-The following article is an excerpt from this Fall’s Live Oak Leaflet.-
The Contemplative Tradition
Richard Foster describes the contemplative life as “the steady gaze of the soul upon the God who loves us.” Such a life involves slowing down. It involves a deliberate but delightful rest in God, but perhaps also a struggling, a wrestling with God. Above all, it involves practicing the presence of Christ in our workaday lives.
Applying the Contemplative Tradition at Live Oak
-Silent prayer during chapel
Often the contemplative life has included meditation of a sort. However, unlike Buddhist meditation (when people sometimes focus on an object in the world in order to
lose themselves), Christian meditation shows us more clearly who we are by having us stop and focus completely on the God revealed to us in Scripture. It’s true that Thomas Aquinas and many others have taught that we cannot know God’s essence. Yet down the centuries, Christian meditation has drawn many people—including many of the same writers who emphasize what we can’t know about God—into the beautiful mystery of the Trinity.
Some of these men and women have talked about the sweetness and light of the presence of Jesus as characterizing Christian meditation. Others, like St. John of the Cross and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, have sometimes described it as coming into the darkness of God. But, whatever language they’ve used, these Christians have almost always spoken of two things: (1) a desire for God that cuts to the core of our being and (2) that God is totally different and totally beyond us.
And yet those in the contemplative tradition would also emphasize that God is irrevocably with us. Whether we sit in silent meditation, pray the psalms, or pray the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), we have a home in the contemplative tradition. All we have to do is “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb 12:2).
Joel Looper Grammar 6 and Rhetoric 1, Literature and Composition and Bible