Contemplative Prayer: Practice of the Presence of God

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Contemplative Prayer class. Practice of the Presence of God.

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kiss one who comes to him with a child's heart. So it's a game of kind of hide-and-seek. And we see that in the Canticle of Canticles. It's kind of an alluring and then stepping back. But we don't want to seem absolutely desperate. When Bruno and I were in the novitiate, it was almost an unspoken principle that we had to get into the certainly the fourth mansions by the sixth month and probably the fifth mansions by the ninth month. But there was a little too willful, you know, clutching at it. And if at a certain point you just set it aside and then it happens. It's like you try to remember something and then if you just stop trying, very often it can pop there. Or if you very much want to sleep, well just give up on it. Why am I going to sleep tonight and start doing something else? Then you might go to sleep. It's that kind of paradox. Comment, sir? I think that's a beautiful kind of counter.


So we are in the area of paradox and mystery and Zen Koan here and that kind of thing. I think the desperation gets too much of ourselves involved in it. And you start bringing up the imaginations of the intellectuals before you want to do that kind of thing. Yeah. And too much of ourselves. I really thought of the ego, you know. The ego can very much go into the contemplative life. And this is the highest location of all. And I'm going to get God. Other people are just after cars and bank accounts. And I'm after God, you know. And I'm going to get God. And so sometimes God, that book of Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite, he's very good on that. People who want to clutch God and possess God, it won't happen. It's like trying to clutch the cloud, possess the cloud. So I think that's what he's trying to get at. And it's a very important thing. So at a certain point you're


detached even about that. Eckhart says, yeah, we will to be one with God. But at a certain point we have to non-will. We know that that is the highest wisdom of God. That's what we yearn after. But we've got to yearn as much to non-knowing. That's non-wisdom. That's non-willing, non-love. It's that paradox that is already there in Pseudo-Dionysius. It's all the way through Zen. This very much helps the dialogue with the Eastern religions. And so what John of the Cross is saying, what is it? The way to get everything is to desire nothing. And the way to know everything is to know nothing. And a whole series of things. So the way to get contemplation is not to will to get it. To be disposed at some level to yearn with all our heart and to let that be. But with a kind of an English reserve,


I should think. You mask this and you keep it controlled. It actually becomes quite subtle to understand what he's talking about. He says therefore contemplation should not be limited to that. Because obviously the time for it is limited. And now he says the intensity is also limited in this sense. It's quite a subtle thing. There's something to it that precisely where you can't make an object of. It can't be an object, therefore how can you want it? Therefore in a sense you can't want it. You can't really want it, you want something else. You want your idea of it. Yeah, I want this and that and that and that. I can't want God in anything like that way. And I know this and that and that. I can't know God in anything. So that's there. So in a sense we only want God. And that not wanting is totally other than just giving up, a kind of a blasé.


So full of paradox. This is true to a real extent in interpersonal relations, in love relations. I remember a college friend of mine who said he was wildly in love with this gal. He had these moments of doubt. Am I wildly in love with her or am I wildly in love with romantic love, kind of thing. And with wanting a girl, it takes a lot of work to see is it really that other person or how much more, you know. Am I in love with God as God or am I in love with the idea of me as a great saint possessing God, a great mystic kind of thing. That person can come to you on their terms and you know them as a person. God is not


like that. This is about presence and absence. In my own experience anyway. Absolutely. And the other person would just reach out and hold your hand and assure you that. Now that's hard for God to do. But in some mysterious way, God can reassure us at deep levels that another person never can. So it's a great... What you find is that you never know another person the way you know God. You start doubting the existence of other people. So it's full of paradox. I think it's pretty heretical to think we can do it too. I mean, it's got to be quite an outrageous thing. Absolutely. On the other hand, it could be Gnosticism too. You know, secret formula and secret knowledge. I love... I don't remember this. I don't remember the sentence at all.


We rely more on joyful enthusiasm and cheer group force. So often I have this little voice in my head trying to tell me to relax. Just calm down. We've got plenty of time. I remember a novice master telling a very zealous, intense novice, just coast. And the novice was scandalized because that's one thing he couldn't do. He had to keep trying and pounding, etc. There's lots of language in the cloud that suggests the pounding, etc. But then there's these other texts who said not in that sense, you know. So it has to be a effortless effort, that kind of thing. But not slipping into quietism and not slipping into kind of a bored, do nothing. So it's very subtle to discern that. And then, so there's only specific moments for this.


