Today’s Bible reading

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.—Colossians 3:3-4

More thoughts for meditation

During Lent we will be learning from great practitioners and teachers of Christian contemplative practice. Their shared wisdom and encouragement will inspire our own practice. Our words for Lent are “We need to feel it.” — our hunger, our lack, our sin, yes, but also the love that casts out fear, the presence of eternity in our here and now and the forgiveness that transforms our lives and the whole world. Contemplative prayer is a powerful way to practice feeling it.

Martin Laird’s A Sunlit Absence is a companion book to Into The Silent Land (Pastors’ Goodreads review here and Daily Prayer entries on that text here). He is one of our aforementioned “great practitioner of Christian contemplation.”

Contemplation is like sculpting: “According to ancient theory of art, the practice of sculpting has less to do with fashioning a figure of one’s choosing than with being able to see in the stone the future waiting to be liberated. The sculptor imposes nothing but only frees what is held captive in stone. The practice of contemplation us something like this. It does not work by means of addition or acquisition, but by release, chiseling away thought-shackled illusions of separation from God…

If God is a sculptor, our practice is like a chisel that works effectively and patiently to remove stone. Just as the progress of chiseling, brushing, and blowing away debris and dust is not by way  of acquisition, the way an assembly of bricks and mortar acquires us a building, so the practice of contemplation does not require for us some thing. Contemplative practice proceeds by way of the engaged receptivity of release, of prying loose, of letting go of the need to have life circumstances be a certain way in order for us to live or pray or be deeply happy.” (Martin Laird, A Sunlit Absence, p.60-61).

“The wherewithal of human interiority to negotiate the spiritual journey runs deep. Awareness itself runs deep and communes with the Sacred are like the Hudson River meeting the Atlantic. The Hudson flows a hundred miles into the Atlantic, while the Atlantic reaches into the freshwaters of the Hudson up as far as Newburgh, New York. This type of union between waters is something St. Teresa of Avila herself finds useful in explaining the union between the soul and God. She says union with God ‘is like rain falling from the sky into a river or a pool There is nothing but water. It’s impossible to divide the sky-water from the land-water. When a little stream enters the sea, who could separate its waters back out again? Think of a bright life pouring into a room from two large windows: it enters from different places but becomes one light. Maybe this is what St. Paul meant when he said, “Whoever is joined to God becomes one spirit with him”’” (Martin Laird, A Sunlit Absence, p. 64-65.).

Suggestions for Action

Laird is talking about how we remove our “thought-shackled illusions of separation from God” when we contemplate. In other words, we both become more like God and more like ourselves. Our soul meets God like the Hudson meets the Atlantic, like the rain meets the river. There is a unity happening between us and God as we find God in us through contemplation. Return to the practice we’ve established this week and seek that unity.

But also, with your cell, family, or alone, consider what your though-shackled illusions are? What separates you from God? What commentaries run through your mind that block you from unity with God? The purpose here for thinking of these things is not so that you can rid yourself of them simply by acknowledging them. But rather, when you run into them in your own attendance of contemplation you are reminded that they are indeed separating you from God and return to your breath and your word, without extending the commentary. Have the commentary elsewhere so that you do not allow it to disrupt your prayer. Dialoguing with your cell or family or journaling privately is a good way to start.