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November 14, 1997     The Message
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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana o Contemplative prayer By FATHER THOMAS KEATING, O.C.S.O. Catholic News Service St. Teresa of Avila said that all difficulties in prayer come from one single flaw: praying as if God were absent. All difficulties in daily life are probably the result of living asif God were absent. The impression often is given in catechetical or religious instruction that the self is outside of God and God is outside of the self. On the contrary, God is totally present to us all the time: closer than thinking, closer than breathing, clos- er than choosing, closer than consciousness itself. God could not get any closer. Creation is an ongoing event. It is not something that happened only once. We emerge from our Source at every micro-moment of time. The chief wound of the human condition is the mon- umental illusion that God is absent. We have self- awareness. But without the experience of union with God this self-reflection gives rise to feelings of fear, guilt or acute loneliness. Because the human heart is designed for limitless happiness, limitless truth and limitless love, nothing less than that kind of fulfillment can satisfy our innate longing. We all come into this world in a state of complete helplessness. Very early in our lives we have traumat- ic or painful experiences, such as moments when we feel deeply rejected or neglected. As a result we feel increasingly alienated and alone in an unsafe world. We try to compensate for these painful feelings by developing complex emotional programs that search for happiness in symbols of security, esteem and power provided by the culture or environment. What might be called the false self is the aggregate of these programs that compensate for the pain of our emotional wounds coupled with our overidentification with cultural values or disvalues. It is the source of all our ordinary thoughts and feelings. It is who we think we are. Contemplative prayer is a kind of divine psy- chotherapy that dismantles the false-self system. It helps to heal the deep emotional wounds of a lifetime and opens us to the possibility of experiencing, right here in this world, intimacy with God and divine union. In the apprenticeship for contemplative prayer that we call centering prayer, we sit in silence for 20 to 30 minutes and open up to the spiritual level of our awareness by disregarding the thoughts, feelings and impressions that are passing along the surface of our consciousness. Repeating a word of one or two syllables -- such as "God," "Abba," "Jesus" -- serves to maintain or renew our inten- tion. The stream of consciousness constantly is flowing by, like a riven On the surface of the river are all kinds of particular ideas, memories, sense perceptions and emotions that we might compare to boats. Indeed we are so dominated b/the awareness of all the boats that there is almost never a moment when we see the river itself. But sometimes God reaches up from within us and pulls us down into the divine presence. I have met people who have experienced this who have no particular religion. Such experi- ences are an invitati6n to begin the spiritual journey, not a sign that we have arrived. The Christian contemplative tradition recommends a disci- pline of prayer that enables us to disengage temporarily from our usual flow of thoughts. Our ordinary thoughts tend to reflect the mindsets, prepack- aged values and preconceived ideas that we learned in child- hood. To stop thinking about them for 20 minutes is like taking a :, .:. 7 : .T: " .- -.'/.. ':: i.  I!T " !, L! Our "stream of consciousness constantly is flowing by, like a Trappist Father Thomas Keating. "On the surface.., are all ticular ideas.., that we might compare to boats. Indeed we by the awareness of all the boats that.., we (rarely) see the river the Divine Indwelling, the God who is the source of our being." CNS illustration We move beyond thought s and intimate exchange with God reunion. We allow God to be God without is, but just that God is. The presence of God much-needed vacation. Beneath the surface of the river is the Divine Indwelling, the God who is the source of our being. In contemplative prayer, we allow ourselves to be in God's presence and to receive divine love without self- reflection. It is a totally receptive attitude. To pray as Jesus did .......... By FATHER JOHN J. CASTELOT Catholic News Service same breath Jesus entrusted himself to the divine will. As a result of this confident surrender, Jesus returned to his sleeping disciples with strong, confident resolve. This amazing change from anxious fear to calm resolve heartened his fol- lowers to pray as he did: to voice their honest concern, yes, but to trust that the Father would work in their best interests. Jesus' request was not granted imme- diately and he did drink the cup to the dregs, but the Father vindicated him in a way beyond all imagining by raising him to inexpressible glory. Even when the darkness of death closed in and all the light was going out, Jesus still could entrust himself with sure confidence tO his loving Father: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Earlier in Jesus' career a severe storm threatened to engulf the boat in which he and his disciples were crossing the lake. Through it all he was asleep in the stern, apparently unconcerned. When his companions roused him and reproached him for his noncha- lance, he stilled the storm and chided them: "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" (Mark 4:40) The community for which Mark wrote his Gospel was beset by all sorts of difficulties, a fragile bark on a storm- tossed sea. The people often were tempted to wonder where God was. Was God asleep, indifferent to their troubles? Mark assures them that this is by no means the case. It may seem so, but they must turn with confident trust to the Father, who does hear their prayers. The last words of the risen Lord in Matthew's Gospel are words of assur- ance: "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" It is this same Christ to in prayer, but our pra) in trust. Father Castelot is a author, teacher and lecturer. N00hell ....... ! i i : Like people Christians i7 What is the key to Jesus, to turn to the fident trust. i When we pray to Jesus we pray to the risen Christ to whom all power in heav- en and on earth has been granted (Matthew 28:18). But how can we visu- alize a totally transformed person exist- ing beyond time and space? Fortunately, this transfigured person is the same Jesus presented by the Gospels for our contemplation: the Word made flesh. This is the same Jesus who prayed to his Father, leaving us a model of prayer for our imitation. The first Christians evidently were impressed and encouraged by Jesus' prayer, especially his prayer in the gar- den. They were heartened by the effect this prayer had on him. Remember that Jesus cried out in anguish and begged his Father to take this "cup" from him. But in almost the ', i i