And yet, he says, if we keep at it, it can become virtually habitual. That is, it can extend throughout the whole day. If you go to page 140. He talks about the whole range of contemplatives. And we, again, don't ape, don't think, well, the other person's like that, so I should be, or anything like that. But if you look at the kind of the title of the chapter under it, that some people experience the perfection of contemplation in rare moments of ecstasy, called ravishing, while others experience it as they will, amid the ordinary daily routine. And here we're getting into who we'll see next time is Brother Lawrence. When some kind of mysterious ongoing way had this experience with the pots and pans and the cleaning and the repairing of shoes and the whole thing.


God was there. So if you go down to the second paragraph, about six lines, yet. Do you see the yet there? Yet there are others so spiritually refined by grace and so intimate with God in prayer that they seem to possess and experience the perfection of this work almost as they like, even in the midst of their ordinary daily routine, whether sitting or standing, walking or kneeling. They manage to retain full control and use of their physical and spiritual faculties at all times, however, not without some difficulty, perhaps, yet without great difficulty. So this is, again, our mountain thing. Brother Lawrence could do the cooking and clean the pots and pans and still be with God. It's not a contradiction because God is at the summit and these other faculties and energies and activities work at other levels.


That's the usefulness of this model. Now it takes a certain strain, but it can happen. And then someone like Brother Lawrence or something like the prayer of the heart or Augustine Baker, these brief, intense prayers during the day, they'll give us the means more and more to extend this experience throughout the day, certainly in liturgy. That's why our silent pauses are there. That's why we want to prepare. That's why we pray the same texts over again and again and again so they'll get so into us that they can come from a deeper depth and we don't have to be playing with every image, etc. We can kind of pray in and through them. That's why a prayer like the rosary, etc., to extend the contemplative throughout the day. This, again, shouldn't become intense. We shouldn't beat ourselves when we've had long periods of distraction or something. Sometimes we can set this as a goal.


I want to be constantly with God within the next year or something. No, it's not that. But just to allow the ice block of forgetfulness to break up a little in little moments of perceiving the waters beneath or something. Just every now and then to make that. It can, as the author of The Cloud says, it can be in a split second, a one-second pause between doing this and doing that. Remember why I'm doing this and why I'm doing that. Just invoke God with a brief word, as the author of The Cloud says. That will go into the upper cloud. And then come down and do the things that need to be done, maybe with an image in front of us, maybe with whatever. Comments about that? So that's a view of contemplative prayer through this classic. And I think it's, for me, a splendid teaching. Also, Merton says glowing things about the cloud.


It's so obviously sure and coming out of deep experience and helpful, etc. So next time, we'll pop from this down to quite a different level. And we'll be looking at Brother Lawrence, the practice of the presence of God. How many of you know that work? Oh, well, there you are. You don't know that, Sabrina. I know of it, Father. I haven't read it. Well, it's a shame. Good. So why don't we prepare for that. I notice there's a critical addition over in the store. So that's something new. But we'll just be using, as we're using the image edition of The Cloud, because of its accessibility, we'll use the image edition of the practice. And I will pass out our sections that we'll be looking at. But I forgot to bring them. So next time, we'll go to the practice.


But think, your homework assignment is how to shift this isolated, intense moment into throughout the day. Not necessarily with that intensity and immediacy, but with something of that awareness. Someone uses a delightful image, I think, of peripheral vision. I can be very focused on this. And it's 11.01 now. And still be aware of the flowers, not shut that off. Indeed, somehow wanting to encompass that in the awareness of time, this kind of thing. Look at this book. Don't be aware of you there. The mother, the loving mother, might be doing this, that, and that. But she's aware of the child also on the floor and aware that the child might be wandering a little too close to the hot oven or something. So it's that both and kind of consciousness, which, again, the mountain allows that we want to develop. There's a mysterious passage in Julian Norwich that suggests


that maybe, at least for some people, this is going on all the time, even when they're not aware of it. And so when we come back to contemplative prayer, it's not as if we start again something we left off two days ago or something, but we just come back to an area that's going all the time. We're just aware of it now. It's like Emmanuel going up to the generator and checking it. The generator's always going, whether he's aware of it or not. And that's when we've got ongoing electricity. It's just that sometimes he's more directly aware of it. Well, that's something like ascending to the mountain. So what Brother Lawrence wants to get us in touch with is just to be more and more in communion with God throughout the day, who's always in communion with us. Amen. Thank you. Where did you find this? Well, it's in the library. So we should be good.


