Contemplative prayer is the pinnacle of the Christian life.  In vocal prayer and meditation, one approaches God and encounters Him through words, thoughts, and sentiments from one’s own heart.  As important and necessary as this approach is, it will always remain “worldly,” since all of our words and concepts, even about God, are sprung from the categories of this world.  

In contemplative prayer one does not so much approach God, but is approached by God. 

In contemplative prayer one does not so much approach God, but is approached by God.

– Fr. Jeremiah Shryock

In other words, in contemplative prayer, God is taking the initiative and we are called to simply receive His presence in faith and in love.  Hence, words, thoughts and even one’s own sentiments become obstacles from receiving God’s presence, which is being manifested to us now purely through God’s grace, and not through the medium of one’s own mind and heart.  

The posture of a contemplative, therefore, must be that of Mary at the Annunciation who, without understanding and without creating this Divine event, simply surrenders:  “Be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  This surrender, far from being a passive resignation regarding the circumstances of one’s life, is filled with all the vigor and beauty of a soul who recognizes the presence of God, and is responding appropriately.  Hence, for a contemplative who has been led by God beyond the limits of one’s own words and thoughts, Mary’s posture of receptivity is not merely a way to approach God, but the only way to stand before the Mystery that transcends all our human categories.

Want more? Listen to two of Fr. Jeremiah’s homilies  on Contemplative Prayer and Our Lady.

Image courtesy Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

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