Accepting the invitation:

And discovering what we already have

making bread

In meditation, we are not trying to obtain anything. We turn ourselves to what is always here, present, more intimate to us that we are to ourselves, to paraphrase the famous words of St. Augustine.[1]

As the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, put it, in prayer (and the simple meditation we practice is prayer):

“…we discover what we already have. You start from where you are, and you deepen what you already have, and you realise you are already there. We already have everything, but we don’t know it and don’t experience it. Everything has been given to us. All we need to do is experience what we already possess.”[2]

This is a crucial point of orientation, rooted in the astonishing Christian message about the deepest truth of who we are, which profoundly influences how we approach our practice and our wider understanding of prayer.

We don’t need to invite God into our life, because he is our life.[3] Rather, we need to accept God’s invitation to fully inhabit our life. In a very real sense, this is all we are doing when we meditate — accepting God’s invitation to fully inhabit our life.

After realising that all he was searching for had always been within him, St. Augustine wrote:

“You were within me, but I was outside.

There I sought you, as I rushed about among the beautiful things you had made.

You were with me, but I was not with you.

The beautiful things of this world kept me far from you.

You called. You cried. You burst through my deafness. You scattered my blindness.”

Like countless witnesses before and since, Augustine beheld that the fullness of truth and goodness and love we call God is not only present, but is the deepest truth of our life.

We cannot be separate from God any more than a wave can be separate from the sea or a ray of light from its source, because our very being is God’s ceaseless self-gift of himself. But we can spend much of our life unaware of this essential union: “You were there before my eyes, but I had deserted even my own self, and I did not find the God of my own heart.”[4]

Augustine realised that all the time he had spent rushing about searching for God in all the beautiful things of creation, God never been absent from his life, but he had been absent from his life.

In meditation, we practice not rushing about by greeting our thoughts with stillness and silence. We quietly turn away from thoughts about our life and return to our actual life, to the heart of who we are, where Christ dwells and has held us from all eternity.

Though it may seem to us now, St. Paul writes, as if we are looking into a clouded mirror, in an enigma, we will be brought to see “face to face,” to know fully, just as we are known fully.[5] The whole point of the New (or re-newed) Covenant, the new relationship with God proclaimed by Christ, is that the Torah, Logos or Word that God had inscribed on stone for Moses to keep in the tent or temple, was identical with the Torah, Logos or Word equally inscribed by God on the heart of the mind of every person, and what is inscribed there is the very nature of who we ultimately are: “God from God, Light from Light.”[6]

We are made in the luminous, pristine image of God.

In meditation, we discover what we already have. We don’t invite God into our life: we accept God’s invitation to fully inhabit our life. What does it look like to more fully inhabit our life?

Compassion…

[1] See Augustine, Confessions, 3.4.

[2] ‘The Hidden Ground of Love: The letters of Thomas Merton on Religious Experience and Social Concerns’, edited by William H Shannon (page 350).

[3] “God is your being” writes the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, while reminding us that we are not God’s being (see chapter 1 of The Book of Privy Counselling).

[4] Confessions 5.2.

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:12.

[6] In the words of the Nicene Creed.

School of Contemplative Life
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