All right. This is our fifth session on contemplative prayer, according to the correct interpretation, I think, of the mystery. And we have been looking at three dimensions throughout the day in contemplative prayer. And there's those intense moments when we are absolutely silent and it's a direct moving into the apophatic prayer. For us, this is kind of formalized in that period after Vespers and period after Laws. And this is the kind of moment that the author of The Cloud of Unknowing is talking about, or John of the Cross, or also Teresa as we get into the fourth and fifth dimensions, etc. So this is extremely important to source for the rest. But it isn't the whole thing. Our contemplative life here isn't confined to that. Then there are other solemn, formal moments of liturgical prayer


throughout the day. There are moments of Lectio. These are less direct and apophatic. In fact, they're mediated through a whole series of sacred signs and rites and the word of God. And here about things like St. Gertrude and Fr. Vitagini, they talk about this whole dimension of the contemplative in and through the liturgical. Fr. Aguirre will be coming and talking about this. But this should be possible. We should have a possibility of contemplative experience in liturgy. If it's just cut off at the moment of liturgy, that would be pretty bad news. Some argue that this is the solemn culmination of our contemplative life. Others say, good morning, brother. Yeah. Others say it is a difficult thing to do. But we don't want to exclude that.


The liturgical moment is also a contemplative moment. If you were listening carefully to our psalms, our canticles, our troparion of just launched today, for instance, it's hard to really proclaim and sing those without being in some kind of contemplative space. I think you have to make almost a conscious decision that, well, this won't be contemplative for me because I'm not alone and in silence, etc. But for instance, that closing trope, to the blessed and only sovereign, to the king of kings, the lord of lords, to the one who alone possesses immortality, who dwells in inaccessible light, who no one has seen or can see, be honor and power forever. Amen. So I think that inevitably moves us into a space of contemplative insight and adoration. It's different from the first moment. It's mediated, but it's mediated by language,


a huge word of God that somehow, somehow mysteriously filled with the spirit, with gestures. The very singing brings it forth from us, perhaps from a deeper level. And then our canticle from Isaiah. No more shall they call you forsaken or your land be called desolation. You shall be called my delight. Your land shall be called the espoused. For the Lord delights over you and your country shall have its wedding. Like a young man that marries a virgin, your rebuilder shall marry you as the bridegroom rejoices. So your God rejoices in you, etc. So again, this isn't silent apophatic, but it's certainly the language of contemplative love. And the mystics who are into the apophatic will take these kind of texts to comment, precisely to explain what happens in the most silent and ineffable.


This language about the mystery of God, about spousal love as being what contemplation is all about, etc. So to remain definitely open throughout these solemn moments of the day of liturgy to the contemplative experience. If you want to get further into it, read someone like Father D'Agostini, The Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy. Read his chapter on mysticism, etc. Or St. Gertrude, etc. Then the third moment is throughout the day, not limited even to these sacred moments and the silence, but in any moment, in any situation, some way that God is there. That's the basic theological principle of all this. God is there yearning for intimacy and union with us, also in that now. So if we're not with God, it's not God's fault.


It's not as if God has said, this is not a contemplative moment. It is mediated, no longer even by the sacred language and symbols, etc., but by the daily happenings that somehow are sacramental even of themselves. People note that Jesus uses the everyday happenings of life for his parables. Is this warm enough? I got you. For instance, the woman who takes leaven and puts it into the dough. This is the language of the kingdom. Well, this, some say, is the great Marian parable. That is, he saw his mother Mary putting leaven in the bread, and somehow that brought to him insight about God's presence, the presence of the kingdom, the dough, etc. But whatever it be, things that don't work out the way we'd like, disclosures, anguishes, etc., somehow God is there. So we'll be looking at Brother Lawrence and the practice of the presence of God just a bit.


We'll be looking at the prayer of the heart, which wants absolutely to extend throughout the day, a prayer. So we've got these three moments. Any questions, comments, objections about that? We want to be careful again because our contemplative literature tends to focus on this. Though there is some contemplative literature that also extends to this. We want to extend it. Otherwise, it is constricted. But the three moments are not isolated one from another or in rivalry or hostility or something. And so this is our symbol here, which is a great Trinitarian symbol. But it wants to suggest how one dimension flows into the other and complements it and brings it into its fuller harmony, etc. The Eastern Church talks in the Mystery of the Trinity of circumincession. Not circumcision, but circumincession,


which means the flow of the life of the Father into the life of the Son and into the life of the Spirit. And it's one ongoing dynamic of the one God. The Father is not the Son. He was not the Spirit. And yet, they're not cut off from each other. You can't have a Father without a Son. You can't have a Son without a Father. So they profoundly interpenetrate. Well, this is the way it seems to be. These three dimensions of our prayer every day can and should work. Say we'll take this highest, this silent apophatic. Someone put liturgical up here. Someone put Robin A. up here. Whatever you put up there. Let's say it's the silent. That is deep will inevitably deepen the liturgical moment. And one will come alive to those kind of contemplative significances and depths of the text, of the music, of the gesture, of the reading of Scripture, etc.


