Second Sunday of Lent ~ Have you been to the mountain?

The Second Sunday of Lent ~ February 28, 2021

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

The story is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand. We usually associate this event with Mount Tabor, which is in the south of Galilee. However, Mark tells us this event happened eight days after events in Caesarea Philippi which is in the north. Not on that, Tabor is only about 1,000 feet high, and in the time of Jesus, Barclay indicates there was a fortress on top. It’s much more likely that this event took place amidst the eternal snows of Mount Hermon which is 9,200 high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi. 

Jesus took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray. On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on.

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so wrapped up in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.

~ There are others of us who refuse to think about anything. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix or read Orwell’s 1984?

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Mark pp. 210–11.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice from the cloud . . .  (Mk: 9:8.)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

The saint is talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilarating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith” . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

You are my beloved son / my beloved daughter; listen to him!

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is the Messiah who suffers for us.  

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even one mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is a hymn based upon the words “This is my beloved Son: Hear him” Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Mark                                                                                    Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

Centering Prayer and the Importance of Silence in our Lives

Centering Prayer and the Importance of Silence in our Lives

Most of us learned that Prayer is talking to God. Right? And so we babble on in our prayers and list all our needs, or say a rosary, or read Scripture—all certainly worthy methods of prayer, of course.

But how many of us really learned to listen to God in our prayer? That requires silence. And many of us are afraid of silence because we may not like what’s running around in our head.

However, true silence can be acquired. “Silence is God’s first language,” according the sixteenth century mystic Saint John of the Cross. When one enters into silence, that person, sooner or later comes into—and experiences the loving presence of God. To help facilitate the process and habit of entering into this kind of silence is what Centering Prayer is all about

If you permit me a little fun with you, perhaps you’ve noticed that I sign off on my writings by saying “contemplative writer.” When you say that word, by the way, it’s contemplative, not con-tem-play-tive. (Pronouncing it correctly will place you in the company of those who—ahem­—know something about this stuff!

So, first, what is Contemplation?

We’ll let Cistercian monk Thomas Merton who was a monk of the Abbey of the Gethesemani in Bardstown, Kentucky tantalize you with his description of what contemplation is . . .

Contemplation is the highest expression of our intellectual and spiritual life. It

is that 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 that

source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason

and beyond simple faith. For contemplation is a kind of spiritual vision to which both

reason and faith aspire, by their very nature, because without it they must always

remain incomplete. Yet contemplation is not vision, because it sees ‘without seeing’

and knows ‘without knowing’. It is more profound depth of faith, knowledge too

deep to be grasped in images, in words or even in clear concepts. It can be

suggested by works, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it

know the contemplative mind takes back what it has said and denies what is has

affirmed. For in contemplation we know by ‘unknowing’. Or, better, we know

beyond all-knowing or ‘unknowing’.

 

Poetry, music and art have something in common with the contemplative

experience. But contemplation is beyond aesthetic intuition, beyond art, beyond

poetry. Indeed, it is also beyond philosophy, beyond speculative theology It

resumes, transcends and fulfils them all, and yet at the same time it seems, in a

certain way, top supersede and to deny them all. Contemplation is always beyond

our own knowledge, beyond our own light, beyond dialogue, beyond our own self.

 

In other words, then, contemplation reaches out to the knowledge and even

to the experience of the transcendent and inexpressible God. It knows God by

seeming to touch him. Or rather it knows him as if it had been invisibly touched by

him….Touched by him who has no hands, but who is pure reality and the source of

all that is real! Hence contemplation is a sudden gift of awareness, an awakening to

the real within all that is real. A vivid awareness of infinite being at the roots of our

own limited being. An awareness of our contingent reality as received, as a present

from God, as a free gift of love. This is the existential contact of which we speak

when we use the metaphor of being ‘touched by God.’

             (From New Seeds of Contemplation / Burnes & Oates / 1999)

Well, Centering Prayer is not Contemplation itself, but is leading toward it. Contemplation—entering the presence of the holy—is what Centering prayer is designed to assist us with.

The rules for Centering prayer fit on a card the size of your credit card. They’re sent out by an organization called Contemplative Outreach.org, founded by another Cistercian Abbot Father Thomas Keating—who is really the founder of the Centering Prayer movement and long-time Abbot at Snowmass Abbey in Colorado. (We’ll get to those rules in our next blog.)

But first, in a brief article he gives a short Theological background for Centering Prayer.

The grace of Pentecost affirms that the risen Jesus is among us as the glorified Christ. Christ. Christ lives in each of us as the Enlightened One, present everywhere and at all times. He is the living Master who continuously sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to bear witness to his resurrection by empowering us to experience and manifest the fruits of the Spirit and the Beatitudes both in prayer and in action.

Lectio Divina (Reflective reading of Sacred Scripture) is the most traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of scripture as if in conversation with Christ and he were suggesting topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on his word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust and love. Conversation simplifies and gives way to communing, or as (Pope St.) Gregory the Great of the 6th century, summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition, put it, “resting in God.” This was the classical meaning of contemplative prayer for the first sixteen centuries.

Contemplative Prayer is the normal development of the grace of baptism and the regular practice of Lectio Divina. We may think of prayer as thought or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. Contemplative Prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union. The Method of Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to cooperate with this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of an earlier time (e.g., The Cloud of Unknowing) in an updated form and to put a certain order and regularity into it. It is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; it simply puts other kinds of prayer into a fuller perspective. During the time of prayer we consent to God’s presence and action within. At other times our attention moves outward to discover God’s presence everywhere.

In saying that contemplative prayer is the normal development of the grace of baptism, Father Keating is negating those who say that contemplation only belongs to those in the Contemplative Orders like the Cistercians or the Carmelites. His Contemplative Outreach movement that has crossed the globe and many religious traditions is quite revolutionary stuff!

In our next blog, we’ll look at how the process of a Centering Prayer session fits together. How ‘bout dat?

Now, before you go, here’s a contemplative hymn for you, Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Click Here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman,

Contemplative Writer

 

I’ve been to the mountain

mount-everest-himalaya_1105_600x450The Second Sunday of Lent ~ February 21, 2016

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture-scholar friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

In Luke, when prayer happens, something significant usually follows. (Magnificat)

He took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray, On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on. (Barclay)

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so clamped in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.

~ There are others of us who refuse think about anything. “The unexamined life, said Socrates, “is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix?”

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Luke pages 147,8.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.(Lk. 9:34)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

He’s talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer sometimes or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilerating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is he Messiah who suffers.

       “After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent” . . . . 

Their silence was a mark of awe. As it was on the last day of Jesus’ life, when he said, “It is finished.”

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even ONE mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn sung by the boy choir at King’s College in Great Britain Ave Verum Corpus. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                     Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer