Contemplation is a term often misunderstood, as I believe, it is as rather an umbrella term for everything mindful involving prayerful meditative or contemplative practices. The former Archbishop, Rowan William, used the term contemplation in his book ‘Holy Living’ to encourage this practice to combat the intrusion of 24/7 hour pressure on our spiritual lives. I realise that however the term is used, what the intentions are, will be of what is important. In monastic terms, particularly Benedictine, one can go back centuries of use of the term ‘Lectio Divina’ which with its four particular movements, which does include monastic contemplation specifically, all the prayerful practices have been refined down through the ages.
The first movement of ‘Lectio Divina’ and possibly the best known by Anglican Franciscans is ‘Lectio’ reading in silence. This practice suggests sitting quietly, allowing the Spirit to influence one, while reading the passage four times from the Bible, praying each time for a slight difference in focus. The second movement requires, although reading, encourages a person to seek an inner spiritual awareness, ruminating over the page as the living Word of God delivered by Jesus. The third way is ‘Oratio’ this movement is the traditional form of prayers of intercession undertaken this time, not in silence but possibly publicly. The former Pope, Benedict, understood this form as a guiding light to our pilgrim path. The last movement ‘contemplatio’ is silent prayer listening attentively, so as to be moved by the Spirit seeking union with God, fired by the gifts of the Spirit. Though all these terms come from a Catholic Benedictine sources, commonly circulated for use to believers. The definitions can be of use to Anglicans, in clarifying their intentions, while seeking a relationship with God, with its ongoing benefit to the soul. I apologise for the rather longwinded clarification but I am aware of the blurring of these meditative terms in use, which we all are publicly using.
Personally, my own practices started when I first came across transcendental meditation, while I was working in Northern Ireland, forty odd years ago. I learned this through a teacher, as a way of overcoming the tension and anguish particularly caused by the Troubles. In moving to England and becoming a Franciscan, I changed my practice to follow the teaching on the meditation of John Main OSB, inspired by his book ‘Word into Silence.’ However, since then I have developed other forms, including mindfulness through the use of the website ‘headspace’. Moving on I developed the use of various practices. I have benefited, particularly now that I am a contemplative, by spending considerable time in solitary silence, there in the stillness, I meditate daily. However, in expanding my awareness of practising prayerful meditation, this led me by invitation to join a group practising this type of prayer, called ‘The Solitude Group’. This Canterbury group’s foundation was influenced by the writings of Andre Cirino OFM, whose updated book ‘Prayer of Franciscan Solitude’ contains a chapter on this group’s activities.
As Thich Nhat Hahn shares ‘mindfulness gives you the inner space and quietness that allows you to look deeply, to find out who you are and what you want to do with your life.’ I believe, however, we use or understand contemplation, the outcome of whatever form we use, spiritually, will allow us to better understand ourselves, being aware in the present moment and assist with our ability to commune with the one true God. This contemplative practice of dipping into the transcendence, therefore, is a means of placing ourselves in harmony with the Divine with all its spiritual benefits.
Bibliography of useful books that aid contemplative practices:
Pax…..Brother Robert <°)))><.