And then, throughout the day, when we encounter someone and someone's in anger or sorrow or joy or some work has to be done or something, that also will be strengthened and deepened. As we said last time, Brother Lawrence said, do you have time for problems being recollected in the moment of silent prayer? Well, don't forget God throughout the day. It'll be much easier. And vice versa. If this is a deep moment, then it's the more easy throughout the day to have at least little moments of presence. And it'll be easier for the liturgical moment not just to be ours, they call it, smells and bells and bowing and scraping, etc. Not just form and theater. But, indeed, a kind of a sacred dance with God or something. Any questions, comments about that? So, we, again, are particularly focusing on this.


As we have time, we're going to sit down here and look at this just briefly to fill it out, hoping that Fr. Ailey will fill this out. But we, the main people to do this is each one of us ourselves. Then, just again to review, last time we were looking at this image of the Sacred Mountain, which is very much there in the cloud as a model of the human person. Each one of us is interior mountain. We have these different levels of our gifts, faculties, dynamic capacities to work and see and perceive and ponder and mull, etc. And the mountain model has its own distinct limits. But it suggests that things can be happening maybe on different levels at the same time. So that if there's something that very much catches my attention,


the subtle colors of the flower bouquet, etc., that's to be there. But that doesn't have to mean that I lose every deep thought or every memory or every realization of what has to be done this afternoon or something, or even maybe some kind of deeper communion of God at the summit. And so we were looking at this model, which is in the cloud, which is always very much in the other mystical writers, right back to Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, right forward to John of the Cross, the ascent of Mount Carmel, etc. So we were looking at, well, where is the mountain in Scripture? And we came up, first of all, with Sinai and the Great Mount of the Covenant, then up Carmel, the Mount of the Prophets, and then Mount Zion and the Mount of Beatitudes and the Mount of the Transfiguration and the Mount Calvary,


and then Mount Bethany, and then the Mount of... We can leave it at that. But a very important Mount of the Transfiguration, I think we said. A very important moment of theophany, of manifestation of the divine and sacred history. They often happen on the Mount, so it's kind of archetypical. And we saw that also in the other world religions, or the Native American, etc., it's very much there. Then we want to see this complementary archetypical image of the cloud. So we were going to think about the cloud in Scripture. What did we come up with as our homework assignment? Where do clouds appear in Scripture? In Matthew and Mark, Jesus predicts he'll come upon the clouds of heaven. Jesus will do what? He predicts he'll come upon the clouds of heaven. In his return, absolutely.


So this is decisive. So it's not only way back then, but it's ahead of us. At the consummation of time, it's the clouds that will be kind of the throne of Christ. And as Fr. Ehlerich said the other day, every day is the end of time. Just a dreadful headline, we're kind of wandering here, but 30 or 50 up in Canada committed suicide yesterday. They belong to these sects about the end of time. And I guess the end of time didn't come, so they just killed themselves, kind of thing. But when it really comes, it'll be on the clouds. So that's an important text. Also, this is in Revelation. Christ will return on the clouds. Other cloud images in Scripture. Transfiguration. Yeah. What happens? Everything disappears into a cloud, and the voice comes from the cloud. It depends on the version you read. The voice comes from the cloud, and the cloud disappears because Moses and Elijah and Jesus are there,


then I think they all disappear into the cloud. And the cloud itself comes as only Jesus. And the voice says, listen to me. Let's not listen to him. That's one account. There are three different ones. Yep. So this is our great feast as contemplatives and as commandolies. The mother house of the hermitage. Most of our houses are dedicated to the Transfiguration. And it kind of culminates, yes, in this bright light of Christ, but then also in the cloud. And this causes us to remember how in ancient and traditional iconography is the father presented, just as an old man with a beard on top of the throne. The cloud is the glory, by the way. Yeah. The cloud is a symbol of the glory and descent into the temples, where the priest couldn't even do a good thing. This is another, yeah, now we're going back to the Old Testament. I was trying to get into iconography, Father. Does anyone know how the Heavenly Father is presented in iconography?


In the cloud? Yes. There's the cloud with a hand. Very insightful. There's a cloud with a hand descending from it. This is one of the rules. I think it comes out of at least one of the ecumenical councils. The father will not be represented in art, because the father is ineffable. So most, you have this hand descending from the cloud, and then maybe the spirit and the son. The cloud should be bigger and simpler. But that's the father. Wow, that's the only way you can represent them. Welcome to church. So, the cloud is seen in Scripture and also in the whole patristic and medieval period in the Eastern Church as kind of the dwelling place of the father. The only way we can render present the ineffable father.


