Q: I am a commissioned presenter of the Centering Prayer introductory workshop and when I am elaborating on the notion of being receptive I describe the proper disposition as one of passive receptivity. I’m trying to convey the idea that God is doing what needs to be done and we just trust and let it happen. For some, I think the word “passive” has a negative connotation. Do you have any comments regarding using the word passive in that regard.
A: In Centering Prayer, our only activity is to consent, so the disposition of passive receptivity is appropriate – the willingness to trust we are being ‚Äúworked on‚Äù. There is also a concept of ‚Äúpassive purification‚Äù, which I discuss in my book Taste of Silence, chapter 8: ‚Äú‚Ä¶[W]e have to shift gears to appreciate passive purification. It doesn‚Äôt sound like a virtue to our ears. The word passive is especially suspect. After all, passive is what we are in front of the television. How can that be a way to arrive at unity with anything, much less God? The apophatic tradition understands that while we are passive, God is not. God is the active agent. Our being passive is a way of acknowledging that we are creatures and need to be receptive. What our Creator does is more important. We can‚Äôt make the sun come up, or the rain fall and, if the spiritual truth be known, we‚Äôre not very effective at rebuilding our inner life either. ‚Ä¶ The gift of contemplation [to which Centering Prayer is totally in service] brings us into God‚Äôs territory, so to speak, on God‚Äôs terms, beyond our ordinary way of seeing and hearing what is involved in the spiritual journey.‚Äù
– Fr. Carl