Contemplation and Inner Experience

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Class on contemplative prayer using Thomas Merton's The Inner Experience.

Class VI

Contemplative Prayer Set 2 of 2

AI Summary: 




#class-series; #monastic-class-series


...specific consideration of contemplation in Christianity and what's distinctive about
In other words, what's the connection between contemplation, as we've been talking about
it, starting from Merton, and the essence of Christianity?
In other words, is there a connection?
Are they two different points, or are they the same thing, or how are they related?
You have a handout there, with John's prologue on it, and we'll talk about that in a little
while, when we talk about baptism and contemplation.
Next time...
Next time isn't going to be next week, because next week we have Luke and Acts, right?
So it will be two weeks from today, or two weeks from yesterday.
Let's go on then to Merton section 4, which you should have read three times already by now.
Okay, just to review a little bit, we were talking last time about contemplation in Christianity,
and our principle was that it's everywhere in the New Testament, because it relates to
the core of the New Testament, which is the unitive reality that comes into the world
and opens up within us in Jesus, in his death and resurrection, and in baptism.
And our contention is that that's what the Gospels are about, really.
It's most visible in the Gospel of John, especially at the Last Supper in John's Gospel, where
Jesus is talking about that new reality, and doesn't say a word about baptism.
He washes the feet of his disciples, remember, right at the beginning, as if he were going
to put the whole supper in the tone of that gesture.
And then he talks about this new union, which they're going to have, and which is simply
the realization of baptism.
That's our contention.
And which, from start to finish, is a contemplative experience, even though the word contemplation
doesn't appear there either.
So baptism and contemplation are not talked about, and yet that's what the whole thing
is about.
So you can see how they talk about hermeneutics, but a hermeneutic is needed, really, in reading
the New Testament, in order to find the fullness that's at its center, the fullness and the
power that's at its center.
And the hermeneutic that we use is extremely important.
We can use a minimalist hermeneutic, a hermeneutic of suspicion, as it were, and you won't find
a thing.
You won't find a ghost of a spiritual experience in the New Testament.
In fact, you'll take it apart and attribute it all to somebody else.
If you use a maximalist hermeneutic, what you find is it's all one thing.
It's all talking about one thing, and that one thing is the, you can say from an experiential
angle, is the experience of the new unitive being, which you both receive, know and become
through baptism in Jesus Christ.
So, that's sort of the thesis.
We talked about those various doors into this contemplative center, if we wish to call it
To call it that is to abuse it a bit, because contemplation is only one angle, one aspect.
We're talking about being, really.
Remember how Martin started talking about being in terms of identity, in terms of oneself.
And sometimes he'll talk about it in a very metaphysical way, as if the kind of experience
of pure being, the emptiness and the luminosity of pure being, he'll talk about that kind
of thing.
Sometimes he'll talk about it in, what would you say, anthropological terms, as being our
self, our new self, our true self, the self in which obviously we had to be created in
the beginning, but somehow recreated, restored, and not only restored, but somehow lit up,
somehow turned on in this experience of Christ.
I'm reading a little bit about contemporary physics now, and every once in a while something
just lights up.
And here's an example.
Did I bring it with me?
I hope so.
Regarding your, I don't like that word, hermeneutics, but I haven't found another one that is quite
If I don't have it with me, I'll just try to paraphrase it for you.
But you know, they try to find these unified theories in physics to bring all of the forces
and all of the particles, all of the energies, and all of the structures in physics together.
And so they get them down, you know, to four forces, and then they get them down to, they
show how two of those are connected, and so on, but, and they didn't have such good luck
with the particles, because you get it down to about three particles, and then you find
another hundred underneath them, the, you know, subatomic particles, the nuclear particles,
and subnuclear, whatever.
But they find, increasingly, that if you go back to a state of very high energy, things
And this is what the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe is about, and that's
why they build those super colliders, you know, those enormous rings and hoops to accelerate
particles, to try to get back to the high energy initial state.
Now, immediately, you can see a parallel to the kind of hermeneutic we're using for
Christianity, to get back to that original quantum, as it were, the Christ quantum, which
is like the original great photon, according to the Big Bang theory, containing all of the
energy and all of the matter, too, still in a kind of uncrystallized, uncongealed form,
but containing the whole of creation, the whole of reality as we know it, the cosmos,
in a high energy state in which it's all somehow in a state of original simplicity.
Do you see how the way that we read the New Testament is similar to that?
The theory, the hypothesis that is underneath our reading of the New Testament is that in
the New Testament we have something similar to that.
We have, in other words, an initial moment, and that's why the New Testament is sacred
That's why the New Testament is considered to be inspired.
Up to the death, what is it, of the last apostle?
Because that is the original quantum of everything that comes afterwards.
It's as if we believe that the whole thing is there somehow, in a compressed form, and
in an as yet, what would you call it, unexplicitated form, in an implicate or implicit form, all
concentrated there, in that moment, that it's all there.
And it's all there in its simplicity.
Now, that's the key to a sapiential reading, you see, of Christianity, of the New Testament,
that it's all there in its simplicity.
When John says that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and all things
came from the Word, and then the Word came into the world as light, and so on, and we've
seen that light, and that light has opened up inside of us.
See, that's where the wisdom interpretation of the New Testament and of Christian monasticism
starts, in that thesis of an original simplicity, which is all contained in Jesus, and that
it's all contained in the Holy Spirit, and in the baptismal experience, and that progressively
opens up and differentiates itself later.
We talk about the word initiation, you know, baptism as initiation, and this morning I
want to talk particularly about baptism as the, what would you call it, primordial, contemplative
or unitive experience in Christianity.
But initiation takes us back to the beginning, doesn't it?
And there's been a rediscovery of Christian initiation in our time since Vatican II, the
RCIA, and that whole very important move, very important move back towards the beginning.
We talk about the beginning as creation, the beginning is also new creation.
Note the prologues of both the Gospel of John and the First Letter of John begin practically
with that word arche, beginning, okay?
Now that word is the first word of Genesis 1, isn't it?
So it's a deliberate allusion back to the original creation, the first day of creation.
And what's it saying?
It's saying that this New Testament, this coming of Jesus and what comes from him, is
a new creation.
In other words, it's starting all over again.
But to find out what it is, you have to go back to this arche, this beginning.
God at the beginning, in other words.
So God is at the beginning.
When we say creator, we mean God is at the beginning.
When we say Father, we mean God is at the beginning, don't we?
Because God is the generator.
And what's the relationship between creator and Father?
As a creator, we think at least, we imagine ourselves as being outside God, don't we?
We imagine that creation is being sort of flung out there.
Remember Nicolangelo Sistine Fresco there?
With Adam at the tip of God's finger.
We imagine that.
But with Father, what happens?
It's still God at the beginning, but it's God as the personal source of your own being in Christ, in Jesus.
And those words to Jesus at his baptism,
You are my beloved son, you are my beloved child, and you I am well pleased.
See, those apply to us.
That's our baptism.
So God at the beginning as Father is no longer creation conceived out there,
but generation, which is the source in a unitive sense, that is within God, brought into God.
To be brought into God's kingdom is to be brought into God in this particular personal way,
which is sonship, childhood.
That word son is an embarrassment particularly there, isn't it?
The non-inclusive language at that point of baptism.
We'll see in John's prologue that he's given us the power to become children of God.
Okay, you can think also of Irenaeus' recapitulation in these terms.
You move back to the beginning, and in the beginning you find everything.
You move in Christ.
What Christ is, is the beginning brought into the world.
Is the child of the Father brought into the world,
so that moving into that child we move into the Father.
And are recreated in what is now not an exteriorized, dualized, dualistic relationship to the source,
but a unitive relationship to the source that is recreated within God.
When John says at the end of his prologue,
nobody's ever seen God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
And he doesn't say he has made him seen, he says he has made him known.
Because that knowing is the knowing from and in that same relationship to the Father which Jesus has,
which he expresses as in the bosom of the Father, which is still a physical metaphor, but really means union.
That which John is talking about, or Jesus is talking about in the whole of the Last Supper discourse of John's Gospel.
So we looked at only a few of our New Testament texts.
You have a string of them there in that handout number six.
And we talked about the various forms in which contemplation appears.
And there I'd like to use this other physical expression, the red shift, once again.
The red shift is what happens when you're moving away from a source, okay, a source of light.
You're moving away from a star, and say it's a white star, when you're just stationary looking at it.
But then you move away from it, and as you move away, the light turns red.
As you move away from the source, it turns from white to red.
It goes down in frequency, down in energy, it seems.
And greater, it increases in wavelength.
There are analogies to that, both in moving from the, let's say, the Greek notion of contemplation,
or the Neoplatonic notion of contemplation, or the Buddhist experience of enlightenment
into the Christian, into the New Testament world.
And the contemplation that we find there somehow is, I think, manifesting this red shift.
In that it's much more connected with the warm end of the spectrum,
that is, with the affective end of the spectrum, much more identified with love.
And with the koinonia, which is, of course, either identical to that love,
or is the source, the font, and the fullness of that love.
And you find it also within the Christian world, in this sense,
that you have an initial experience of enlightenment, that is, say, of the white light, or the dawn light,
the pure white light of dawn.
But what happens then is, you don't keep experiencing that.
You move towards the red. You move into the red, as it were.
I think, maybe it's a deficit, I don't know.
You move, the red shift, you move from the white light to the red light, in a sense.
I put it before, as you're moving from baptism to Eucharist,
but you move from illumination to a transformation.
You move from light to fire.
You move from something that you experienced, as it were, this kind of explosion of experience,
to a disappearance of experience,
so that you're not experiencing, let us say, the unitive,
but you're being transformed into it, which can be very painful.
And this is what, of course, John of the Cross is writing about.
And a lot of our schemes, of course, don't really like that.
I mean, that's just the word of the cross in a different language.
And our schemes are very much ego-projected, I think, sometimes,
so that we expect to go from glory to glory.
But really, oftentimes, the glory is experienced in the beginning,
and then the rest of life is a kind of incarnation of that glory.
And this is what you find, I think, when you find baptism talked about,
and then the Christian life that's consequent upon baptism in the New Testament.
For instance, often in Paul.
I don't want to push that too hard, but I think we have to recognize it,
that oftentimes there's a great illumination in the beginning,
and then afterwards, what we're up to, our assignment, as it were,
is not to move on to greater and greater illumination,
but to realize that illumination actually in life.
To make the unitive experience a unitive life.
Which means a kind of death, okay?
That's the movement to the Eucharistic phase.
So we'll find that in some of these texts.
It's not at all hard to find.
I went through that list of texts on that handout six,
that's page three and the following,
to see how many were related either explicitly or sort of proximately, you know,
more or less, to baptism.
I found a great number of them are.
Most of them are.
Most of them are sort of in the aura of baptism,
and many of them are directly related to baptism, and explicitly so.
You get the feeling after a while that nearly all these texts are in the aura of baptism,
and now and then you move to the, what would you call it,
to the sacramental core or source, which is baptism,
and mention it explicitly.
But the rest of the time you're still in that area.
And we were picking out texts in which we thought we found that unitive experience,
which we've described as contemplation.
For instance, wherever there's mention of the movement from the old state to the new state,
baptism is right there, right in the back of the writer's mind, as it were.
It's right suspended in the ear.
From death to life, you know, whenever they talk about that in the New Testament,
baptism is implicit.
From darkness to light, from sin to grace, from law to spirit.
See, that phase change is a nearly explicit saying of baptism.
Wherever it's said that you've died with Christ and are risen with Christ,
and often that's said without a mention of baptism, but it directly implies baptism.
Wherever it's said that you are a new creation, also.
See, this is something that's happened.
He doesn't say you have to make yourself a new creation or something like that.
This is something that's happened.
And then you have to realize it in some way.
But it's something that is a given. It's at the beginning, that's baptism.
Wherever the new condition is used as the basis of an exhortation,
a moral exhortation of some kind.
For instance, in Paul's letters.
You know, typically the structure of his letters seems to be that
this has happened to you, you've been given this,
the grace of God has come and changed you from what you were into what you are now.
And then the consequence of that is that you have to live this way.
So Paul's continually doing that.
But what is that gift, that reception of the new state?
It's baptism.
So that's always implicit in those discourses,
the ones that are structured in that way.
It's not just that you've been told something,
not just you've received the gospel,
but you've received, actually, and experienced this.
This is most explicit in Galatians, remember.
Where he says, where did you get the Spirit?
How did you experience the Spirit?
Was it through the works of the Lord, or was it through belief in Christ?
See, baptism is directly implicit there,
because the experience of the Spirit is through baptism.
With a few exceptions that you see in the New Testament, like Cornelius.
Wherever it's said that you are children of God,
sons of God, born of God,
that too is a nearly explicit reference to baptism.
Wherever it's said that you have received the Holy Spirit,
for instance, in Romans 8, where Paul says that the Spirit is crying out in your heart.
Often when you start reading those texts,
you read them on for a while,
and then all of a sudden you stumble on the explicit mention of baptism,
which is true in Romans 8.
You feel, you sort of taste that aura,
that flavor of the baptismal experience,
and then pretty soon you run into an explicit,
a very nearly explicit mention of baptism.
We'll see a couple of those.
Nearly every one of the Johannine texts in that list
is closely related to baptism.
Let's take a look just at a couple of these.
And first of all, at the prologue,
that way you'll be able to forget about that vexing diagram.
That's handout number 8, the one you just got.
The way the diagram works is it moves up from the bottom.
The prologue of John is John chapter 1, verses 1 through 18.
Now here, beneath this, is the proposal
that it's structured theastically.
There's that word again.
And not only chiastically, but in a fourfold chiastic way.
So the idea is it's got a center,
and the center of it, in a broad sense,
is verses 12 and 13, which you find in the square in the middle.
In the narrowest sense, the center is just verse 12.
But to all who received him or believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God.
Now, it's divided into five parts,
and that center is the third part.
You start at the bottom.
Part 1 is reading up from the bottom of the page,
verses 1 through 8.
Part 2 is over on your right, verses 9 through 11,
and that reads down,
because it's actually the movement is lateral.
It's across, it's not up.
And then part 3 is the center in the square.
Part 4 is verse 14 alone, which also reads down.
And then part 5, the final part, reads upward from there,
sort of the head of the diagram,
from 15 through 18.
Okay, now, there are three phases,
you can say very crudely in this prologue.
One is, we could call it the unitive revelation,
and that's where the word and the light come into the world,
and they're perceived.
They're in the world, and either people get it
or people don't get it.
Either the light is received or it's not received.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it,
and did not receive it either.
The true light which enlightens everyone, verse 9,
was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him,
yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him.
See, that's all that matter of revelation, isn't it?
But what is the revelation?
The revelation is the revelation of the light,
which is the revelation of the word,
which is that which is God,
and came into the world,
and out of it all things were made.
The divine fullness which has come into the world,
which I've been speaking of as the unitive.
Then in Part 3, you get the change, okay?
But to all who did receive him,
who believed in his name,
and that, I believe, refers to baptism.
I think the whole text is baptismal.
He gave power to become children of God.
So the receiving is the receiving in faith,
but it's also the receiving in baptism.
And that power to become children of God
is the actual becoming children of God in baptism.
I don't know why he uses the expression
gave power to become children of God.
And then you have a new phase,
and this is a phase of the realized revelation,
and then a realized union.
That's in Parts 4 and 5.
So you've got basically, I think,
three great phases in the book.
First, the unitive revelation.
Secondly, the baptismal event.
And that's in the square,
and that's surrounded by two John the Baptist passages,
although not immediately.
Verses 6 through 8 in Part 1,
which are about John the Baptist,
and then verses 15, verse 15, up above.
And it's very curious,
those intrusions of narrative about John the Baptist.
But what I think they do is frame the whole thing,
and frame the center of it,
particularly in a baptismal context,
because John is the Baptist, the Baptist, the Baptist.
He's the symbol of baptism.
He's not only the precursor.
And then finally, you've got the,
not the unitive revelation up at the top,
but the unitive realization or actualization,
the accomplishment, as it were, of union,
which is also revelation,
but it's a new kind of revelation.
It's not seeing the word or the light outside yourself,
it's experiencing the light inside yourself,
and that happens through baptism.
1.13, I think, actually sends that center off
into four directions,
who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor the will of man, but of God.
Those four expressions, I believe,
are the four directions of the figure itself.
And of God is the one that goes up vertically from there.
But it refers not so much to the prologue itself
as to the gospel, as to the structure of the gospel,
and that's another issue.
I think 1.14, over in part four, has a double meaning.
First of all, it means the revelation of Jesus' glory
in his lifetime.
The word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory of the Father's only Son,
full of grace and truth.
Now, there's a double reference there,
because there's a reference to the baptism of Jesus,
I believe.
The only Son, the glory of the only Son,
that's the aura of baptism, of the baptism of Jesus.
And remember the baptismal words,
which don't appear in John, but in the synoptics.
And then it refers to the experience of Jesus' glory
during his lifetime by his disciples.
After the first of Jesus' signs,
the making of the wine from water at Cana,
John says that Jesus manifested his glory.
This is the first of his signs,
Jesus manifested his glory,
and his disciples believed in him.
But thirdly, it has another level of meaning, I believe,
which is the actual experience of this glory,
this fullness of grace and truth,
the glory as of the Father's only Son,
in baptism itself,
that is, in the baptism of the believer, of the Christian.
Then you've got, look at the John the Baptist verses
just after that, reading upside down,
up there on the top part.
John testified to him and cried out,
This was he of whom I said,
He who comes after me ranks ahead of me
because he was before me.
From his fullness we have all received.
If you read later on, in the first chapter of John,
there are some important connections you find to those words.
If you read 1.25-27, for instance,
Those sent from the Pharisees asked John,
And why are you baptizing,
if you are neither the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet?
John answered them, I baptize with water.
But among you stands one whom you do not know,
even he who comes after me,
the son of whose hand I am not worthy to untie.
One comes after me.
I baptize with water.
And now that, it's like the first part of a sentence
without the end of the sentence.
I baptize with water, but...
And he doesn't say the rest of it.
The rest of it comes out later on,
in verses 30-35.
This is he, this is John again,
speaking of Jesus.
We picture John pointing to Jesus.
This is, was he of whom I said,
After me comes a man who ranks before me
for he was before me.
Remember where he says here in the prologue,
He who comes after me.
This was he of whom I said,
He who comes after me, ranks ahead of me.
And why is it here in the prologue?
This was he, is he of whom I said,
After me comes a man who ranks before me
for he was before me.
And the word was is pregnant
in the light of the prologue.
I myself did not know him,
but for this I came baptizing with water
that he might be revealed to Israel.
Now why does he say baptizing with water?
Of course he baptized with water.
And John bore witness,
I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven
and it remained on him.
I myself did not know him,
but he who sent me to baptize with water
said to me,
He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain,
this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
I have seen and have borne witness
that this is the Son of God.
So this comes, runs right into the prologue
and opens up the baptismal thing,
explicitates the baptismal thing in the prologue.
And the fact that what the prologue is talking about here
is Jesus' baptism with the Holy Spirit.
And it's the experience of that
which is then expressed in verses 16 through 18.
From his fullness we have all received.
The word received there is the same as received
down in verse 12.
Grace upon grace.
The law indeed was given through Moses
that mediated revelation of God.
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The grace and truth is over in verse 14, remember.
No one has ever seen God.
It's God the only Son who is in the Father's bosom
who has made him known.
So that's the revelation which is not anymore
really just revelation, it's union.
And that's the experience of baptism, I believe.
And it's also the Christian contemplative experience
in its fullness, right here at the beginning.
Connecting directly with that word
which is with God and which is God.
See that end in this chiastic structure
refers back to the beginning.
In the beginning was the word and the word was with God
and the word was God.
The end hinges, the whole thing hinges
so that the end meets the beginning in that way.
So that what you experience
in this baptismal event
is what Jesus is
with the Father eternally.
And this is the unitive experience we're talking about,
the Christian contemplative experience.
Now notice how much implicitness there is
and how little explicitness there is.
It's as if things have been deliberately just a little bit covered.
It's as if things have been lightly dusted with obscurity
after they were written down.
So that they're not quite obvious on the surface
but they're there, they're very strongly there.
Okay, all of that just to try to convince you
of the presence of this thing
in the baptismal context in the New Testament.
Also, reading this text in the light of baptism
as you say, so much comes forth.
I was struck by...
I think it's just to moderately describe baptism,
the Christian baptism as illumination.
The whole thing of the light that shines in the darkness
and then the true gloom in the middle of the night.
The light that looks...
But an objection,
it would almost sound as if you're making
the moment of baptism more important
than the moment of Eucharist.
Whereas, if,
if this is the case,
if this Eucharist is absolutely at the center,
couldn't this whole thing be read in the light of Eucharist also?
And it's fascinating to reread it in that light,
And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Yes, that part especially can be...
I haven't attempted that but I think it can be.
And remember the prologue is at the beginning
and I think at the beginning,
John's stress is more explicitly on baptism.
He's certainly not going to...
And he conceals both baptism and the Eucharist.
Actually, both of them are moving underneath the explicit level
in John, mostly, okay?
With rare kind of breaking through the surface.
The movement is from baptism to Eucharist
and it seems to me that baptism is the fullness
and then Eucharist is the fullness of the fullness.
It's almost like in baptism you move to this deep level
all the way down to the center.
But then you don't keep moving down,
you move in another direction towards another fullness,
which is the Eucharistic fullness, okay?
And that's that red shift I'm talking about,
which is the movement from an experienced fullness,
the initial fullness of baptism,
towards the transformative fullness of Eucharist, okay?
So it perfectly agrees with Agogini in that sense.
But this fullness is not the end, this fullness is the beginning
and then you must move to the other fullness, which is the end.
Now that verse is also 16,
from his fullness we have all received.
You received in baptism, certainly,
but certainly received in the moment of communion.
Then the whole business of right at the beginning,
the Eucharist is no covenant.
It also is no beginning.
I see what you're saying, I see it, absolutely.
But it is fascinating to go back
and then claim all these texts as baptism
but also as Eucharistic,
also since he's so silent about that.
I think you can do that, I'm sure,
and I think it's valid to do it.
I'm just insisting sort of that there's that movement,
that actually John's Gospel, or Jesus' life in John's Gospel,
moves from implicit baptism, okay,
because I think the whole first chapter is really about baptism,
from implicit baptism to implicit Eucharist at the supper
where the Eucharist isn't even mentioned.
There you get the depth of the, what would you call it,
deliberate implicitness of John.
I don't want to say deliberate obscurity
because it's meant to be read, it's meant to be understood,
but not to be understood superficially and immediately.
I don't know, it's another way of understanding, okay.
Another way to put it is baptism is once,
in a certain sense, you do it once,
and it culminates with Eucharist,
and then Eucharist continues the rest of the life,
which brings the baptism with it.
Yeah, you could say that.
And, of course, Jesus links the two, I believe,
when he washes the feet of the disciples
at the beginning of the supper, okay.
He washes the feet of the disciples
and then proceeds with this kind of Eucharist of the Word,
this Eucharist of Wisdom, you know, which is the supper,
and doesn't even institute the Eucharist there.
That's the curious thing, you know.
But the whole Eucharistic reality is there,
and that's the culmination, that's the real fullness.
You're talking about a mysterious kind of hiddenness.
Yeah, and I'm not really talking about,
so much about the sacramental celebration here
as the two realities which underlie that,
the two fullnesses which underlie baptism and Eucharist,
I believe, in the New Testament and also in John.
Because he doesn't pay a lot of attention
to the celebration of the sacrament.
It's as if he's saying,
there are two great mysteries here, which are one mystery,
but somehow, when he says,
what does he say,
he came not only in the water but in the blood.
In the water and the blood there are these three witnesses,
you know, the water and the blood and the spirit.
That water and the blood,
those are the two great mysteries which are one mystery,
divided into, what would you say,
in our economy of death, our dualistic economy as it were,
because Jesus had to die, you know, something like that.
But sure, you're right, the culmination,
the ultimate fullness is the Eucharist,
and then, I guess theologically, baptism flows from the Eucharist,
in the usual theology, doesn't it?
I have two questions.
One is, in terms of,
we so often think in terms of resurrection
and the Christian life as gearing toward eternal life.
Actually, Merton makes the point
in one of his books,
I'm not sure which article it was now,
that the mystical life, the contemplative prayer life,
is like the first fruit of resurrection itself.
It's like the foretaste of it.
And so, there's almost that emphasis
where we could go from either side,
baptism, you know,
culminating in Eucharist,
contemplative union culminating in resurrection.
But there's also, if we were to look backwards,
because we do have the potential to focus so much
on gearing toward eternal life,
and say eternal life is among us.
That's right.
So, it's the first fruit of resurrection
being the last fruit of something
that's supposed to be taking place
all through the human life.
I guess that wasn't a question, was it?
Is that right?
It was a bit complicated,
even though it's all talking about the same thing.
But resurrection is experienced also at the beginning.
That's the curious thing.
In other words, the beginning is always,
the end is always coming back to the beginning,
and the beginning is always extending itself to the end.
So, all linearity, somehow,
is being frustrated here deliberately.
And yet, we do get these little patterns
which come out, and which are coherent, consistent,
like the movement from baptism to Eucharist.
Well, also, talking about Eucharist,
isn't that transformative fullness
also a type of resurrection, too?
It is, yeah.
Even the word transubstantiation, in a sense,
is transformative.
That's right.
The second thing I was wondering about,
we have a tendency to split up
confirmation and baptism, of course,
now with infant baptism,
except in the RCIA.
But still, there is the point to be made
that in the historical, in the chronology,
in the life of Jesus with the Apostles,
the coming of the Holy Spirit was later.
So it was, you know, maybe baptism, Eucharist,
Is there a separate way to view this
baptism of the Holy Spirit, do you think?
For me, it works best if I don't think about
confirmation as a separate sacrament.
And I think originally it was that way.
That is, confirmation is like something
which has been split off from baptism.
I think because of infant baptism.
Because at the beginning, you had the baptism,
the anointing, which was an integral part
of baptism, basically, and still is in the East,
I believe.
And then you have the Eucharist.
And so confirmation as a separate reality,
I think, relates to the rise of infant baptism
in the Western Church.
And I don't find that, I don't know,
it's not easy to include that in the
basic, simple scheme.
As I thought, in the historic life of the Apostles
and the Pentecost event, as an empowerment?
I don't think it's, for me, that's baptism.
In other words, that's their baptism in the Holy Spirit.
And that relates directly to the sacrament of baptism.
Even at the beginning of Acts, it said,
stay here until you receive or are baptized
in the Holy Spirit.
It recalls that Jesus said,
you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit,
now wait here until it happens.
So Pentecost is their baptism in the Holy Spirit, okay?
I don't think you can make any division there
between their baptism, let us say,
at some earlier point,
or even at the resurrection of Jesus,
and Pentecost.
It's all one.
And isn't that true in John's Gospel,
where there is an experience of believing
that Jesus is Easter Sunday night,
when also the Holy Spirit comes?
John keeps the two together.
So the resurrection and the giving of the Spirit
are completely one.
Also, because on the cross,
Jesus trotted at spiritum, remember?
He gave up the Spirit.
And the word that John uses, I believe,
directly indicates that that's to be identified
with the breathing of the Spirit on Easter night.
There was somebody else? Yes.
I'm just, I didn't want to break into this necessarily,
but I've been thinking, as you were listening to the rest,
of your initial metaphor of the Big Bang,
and the singularity, the simplicity of faith,
and could that be extended a bit,
shall we say, as the problem of living faith
and living sacraments to the other end,
in other words, the risk of entropy,
or kind of a reduction of all movement
to vague, tempid warmth,
and the need, therefore, for the believer
to go back to the original sacrament,
the original act of faith,
even when the original sacrament was not experienced
subjectively, reflexively,
in the case of different paths.
But to go back to that,
and relive that moment,
otherwise, the consequence being
the reduction of all movement to kind of a static
warmth, either static fragility
of a very conservative position
of religious identity,
or a kind of a diffused,
pleasant religious feeling
without any real context to it,
without any real dynamic to it.
No, I think it's very consistent with that idea of entropy.
We experience that so much today, I think.
We could almost say that it translates
many of our troubles into the word entropy.
I mean, consider deconstruction,
the age of deconstruction,
when everything is being nibbled down to shreds,
it seems, in certain quarters, at least.
There's a tendency to reduce everything
and then almost, what do you call it,
atomize it in some way,
until everything is just level.
And that's entropy, it seems to me.
When the, what would you call it,
the singular phenomenon,
when the one great event,
when the center, when the mountain,
which was there in the beginning,
has just been completely bulldozed to level.
That's where we seem to be culturally, largely.
Of course, that too has its opportunity in it.
But, I mean, at that moment,
you get a new kind of vision
because you can see things clearly
you could never see before, I think.
But it's a very perilous one.
No, the notion of entropy fits perfectly.
I haven't been sort of asked about you.
Okay, I had some more New Testament texts here,
but I don't know if there's...
I'm just going to mention what they are
with a very brief description,
so that if you're interested you can look at them.
Well, of course, there's 1 John,
which I think is just loaded with this,
with this baptismal thing.
For instance, 1 John 2, 20-27,
the anointing there.
You have received the anointing.
Abide in that which you have received.
What is that anointing, if not baptism?
That's on the most exterior level,
and then the interior level, of course,
the anointing is somehow both the Word and the Spirit.
It's that fullness.
And then the whole of 1 John.
Acts 1, verses 5 and 8,
where it is said that,
stay here and you'll receive.
What is it?
For John baptized with water,
but before many days you shall be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.
That's the one that came up
in connection with Seraphim's question.
You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit
has come upon you.
You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem.
Well, that's referring to Pentecost,
which is in chapter 2,
which is their baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Those two, those three parts
fit together perfectly, I think.
Then Romans 8.
If you read Romans 8, 14 to 16,
then it puts the whole of Romans 8
in this baptismal context.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God
are sons of God.
Let me see.
Where is that?
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery
to fall back into fear,
but you have received the spirit of sonship.
See, that's an explicit reference to baptism.
That receiving of the Spirit.
When we cry, Abba, Father,
it is the Spirit himself bearing witness
with our spirit that we are children of God.
Now, if you read that,
then the whole of Romans 8
needs to be read in that context, you see.
Particularly with the recurring mentions
of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit groaning in our hearts
and that whole cosmic travail
until the new world is brought forth.
And often you find that.
You find one explicit point
in one of these major New Testament texts,
let us say in Paul,
in 1 Corinthians or 2 Corinthians or Romans,
you find one baptismal reference
explicit in the middle of it,
which then opens up the whole thing
to a baptismal interpretation,
which I think usually is right,
because that's Paul's subject.
Paul's subject when he's writing
to these communities is,
look what you've received,
look what's happened to you,
and realize what that means.
You have to understand that
and you have to live according to it.
But he's always starting from that point,
practically speaking,
of what you have received.
And that's baptism.
And then to force this other link up with Eucharist,
that this is my pass down to you
and I also received this.
And then the whole Eucharistic...
And it's when he mentions the Eucharist
that he criticizes their actual behavior,
doesn't he?
When he says, look,
you're celebrating the Eucharist,
that's the death of the Lord,
and look what you're doing.
You're feasting over here
and letting the poor man be hungry and so on.
Then to recover this sense
of receiving the Spirit in Eucharist,
the Epiclesis,
which modifies the gifts there
but also transforms us.
So I think it's fascinating
that link up of the two.
Yes, I think between the two, actually,
there's an incarnation
in the sense that baptism
is a kind of coming of,
what would you say,
Word and Spirit?
I'm speaking very crudely.
And then the movement of life
to Eucharist
is the Eucharistic transformation
of ourselves bodily,
in a bodily way.
New Testament is very insistent on that.
Which is actually an incarnation.
Back to John 1.14,
where it says,
the Word has become flesh
and dwelt among us.
I think that refers to that.
So when you mentioned
connected Eucharist with that before,
I think it was perfectly right.
Last thought,
this powerful image of the Big Bang
and you get back to that
concentrated energy.
And then, paradoxically,
the call of the contemplative way
is the call into
the deepest of silence
and peace and rest.
It's almost as if the eye
at the center of that
is not just some kind of
charismatic agitation
but this deep Ezekiel
of peace of God
which passes all understanding.
I think the expression of that
is in the unitive quality
of that first,
call it photon or whatever,
that first particle of,
what would you call it,
that absolute plenitude of energy
in the first particle,
which our text from physics said
is the point of simplicity
where all of the laws
and all of the forces
and all of the particles,
matter and energy,
somehow merge into one reality,
as it were.
Now that's the enduring core
of the whole contemplative thing,
it seems to me.
What the contemplative tries to do,
that's the enduring center
of the Christian mystery
and the continual,
what would you call it,
quest of the contemplative
is to enter back into that
and thereby try to hold
the whole thing together
as it expands, you know,
especially in a crazy
appearing world as we have today
where the expansion is so dramatic.
Still pointing to the true world.
Yeah, yeah.
So I'd relate the contemplative life
with the baptismal point there.
And certainly, as it proceeds,
it's also the Eucharistic transformation.
And that's practically identical,
I think, with what Panikkar
calls the center, you know.
But he talks about it
in philosophical terms.
He's wonderful in being able
to locate it for us
and express it so well
in philosophical terms.
But when we bring it
into Christian terms,
this is what it turns into.
There's a lot more
I wanted to do this morning.
I don't want to extend it
into the next one,
so I'll try to sort of
throw it at you quickly.
I wanted to say something
about the Syrians
because it's in the Syriac tradition
that you find the most explicit
unitive expression of Christianity
and directly connected with baptism.
Maybe I should have
copied this article out for you.
It's Gabriel Winkler's article.
Fr. Victor brought this up
many years ago.
The Origins and Idiosyncrasies
of the Earliest Form of Asceticism.
It sounds pretty esoteric.
By Gabriel Winkler,
who I believe was teaching
at Notre Dame or St. John's.
St. John's.
St. John's, yes.
It's a marvelous article
because what she does is
show, in this part of the article,
is show how the inspiration
or the spirit of these
early Syrian monks
was a unitive experience
which was the baptismal experience
and the whole of their life
was then oriented towards
what would you call it,
realizing that unity
in their whole person.
Now this is explicit
in what they say
and what they write,
whereas in the rest of our literature
it's largely implicit.
In other words, this is very hard
to find, this kind of thing
as explicit as this.
But it's in the Syriac literature
and it's very interesting
that the Syriac literature
is a little bit outside
of the mainstream,
even of the patristic tradition
that we have.
So this is not as clear
in the Greek and Latin traditions
as it is in the Syriac tradition
for some reason.
It's interesting also
that the Syriac language,
of course, and culture
is in a lot more direct continuity
with the New Testament language
and culture
because the Syriac language
was a descendant of Aramaic,
which was the language
of Jesus and so on.
And at this point
it's completely uninfluenced
by philosophy
as far as we know.
So it's a kind of unique literature.
I'm just going to read
a couple of these quotes
from Winkler.
This is in her article.
It's in a book by Skudlarik
The Continuing Quest for God,
I think.
It's a Benedictine conference
or symposium or something
they had at some point.
I think Victor went to that.
I don't remember when it was.
Skudlarik is a Benedictine
and this is a major article in it.
I don't know which pronunciation
is correct.
It's a Syriac word
which means one.
akad or kad or had
in Hebrew is one.
Abraham alludes to that reality
when he says,
Jesus, the only one,
who is from the bosom
of the Father,
shall cause those who are one,
to rejoice.
Now those who are one
are the ascetics,
it appears.
The ascetics are those
who as a result
of their baptism
in the one
have become one
and therefore want to
in some way
fulfill or realize,
actualize that oneness.
Now the first thing
that that seems to involve
for them is celibacy,
which is interesting,
isn't it?
That is,
is a consequence
or an attempt
to actualize
the oneness
which they have received
in baptism.
That's one interpretation
of baptism,
you see,
that that oneness
is to be realized
by somehow,
what would you call it,
withdrawing from
the external effort
to achieve oneness
through union
with another person
into an interior realization
of the oneness
which has begun
in the baptismal experience.
And this word,
marvelously brings together
all these different dimensions
of the thing.
I'll read a couple more
of these.
In Syria,
what is not arisen
in the heart of man,
there's nothing less,
she's commenting on a text
that she just quoted
I think it's
the Gospel of Thomas.
There's nothing less
than the reality
of becoming transformed
into God's own glory.
In Syria,
this transformation
often is described
in biblical language,
to be robed in glory,
to put on Christ,
for as Paul said,
those who were baptized
into Christ
have put on Christ.
There is no such thing
as male and female.
Greek and Jew,
slave and free man,
male and female,
for you are all one in Christ.
Galatians 3, 27-28.
That's a key text here.
There's no such thing
as these divisions any longer,
because you're all one
in Christ.
Now, that's that same word
that they attach to that,
So Christ comes
as the oneness,
as the divine one.
And in baptism,
you are somehow
recreated in that one,
and then in the ascetical life,
or the monastic life,
as it is later,
what you're trying to do
is to complete
the transformation,
which makes all of you one.
So that's that movement
towards Eucharist
we were talking about.
This New Testament theme
of oneness,
of becoming one
by putting on the one,
very likely also lies
behind the Syrian idea
of Christ being the ihidea,
the only one.
The notion of that
is strongest, I think,
in most of the Gospels,
in the baptism of Jesus.
The idea of the Son,
the only begotten Son,
the only one, okay?
So the one there
is directly already
connected with baptism,
even in the baptism of Jesus.
And then that's what's
experienced in our baptism.
So we're baptized
into the one.
Now see,
this is the core
of what we're talking about
is the Christian
contemplative experience,
this experience of the one,
which is no less than God.
I mentioned this,
it's not,
there's no indication
that the Sanskrit word
for one,
which is eka,
or ekam,
comes from the Semitic root
ekol, and so forth.
This is this one.
But it is interesting
that you find it
already in the Rig Veda
that ekam,
that one,
as a name for
the absolute beyond
the divinity,
beyond the rituals,
beyond sacrifice.
So it's already
coming out in,
you know,
you might say
in 1500 B.C.
I'd love to look at that,
because it's very,
very interesting.
The, what would you call it,
similarity of sound
between the two
is very strange.
There's no indication
that there,
it's not a gospel,
there's a Phoenician trade
and that sort of thing,
so there might be
this word got in Sanskrit
from the Semitic base.
This New Testament
theme of oneness,
of becoming one
by putting on the one,
very likely also lies
behind the Syrian idea
of Christ being
the ihidea,
the only one,
whom the ihidea,
those who are one,
that is the ascetics,
put on at baptism.
And then she quotes
Ephraim and Aphraod.
Behold, the sword
is a living sword,
which brings about
division into two parts.
The division between
the living and the dead,
this kind of sword image
and the division theme
is in counterpoint
sort of to the one thing,
the unitive theme
of putting on the one.
Behold, being baptized,
they also become virgins
and continent ones.
Tule, that's virgins,
and Kadeshe.
For they descended,
they were baptized
and put on that one,
only one.
For whoever is baptized
and puts on the only one,
the lord of the many,
takes unto himself
the place of the many,
for Christ becomes
his great treasure.
Another text.
Blessed are the single ones,
Remember the word monochos
comes from that,
how is it in,
I'm trying to,
monochos in Greek
and monochos in Latin,
and then there's another
anyhow the idea is one.
you can think of it
as being solitary.
The outside of it
sort of is the idea
of a solitary.
The inside of it
is the idea
of a unitive being.
The inside of that term
for monk, monochos.
So the thing is,
is instinctively
very, very deep
in early monasticism,
and not only
in Assyriac monasticism.
And this relationship
between the monastic life
and celibacy,
which is rarely explained,
you know,
it's sort of taken for granted
even by Saint Benedict.
But I think the connection
is rooted here actually.
Then Augustine does
a crazy etymological thing
with it that takes it back
in the other direction.
The monk is one
because he's one
with all of creation.
So it's no longer
that movement within
to separate,
to not get in,
but then having obtained that.
And I was just thinking
this Eucharist,
which is for all
these grains of wheat
becomes one bread,
one cup.
And so it's interesting.
It's a kind of withdrawal
and concentration
and then a kind
of expansion.
That's right.
That's right.
I think also that that's
perfectly valid,
it seems to me,
that Augustinian
because that one
at the center
is the inclusive one,
It's like at the center
of the wheel,
everything is together.
And to be there
is to be in a unitive place
where you're in touch
with everything
at its own core.
That seems to be the way.
Also with Banachar's center,
I believe it works that way.
Okay, we've got to quit,
so let's pull this together.
If anybody wants to read
this article,
I'll pass it on to you.
We really haven't done justice
to it.
I think it's very important.
Yeah, maybe I should copy
at least those pages.
I'll do that.
A couple of other ideas
I wanted to connect with
is, which we haven't had time
with before,
are to make multiple
connections between
baptism and unitive experience,
contemplative experience,
and monasticism.
But maybe some of you
might be interested
in doing that.
But there's more than one
There are very broad
kind of cables
of relationship
between baptism
and therefore
the beginning
and in some way
the fullness of Christian life
and contemplative experience,
which we've called
unitive experience,
and monasticism itself.
I think monasticism
really in its origin
is the baptismal life,
which is also to say
the unitive life.
And one more thing.
I had some,
there's some beautiful
Martin texts where
he loves to talk about
He loves to talk about
the dawn.
Remember that text
in Conjectures
where he says
it's 2.30 in the morning.
This terrible
tapas tower
at 2.30 in the morning.
And the birds
are just starting
to wake up
and there's no light yet.
But the birds
are just beginning
to stir.
And in a little while
they're going to peep
a little bit
and ask if they have
permission to be.
Ask if they,
if they have
permission to be.
And then they'll come
to be.
And then they'll come
to be birds
and they may even
have wings
and fly and so on.
But that moment
before the creation
he returns to that,
which is also
the baptismal moment.
Now this dawn moment,
remember the
monastic tradition
of vigils,
is somehow
the peculiar
time of monks,
the peculiar
monastic time,
entering once again
back into the beginning.
But here the beginning
in the daily
cycle, as it were,
before the creation
once again.
So the vigil
as being
an attempt
like baptism
to return back
into the beginning.
You can think of
morning as a kind
of baptism.
Also because of
the chastity
that's just in
the morning light
and the morning air
and so on.
And the monk
trying to move back
into that point.
And then Merton
comes out with that
the point vierge,
the virgin point,
Again that expression,
the virgin point,
the point vierge,
he says.
And then he goes off
in his poetic way
about that.
And he's got another,
that's in Conjectures
of a Guilty Bystander,
if you're interested,
I'll give you the
page numbers.
142, I believe.
And the other place
he gets into the same
mode is in
The New Man.
Because in the last
two chapters of
The New Man,
which is his book
about anthropology,
I guess you'll say,
spiritual anthropology,
he's talking about
and then he's
talking about
the Easter Vigil.
So he talks about
that light that
is kindled
in darkness
from the
flint and stone,
And the light that
begins there.
And it's this,
and how that relates
to baptism.
And it's the same
moment for him.
See, this moment
of darkness,
just before,
before the light,
before the light
makes things real,
before the created
almost before the
first creature,
which is light,
the monk is getting
back into that
moment of darkness
with the pregnant
just before
things come forth.
Sounds a little
but there's a lot of
deep reality
in there, I think.
And then he
connects that
with the whole
apophatic tradition,
and particularly
in its expression
in John of the
that the darkness
itself is light
in some way.
That the light of God
is darkness
for us.
And so there
you're in this
or the
let us say,
which is
a darkness
which is a fullness
of light,
which is,
what is that,
the heart of faith
in some way.
So you can see
how it kind of all
pulls together
around that moment,
and how many
things in the
monastic life
are connected
with this prime
which we're
talking about,
the center,
which we're
talking about
in Pentecostal
In Christian
you bring it
into this
New Testament
and it
reflects itself
on all these
different features
and dimensions
of monastic
We don't
have time
to go
into that
thank you.
thank you.
Thank you.