And it's a wonderful symbol, because in a certain way it makes present, but more than that, it veils. And that's what, according to the theologians, all of creation does. That's what revelation does. It makes manifest, but it makes manifest in a way that safeguards us. It doesn't overpower us. So that's the function of the cloud. And then we went back to the theologians. In the temple, there's a cloud, which, again, represents the presence. Other texts. Ah, amen. So that recalls back to this decisive beginning of it all, of covenant. Again, we have Sinai, and then Moses to approach God's presence. Where does he go? Into the cloud. Well, you can imagine how Origen uses this, and Gregory of Nisan, and Pseudo-Dionysius, and John of the Cross, etc., etc.


Absolutely. So in the ongoing journey of faith, John of the Cross says it's the night that is our safe guide. But this is even a more biblical image. It's the cloud that's our safe guide on the daily journey. When we're in the cloud, we shouldn't be perplexed. And, oh my God, what's happening? Where am I? Where we should be. We are where we should be when we're in the cloud. Yes? I was noticing that the cloud and the mountain go together. Like on Sinai, of course, there was our mountain, and of course the transfiguration. Tabor. Plus, also the voice of God in the New Testament coming out of the cloud, from the shining cloud, is that luminous cloud. So it's, again, it's a cloud that takes away all your sight, but it's a luminous cloud. From the shining cloud, the Father's voice is heard. This is my luminous cloud. And I had one more, in Psalm 97. Surrounded by cloud and darkness, is the right guide.


That's right. That's the only proper setting for God, is the cloud and darkness, the two. And so to take that seriously as contemplatives, we sometimes want to go from light to light, and things get ever more clear and distinct and manageable. But what this is all about is, no, we should rejoice as little children as we go deeper into the happy, totally incomprehensible mystery. If you've ever seen a glorious bright cloud, and the rays streaming through it, usually it just stops people in their track, and that's it. You know, that's almost the most, what, privileged symbol of the divine presence kind of thing. But yeah, the cloud and the mountain go together, and delightfully they do geographically. It's at the top of the mountain, at the, what shall we call it?


What is it? What happens when you happen to form a cloud? Do we have any? You have a peak experience. That's right. I was talking more about just the weather conditions that gather the, but hopefully you do have a peak. So, other texts. Gerard came up with a delightful one. It's another, the little hand? The little hand. That is, this is the cloud that is the symbol of the coming of the rain. It's a symbol of finally the overcoming of the drought, of misery. So, this is where it is archetypical. The cloud veils the divine, but also brings that water. We're just delighted here when it rains, because it means water. There won't be a shortage of water. It means that the rainy season is less threatening.


Splendid, absolutely. That's where this great covenant sign that God will no longer devastate the earth is, in the cloud. So, that's a wonderful one. Others. I think that's about enough to a Chuhan. Since it's so rich in scripture, we can imagine it'll be in other religions as it is. If you look at the Hindu iconography, often their goddesses, et cetera, are in chariots, ripping along on top of clouds and things. And I've got this illustrated encyclopedia of traditional symbols, kind of a Jungian thing, big section on clouds. A cloud of light denotes theophany. The reviving rains are also compassion, et cetera. And it goes through the Chinese and the Japanese and all these things. So, it is archetypical. And then again, if you trace it down through the literature,


here's Gregory of Nyssa way, way back there in the fourth century. The manifestation of God was first made known to Moses through light, then in the cloud. The more attentive understanding of divine things, leading the soul by invisible things to the invisible reality, is as it were a cloud that obscures everything sensible and accustoms the soul to the contemplation of what is hidden, surrounded on all sides by the divine darkness. And if you look up cloud in John of the Cross, it's all the way through. And in his earliest ascent of Mount Carmel, it's what faith is. Faith isn't seeing distinctly and knowing I believe and feeling that. Faith is moving into the darkness of the cloud when it's real faith. Faith was foreshadowed in that cloud that separated the children of Israel. Scripture says of the cloud,


the cloud was dark and illuminative in the night. Exodus 14, 20. How wonderful it was, a cloud dark in itself, but it could illumine the night. This was related to illustrate how faith, a dark and obscure cloud to us, illumines and pours light into the darkness of one's soul by means of its own darkness, et cetera. So these images, the central image of the cloud of unknowing, theologically precise, visually a kind of architect, archetypically, they speak to us I think at a very, very deep level. So, and I think it's interesting theologically, and again, the author of the cloud is a theologian, but he has two clouds. Remember our two clouds. The one is at the summit. We must go into that cloud through the act of the will in love,


the highest act of the will. We can penetrate the cloud to be with God. But then we're supposed to be this, be putting ourselves this cloud of forgetting over all these other dimensions of faculties, et cetera, that can do so much in other moments during the day. I can have so many ideas and brilliant insights, et cetera. That's all these little Xs. And so many imaginations and memories and all kinds of sense data. But in the moment itself of silent, apophatic prayer, I put this cloud of forgetting over all this stuff and go into the cloud of unknowing. What's the relation of these two clouds? Are they just the very same kind of cloud? Why not call both of them cloud of unknowing, one and two, or call both of them cloud of forgetting? Why does he use very different terminology for the one and the other?


