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Having been over two years on a contemplative path, there are certain resources I would strongly recommend to others who want to learn to seek our Creator in silence.

Cover of "Experiencing the Depths of Jesu...

Cover via Amazonbeginners.  Try the ones that appeal to you – different styles suit different personalities.

Above all, remember that the purpose of spending time in contemplation or meditation is not about perfecting any given technique, but is to set time aside specifically to develop relationship with our God, the Lord of the Elements.  We enter a deliberate process that, even on days when we may not ‘feel it’, we can know that as we choose to draw near, our God will draw near to us.

If we struggle, or miss a day (or more) we can extend hospitality to ourselves, not indulging in guilt, but remembering always to begin again.

Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, by  French mystic Madam Jeanne Guyon has to top the list.  I discovered it only lately, and wish I had done sooner.  This work is a tutorial of how to begin and progress to marvellous depths and heights in a contemplative lifestyle.  We have difficulty quieting our minds in our culture, and this contemplative work greatly simplifies it.

Her way of scriptural meditation is to find God in the very words, taking everything in the passage that unveils the Holy One.

This method is called Praying the Scripture:

Choose a passage

Become quiet and humble before the lord.

Read a portion carefully.  Take in fully and gently what you read, going slowly.

Do not move on until you have sensed the very heart of what is written.  Plunge into the depths until revelation breaks over you.

It may turn into a prayer as you stay with it.

When you’ve extracted the essence of the passage and come to a deeper sense of calm, slowly and gently begin the next portion.

 

Her introduction to contemplation is called “Beholding the Lord“.

Take time apart just to wait upon God.

Come quietly.  By faith, turn your heart to the presence of God. Believe you’re in His presence.

Staying before the Lord, read a small passage.

As the reading gives rise to a greater sense of God’s presence, gently lay the reading aside and set your mind on the Spirit,  Christ in you.

Hold your heart in His presence, by faith.

Turn all your attention inward to the Holy Spirit in you.   He promised to make his home in us, that is where he can be found (Jn 14:23).

Feed on His presence.

Withdraw your mind from any distraction.  Keep turning within to the Lord’s presence.  By doing this you will win the war with your wandering mind, yet never directly engage in battle.

Stay where  you find the sense of His presence as long as it remains.  Don’t be quick to move on.

The translation in this version is accessible.  As I read it though, I substitute  “flesh” for  “self”.   The false self, or flesh, must indeed be denied, but my true self is the one that’s alive in Christ, and it is precious to him.  (I love David Benner’s clarification on this topic in his book “The Gift of Being Yourself“, which includes Christian meditation techniques.)

 

 Lectio Divina

For those with an intellectual bent, Lectio Divina may be a better starting place.  Literally translated as “Sacred Reading”,  it passes through four stages, actively engaging the mind, then the imagination, then listening, then stillness or contemplation.

Step one is simply reading a short scripture passage, but reading slowly.  Read the passage once, slowly if you can, then read it again.  This time breathe in and breathe out, then read the first word (say it under your breath).  Breathe in and breathe out and say the second.  It’s amazing how resistant our production-oriented minds can be to this, but go through it. Then  review the passage again.  Each time, note if there is a word or phrase that  catches your attention.  It may be different each time.

Step two is spending time on this word or phrase.  Repeat it several times under your breath, slowly.  Notice what images or emotions or sensory experiences arise as you meditate on your word.   Engage your imagination with it.

In step three, we consider the impact of the word we’ve chosen.  Does it require some change in us, in our thinking or behaviour?  Is it inviting us to see from a different perspective than how we have in the past?  Be still and listen for the Holy Spirit may lead you to.

Step four is to quiet ourselves even further, resting in the presence of God and remaining there, ending this time in contemplation.

There are many books on Lectio Divina out there, but I have to recommend Lectio Divina – The Sacred Art, written by a Catholic for non-catholics.  Potentially offensive in a couple areas when grouping Bible passages with sacred texts of other religions – it is still a feast of instruction, exercises and inspiration to begin and continue a Lectio Divina practice.  I’ve read it several times, underlining a lot of content, and I will read it again.  Eugene Peterson has also gone into this practice with his SOLO devotional scripture series, and Eat This Book.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Introductory Resources for Christian Contemplation and Meditation”

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