Meditation Readings: 11 and 12/12/2014

READINGS -  11 and 12/12/2014

Contemplating nature and silent prayer

By Kim Naraja
Evagrius’ ideas of approaching God, through scripture, nature and through pure prayer were fundamental in the life of the Desert Fathers and Mothers: “One of the wise men of that time went to find the holy man Antony and asked him: ‘Father, how can you be happy when you are deprived of the consolation books can give?’ Antony replied: ‘My philosopher friend, my book is the nature of creatures; and this book is always in front of me when I want to read the word of God.’
Evagrius further states: “As for those who are far from God...God made it possible for them to come near to the knowledge of him and his love for him through the medium of creatures.”
This is the level everyone can reach. Our attitude then becomes contemplative; we are aware of the Divine essence in everyone and everything, yet we are still in the world and very much a part of it. It is the level of the ‘contemplative in action’, who acts from his/her spiritual centre out of compassion. There is a very good illustration of this attitude in a story about St Antony:
St Antony had prayed to the Lord to be shown to whom he was equal. God had given him to understand that he had not yet reached the level of a certain cobbler in Alexandria. Antony left the desert, went to the cobbler and asked him how he lived. His answer was that he gave a third of his income to the Church, another third to the poor, and kept the rest for himself. This did not seem a task out of the ordinary to Antony who himself had given up all his possessions and lived in the desert in total poverty. So that was not where the other man’s superiority lay. Antony said to him, ‘It is the Lord who has sent me to see how you live.’ The humble tradesman,  who venerated Antony, then told him his soul’s secret: ‘I do not do anything special. Only, as I work I look at all the passers-by and say, ‘So that they may be saved, I, only I, will perish.’
We carry on doing our usual duties in the world, but are aware of the Divine. This awareness permeates our attitudes and actions. The examples in the Desert stories are of ordinary working people like us, which is very encouraging.
We find the same idea expressed in Celtic Christianity: “Through the letters of Scripture and the species of creation the eternal light is revealed.” (John Scotus Eriugena 9thc). It is therefore a human experience, not linked to a specific time or place. I am sure that many of you reading these ‘Letters’ have had a similar experience of a sense of wonder and awe, a sense of ‘more’, when faced with the beauty of nature, the beauty of a sunset.
This same experience is also afforded by silent prayer, to which many ways of prayer lead. But for me especially meditation enables this to happen. The key is the leaving behind of thoughts and images, even of God: “When you are praying do not fancy the Divinity like some image formed within yourself. Avoid also allowing your spirit to be impressed with the seal of some particular shape, but rather, free from all matter, draw near the immaterial Being and you will attain to understanding”
We don’t have to be perfect at the start of our pilgrimage to our true ‘self’ and the indwelling Christ. All we need to do is faithfully persevere on our journey of prayer and be open to change. Let go of fear, so love can take its place..
Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the Spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.
After meditation:  
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.” 
By Laurence Freeman OSB
May this Community be a true spiritual home for the seeker, a friend for the lonely, a guide for the confused. 
May those who pray here be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to serve all who come and to receive them as Christ himself. In the silence of this retreat may all the suffering, violence and confusion of the world encounter the Power that will console, renew and uplift the human spirit. 
May this silence be a power to open the hearts of men and women to the vision of God, and so to each other, in love and peace, justice and human dignity. 
May the beauty of the Divine Life fill this Community and the hearts of all who pray here with joyful hope. 
May all who come here, weighed down by the problems of humanity, leave, giving thanks for the wonder of human life. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.