Are they totally the same? Are they analogous? Are they equivocal? Yes. The will is, to some extent, it just occurred to me, I hadn't thought about this, but it seems like the will is, at least to some extent, involved in the forgetting, but certainly the will is not involved in the unknowing. Because when there's an exercise of anything to do with us, the unknowing remains complete darkness to us. So the unknowing never gets known. I think that's right on. That is, the author says, we put the cloud of forgetting there, and by specific acts of the will, we say, no, I'm going to set aside my ideas now, however insightful, I'm going to set aside my memories. So this is our work. And as we'll see, he says that the contemplative exercise is hard work, but it's at this level. But then the will can be active here,


but it's a kind of paradoxical passive act. It's basically a surrendering in love to the mystery. I don't put the cloud of unknowing there. As I approach God, I just realize I move into unknowing. I move into the ineffable mystery. So right on, it has to do with the will, the will which here wills to forget for the moment, and then wills to love, to penetrate into the mystery, even though it's a blind love, even though it's going more and more into the darkness, but it's a luminous darkness, yes. And even, could you just say the simple formula of going from the known to the unknown? So the cloud of forgetting is the known. Absolutely. Any of these things, at least, remember to say. Anything that's safe, like home, safe, safety. Yeah. Forgetting anything that's safe is safe. That's right. And going into the unknown.


This is the realm of creatures. This is the realm that, to some extent, I can understand, I can grasp, I can imagine, I can remember. In some way, I can approach through the senses. This is an entirely different realm. So I wanted other colors. I would have made this cloud an entirely different color, but unfortunately, we don't make that. So these are, at very best, analogous clouds. And with a very, I can love other people, I can love these flowers and this beautiful chair. I love God in an entirely different way. This room, there's people in this room, there's blackboards, there's chairs, God is in this room, all kinds of, but God is in this room, not just as another being alongside chairs, tables, people. God is here in an entirely different way. As source of everything else, as sustaining everything else, as fulfillment, as totally other than everything else.


So that's the adventure of the contemplative journey into the cloud. We want to conceive that God is like everyone else, and God should be friendly and faithful to me like everyone else, and accessible, and pretty, and whatever it is. But God is totally other. So that's what these two clouds are all about. And two different ways of loving. I love people, I love God. And there is a strict analogy there, because people are the image of God. But it's, in another way, totally other. Because God's not just a big people. But totally mystery. And so all these, we had mentioned these different modalities of human love. Felial love, I love my father and mother, so I'm supposed to love God. That works, but it doesn't work. God is father, but in a totally different way than any other father we've ever known. Then friendship love, I love my friends,


I love God as friend. But God is friend in an entirely different way. God moves us, God is lover, God is spouse, in an entirely different way. So we don't want too easy, univocal use of these. And so what happens in the mountain is deep, dark cloud that we don't construct. We just find there and surrender ourselves to. But this we put here and try to keep here is very difficult, because these faculties are so lively, and the ongoing battle with distractions. Yes, and so forth. We use the word cloud and the image of cloud. Both of them are something we're doing now. It's about the word or image of cloud, right? Because the cloud of unknowing is not really a cloud, the cloud of forgetting is meaning. So it's like we divide all reality, all possibilities of consciousness into two heaps, as it were. And we refuse all particularity,


the cloud of forgetting is the rejection of all particularity into one great whole, which is the whole of rejection. And the other is the losing of all knowledge of the cloud and everything into one great whole, which is the whole of accepting, or the whole of loving. It's interesting what we're doing, because in a sense the two clouds, psychologically, the two clouds can be very nearly the same. It's an interesting operation. Because as long as you're thinking about cloud, also, well, that's not it, is it? In a sense. Absolutely. Absolutely. It's just, it itself is a weak image about something that mysteriously is totally other. It's like the word. It's like the word of meditation, where the word forces everything out. So we bring this cloud, and the cloud that the word pushes out of all particularity, so you meditate on the simplest. Yeah, the real contemplative experience is more unlike all this than it's like all this. And it's more unlike a mountain


than it's like a mountain. And going into the mystery is more unlike going into a cloud than it is going. So you always have to say that. It could be, though, that this kind of image helps us more than other kinds of image. It's, as Churchill said of the parliamentary system, it's the worst possible, except for any other you can come up with, kind of thing. So would you say that the presence of God is more like the absence? Absolutely, yeah. And so are all the apathetic paradox of void and emptiness and darkness, which is light and all that, yeah? Speaking with respect to the cloud and the Jewish appropriation of the religious symbol, to what extent is it actually a rejection of the religious symbol of the cloud? To what extent? What is? The Jewish appropriation in the scriptures. The pillar of cloud, the luminous cloud,


seems to me to be a sort of oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. To what extent, I'm wondering, is that therefore irrelevant? Well, typical Jewish, to say something in contradicting everything you said. And that brings it so much closer to what we're talking about here, the two clouds that aren't clouds at all. The two that aren't two at all. Notice our cloud is a limit, where it's not an image, it's an image which is formless, okay? It's the very image of formlessness, and that's why I keep the distance from it. It's like the last image before you go beyond. And it's the very image which itself disappears into a blur. I think we've all flown into a cloud, and it's fascinating, because you see it, but it's so baffling, because as you say, you can't grab a cloud, you can't see where you are. And so it's very appropriate.


You can penetrate a cloud. That's why he likes it. We penetrate it with these arrows of love. And so God can be there, we just can't see God. So it's very imperfect and unsatisfactory, but it can be the best we have, and given that the God who encounters us in the mystery created clouds and mountains, etc., there is something that wants to be helpful there and uses these images in revelation. So I think we're closer using this language than maybe the language of, I don't know, you know, New Age, God encountered through crystals or through, God knows what, peyote or something. All right. So having said all that, do we want to say any more about that? Let's finish up with the cloud,


the characteristics of the contemplative prayer as the cloud. Did you people bring your packets? I hope you did. It's not essential, of the cloud, and I didn't bring more, unfortunately, for Attunu. Well, I'll just read aloud then passages. So what do we say about this mysterious prayer where we just sit there, we place ourselves in God's presence, true faith, we don't have clear, distinct ideas, we're not pondering specifically on Bethlehem or Jesus on the cross. We're there in this very mysterious, silent, hopefully deeply peaceful, mysterious area. And then all our faculties want us to be thinking about this, imagining that, feeling that. So his point is, among other things, it's hard work. I don't just sit there like a bump on a log and expect God to infuse me with light and I passively enjoy it, or interior unction or something.


So chapter 26 on page 83, for those who do have the texts. Can you look on, Chris, with brutal fear? Hmm. But I can now. So then take up the toil of the contemplative work, like the first paragraph, with wholehearted generosity. Beat upon this high cloud of unknowing and spurn the thought of resting. So it's hard work. That's, sometimes again we think, well I have to sit there in the lotus position and be infused kind of thing. For I tell you frankly that anyone who really desires to be a contemplative will know the pain of arduous toil. Unless, and this is possible, God should intervene with special grace. You will feel keenly the cost of constant effort until he is long accustomed to this work. So that's one of the advantages of linking this particular prayer


also with the will. I've got the will to keep going. I've got the will to persevere whatever I'm experiencing, whatever the consolations or lack of consolations, et cetera. So why is it difficult? Then he goes on to explain it. He says not so much in terms of that higher mountain, that higher cloud, but the lower. But tell me, why should it be so difficult? Surely the fervent love, continually awakening in the will, is not painful. No, for that is God's doing, the fruit of his almighty power. Moreover, God is always eager to work in the heart of one who has done all he can to prepare the way for his grace. So again, he links the highest act of the will to love, and that takes us right into God. I think he might be a little romantic. I think sometimes that can be hard work also. But here he says that's not the main labor. Then why is this work so toilsome? Labor, of course, is in the unrelenting struggle to banish the countless distracting thoughts that plague our mind,


and to restrain them beneath the cloud of forgetting, which I spoke of earlier. This is the suffering. All the struggle is on the human side in the effort he must make to prepare himself for God's action, which is the awakening of love, and which he alone can do. But persevere in doing your part, and I promise you that God will not fail to do his. So that's his understanding. That's his articulation. And again, he means this rather rigorously, so that contemplation is love. Contemplation is that deepest yearning in us of being one with God, and if we'll do that, not wanting specific memories or imaginations or insights or any of the senses going, it'll happen. But the problem is that there's such an area of our inner psyche that craves for the consolation of these other things, and they are so autonomous in their activity that it's a constant battle.


Sometimes it can be a very painful battle, but he says persevere. And again, gently put down in the cloud of forgetting all the stuff, including sense of sin, including deep theological insights, et cetera. Comments about that? He then goes on to say, sometimes it can be incredibly easy. Sometimes we're just carried into the ineffable mystery. So it's not always hard work at all if you turn the page to 84. And these are the times that kind of give us the strength to go on and think. So at the top of the paragraph on page 84, as time goes by, however, you will feel a joyful enthusiasm for it, for this contemplative work. And then it will seem light and easy indeed. Then you will feel little or no constraint, for God will sometimes work in your spirit all by himself.


