Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16
In today’s teaching Fr. Thomas situates contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition by referring to the theological principles in which it is rooted – Baptism, the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery. Each of these teachings points us to what he says is the source, or the basic and most radically deep root of contemplative prayer – the divine indwelling. This presence is waiting for us and is always available.
…The divine indwelling is the basic root, the most radical in the sense of deeply rooted, of contemplative prayer. It needs to be constantly refreshed by doing a practice that focuses its attention on consenting to God’s presence and action… This is the main focus of the Centering Prayer practice. Another way of looking at it is it’s a way of learning God’s language, which is silence. And hence in contemplative prayer, one adopts a receptive attitude and allows one’s usual psychological thinking to be bracketed during the time that one gives oneself to contemplative prayer. So that one can listen to the deeper impulses of God’s silence – which is, nonetheless, a true language and which nudges us, little by little, or draws us by way of attraction to the spiritual level of our being, the level of intuition, and spiritual love and beyond that to the true self, which is the self that God actually made, God’s idea of us, our uniqueness, as an expression of who God is, of his manifestation or of God’s wish to experience human life in a special and perhaps sometimes extraordinary way.
-Thomas Keating, from this session’s video
In Centering Prayer our receptive attitude and listening to the deeper impulses of God’s silence leads us into affirming our goodness while at the same time deepening our self-knowledge. We begin to realize that who we are is God’s idea of who we are. Rather than being an onlooker in our lives God joins us in our joy and suffering. Maybe most importantly, we see more clearly the Gospel is not about earning God’s love but receiving it.
Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted.
Material gifts decrease when you give them away. Spiritual gifts, by contrast, increase the more you use them. Yes! You get more love by letting it flow through you, just as modeled by the Trinity. If you love, you will become more loving. If you practice patience, you will become more patient. If you stop the Divine Flow, you will be stopped up (‘sin’).
“Love is not something you can bargain for, nor is it something you can attain or work up to – because love is your very structural and essential identity – created in the image of the Trinity. When you are living in conscious connection with this Loving Inner Presence, you are in your True Self. God is forever united to this love within you; it is your soul, the part of you that always says yes to God. God always sees God in you – and ‘cannot disown God’s own self’ (2 Timothy 2:13).
– Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, “Love is Who You Are,” August 11, 2016
- View the video excerpt “The Divine Banquet and Dance, Part 2” which is about 31 minutes in length.
- Fr. Thomas says that our experiences on this contemplative journey are “an education in unmerited love.” Reflect on the notion that you are loved without having to do anything because you are created in the image of the Trinity.
Audio for this Narrative
Resources for Further Study:
You may wish to read Chapters 8 and 9, “The Divine Indwelling” and “The Cost of Christ’s Redemptive Activity” from Manifesting God.
You also may wish to read Chapter 12, “From the Inside Out” from Intimacy with God (latest edition), or Chapter 3, “The Theological Basis of Centering Prayer” (in older editions).