6, 2004 7:30 AM.

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