Yet not always, nor for very long, but as it seems best to him. When he does, you will rejoice and be happy to let him do as he wishes. So going into the cloud of unknowing is basically surrender to God. And that's hard work too, because we like control, and we like to see and understand, etc. Then perhaps he may touch you with a ray of his divine light, which will pierce the cloud of unknowing between you and him. He will let you glimpse something of the ineffable secrets of his divine wisdom. So here we have the wisdom word. And your affection will seem on fire with his love. Here they come together. So it's not some kind of hostile competition, Bruno, between wisdom and love. They come together. I am at a loss to say more for the experiences beyond words. So, yes. Do you think he's even speaking there of, like when we were talking about yesterday,


kind of the theophany experiences, like great moments of beauty or moments of love? Absolutely. That would be considered God touching us with a ray of divine light. Absolutely. Even the beauty of nature. I think he's certainly thinking primarily of the first. But he wouldn't deny these moments of nature mysticism where we're just bowled over by, I don't know, the sunset, or a moment of compassionate love. Because he's talking about it in the middle of the work, it seems to be in the direct non-mediated. Yeah. But I think he wouldn't absolutely exclude the other. And that's where we can recover the other through giving space to these other dimensions of contemplative prayer. So we're here. We want to be monks. We want to be contemplatives.


And so we get into fasting and eating in solitude and community and vigils. And what should we do more of? What should we do less of? Should we be speaking more? Should we be silent more? We've seen that in this other tract. Those are means. All those are means so you don't absolutize any of them. But contemplation, that's an end in itself. So this is finally something we can give ourselves to without limit. We can't give ourselves to fasting without limit or we'll starve ourselves to death. We can't give ourselves to rituals without limit or with silence or solitude probably. But to agape love, to caritas, to contemplation, yes. So if you go to page 100, the fathers of the desert said, what is the great queen of the virtues? Discretion, moderation. But does that mean


we always have to be going a safe middle way with everything? No, there are some things where we can just thank God and let out all the stops. So chapter 41, that in everything except contemplation, a person ought to be moderate. Now if you ask me what sort of moderation you should observe in the contemplative work, I will tell you none at all. In everything else, such as eating, drinking, and sleeping, moderation is the rule. Avoid extremes of heat and cold. Guard against too much and too little in reading, prayer, social involvement. In all these things I say keep in the middle path, but in love take no measure. Indeed, I wish that you would never cease from this work of love. So contemplation, again, is a work. It's something we do, though it's all grace-filled, but with no moderation, whatever. Here we can be extremists. Here we can be wildly radical.


In our studies, in our reading, in our composing of music, everything else, eating it again. And so I think this is a wonderful, this enables us to go crazy at a certain point. Yes? When he says middle path here, is he talking about, for example, Benedictine moderation? Where else is this? We hear this from time to time, but we see very little moderation in the lives of the saints. Well, in St. Benedict, in the rule, it's quite frequent, that word. Now, it's thought at this point, I think by the latest scholarship, that he was a Carthusian monk. But the rule of St. Benedict is just decisive, and also the Desert Fathers talk about moderation as key. And, of course, it's very much in the Greek stoics, etc. So it's there, of the great higher middle way,


that isn't, again, a weak compromise between the two extremes, but taking the best of this and this, and finding some kind of higher realization. But saying all that, there are moments when you want to go wild, and so I think he's right on. This is one of those moments. So I think, yeah, I think the rule is present there, and I think the Desert Fathers who do insist on moderation are there. Though you're certainly right, there are a lot of the Desert Fathers who weren't at all moderate, and a lot of Archimaldes saints who... Well, Anacondio preached moderation, and yet wasn't very generous. He was such an extremist in so many ways. I wouldn't say extremist, but generous. Moderation doesn't make good stories, you know what I'm saying? It's very non-storyism. But it was moderate, too. Yes, he did the extremes, Who? The Buddha. Ah, yeah. The great middle.


But we're not arguing for an influence of the Buddha. No, but I'm arguing for some kind of universal wisdom there. So often the hagiographies accentuate the extremes. Like the St. Francis of Assisi, I didn't stick it because I'm so fresh from yesterday. Or Dominic Loricatis. And really, the Gospels seem to lead us much more to the middle way. In the monastic tradition, the Gospels seem to be... Well, yeah, there's ways of reading the Gospels. If your right hand offends you, cut it off. Do not deny anything that anyone asks. Turn the other cheek. There's wild radical... Let the dead bury the dead. So there's wild stuff in Jesus. But there's also the compassionate and the patient


and the abiding with. Don't build a tower unless you counted them. So there's, I think, both ends. But I think there's this... I think the wildness comes in the passion and the faith and the love and the trust and all the way to the cross kind of thing. Greater love is known than there is to lay down one's life. