By Kathy Keary
Our full series in the Contemplative Prayer Video Series is here.
Revisit earlier articles in our Contemplative Life Series here.
Just picture it: God kissing your soul before placing it in your body. Isn’t that beautiful? This is how some mystics through the ages have spoken about divine union. With that kiss, God placed in each of us a desire for communion with the divine. Throughout life we have a recollection of that kiss of perfect unconditional love. Even though that memory is quite vague, it continues to stir within us. We long for that kiss. We search for the source of that kiss. Until the source is found, there is a nagging in our hearts.
Acknowledgement of the indwelling spirit is fundamental in a discussion of contemplation. As people made in the image and likeness of God, the divine makes its home in the depths of our soul. Relax and close your eyes for a moment. Connect with the indwelling spirit. Perhaps you will sense a presence or a sense of calm or goodness or love.
The Holy One within us recognizes and is drawn to the divine in others. Several years ago my daughter and I travelled to Uganda to meet a young man that we had been sponsoring for many years. The bond that quickly formed between us was remarkable. A union was quickly cemented. I wrote the following in my journal as I tried to make sense of the experience:
Is it just random that the three of us became kindred spirits? “Highly unlikely,” I would say. God’s plan goes way beyond happenstance. Does this power that instantly connected us to one another reflect the familiar adage, “Opposites attract?”
I don’t think so.
There is no doubt that the Spirit of God ties us together in an unbreakable bond. How could strangers from such diverse circumstances welcome one another into the special place in the heart reserved for flesh and blood? A sacred love unexpectedly seized us and filled our inner most being with a divine presence as we willingly surrendered to the energy that begged us to call one another “family.”
As I reflect back on this experience, I realize that it was the divine presence within me that connected with the divine presence in my sponsored son in a very profound way creating this memorable union that remains to this day despite the geographical distance between us.
I invite you to reflect on moments in your everyday life when you have experienced union with another.
The divine within us also recognizes God in all of creation. It’s quite common in faith sharing settings to hear people comment that they find God in nature. I do too. It’s unmistakable. I am particularly drawn to trees during any season. An experience that occurred a few years ago stands out. I was travelling down a familiar road when all of sudden I came upon fall trees that made an arch over the roadway. The sun shining through the leaves increased the vibrancy of the autumn colors. I was in awe with a sense that I was travelling through an incredibly sacred place. The God within me recognized the sanctity in nature. Take a moment to ponder your experience of finding God in nature.
Thomas Merton in his book, New Seeds of Contemplation described contemplation as:
… life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent, and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes beyond reason and beyond simple faith. It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words, or even in clear concepts…
In a nutshell, contemplation is the awareness and attention to all of life through which we discover the embrace of God’s love. In contemplation, we remember the kiss from God that breathed life into our mortal frame. Living contemplatively gives us a greater sense of wellbeing and profound gratitude. It deepens our awareness of our connectedness and communion with others and all of God’s wonderful creation. It directs our minds and hearts to the truly important issues of human existence making us less likely to be taken off course by the many distractions found in our world.
As we continue our series on fostering a contemplative life, stay tuned for our next article that will highlight contemplation found in Scripture. Future articles will delve into spiritual practices that encourage this way of being in the world.
This article was originally published in The Contemplative Life Series on March 24, 2020.
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
Image above is “Wayfarer’s Walk in Autumn” by David Lally licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0