The call to contemplation is, in many respects, the call to a second conversion. During our first conversion, we must leave behind those aspects of our life that are incompatible with a life of grace. During our second conversion, which often coincides with the beginning of contemplative prayer in a soul, one must leave behind those aspects of God that are purely sensory. In other words, contemplation invites us to an intimacy with God that transcends our senses and is, therefore, beyond words, ideas, and images.
This new way of being with God can appear terrifying to a soul that has experienced the love and mercy of Jesus Christ and whose only desire is to return that love. Because when one no longer feels God’s love or experiences his nearness in prayer, one assumes that either God has abandoned them or that their own hearts have grown lukewarm. Yet if a soul has not given up prayer and is striving to love their neighbor, they can rest assured that something much deeper than what they can fathom is occurring.
For the person who is experiencing this grace in their life, one’s reliance on sense perception not only in life but during the time of prayer lessens. From the ruins of this apparent collapse, a deeper faith, hope, and love is born, which purifies the soul so that it can love more deeply. Needless to say, the gift of contemplation in one’s life demands a faith and a trust that is beyond what our senses can provide, ushering the soul into a deeper and more fertile land where God is no longer the product of our own imagination.
Image courtesy Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.