Sunday, March 6, 2011

Contemplative Outreach

"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”……….Matthew Chapter 6:5-8

This is taken from the Gospel reading for the Ash Wednesday, which is the Wednesday of the coming week. For my non-Christian friends; Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lent season in Christianity when we prepare for contemplation on the life of Christ and his ultimate sacrifice.
Spiritual practices such as Charity, Fasting and prayer (meditation) are very important part of our preparation during this period of the liturgical calendar. Of all the spiritual practices, praying is a very fundamental part of any spiritual tradition. But we seem to have got it all mixed up when we pray with a lot of words and through proclamation. It is exactly opposite of what Christ taught as seen from the above passage in the Gospel.

In theological classification, there are two types of approach to Christian mysticism and they are kataphatic and apophatic approach. Fr. Thomas Keating, the contemporary Trappist monk, has argued that Christian mysticism strongly endorses God's being unknowable. Instead, the distinction between kataphatic and apophatic refers solely to differences in the preparatory regimen employed in the “mystical way,” the former using “positive” techniques, the latter only “negative” techniques. Kataphatic preparation, he states, employs reason, imagination, memory, and visualization for getting into position for mystical consciousness. Apophatic preparation involves a practice of “emptying” out of other conscious content in order to “make room” for the apprehension of God, who is beyond our discursive, sensual natures.

Every one of us can use the apophatic route as mostly the kataphatic route tends to keep us in the mental and rational mode. I have many times asked my Catholic friends how can any one say the rosary effectively, as you are contemplating on a given mystery, saying a verbal prayer and counting the beads.

This is the reason why the concept of prayer itself should be clearly understood and in my personal experience apophatic method is effective when the intention of any prayer is clearly understood.
“The movement of total receptivity in prayer through infused contemplation is the direct route to two things: first, the affirmation of our basic goodness and the activation of all the powers that grace has given us to act in a divine way, like the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit and the Beatitudes;
and, on the other hand, the healing or the cleaning up of all the negative attitudes in the unconscious that we repressed when emotional trauma was too painful to bear, but whose energy
is warehoused in the body and is an obstacle to the free flow of grace and natural energies, however you might conceive those.”…….. Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ by Fr. Thomas Keating and Dr. Betty Sue

Meditating on a short verse from the sacred texts (Lectio Divina) and also employing contemplative prayer, wherein we are filled with a sense of gratitude for all that we have receive and all that we will receive in body and mind and opening up to the operation of the Holy Spirit in a process of purification. Remember the words of St. John of the Cross “Silence is the first language of God”. Hence if we want to converse with the Divine only silence is the best route.

May our spiritual journey in this season of Lent cleanse our body and mind so as to elevate our consciousness to a higher level.

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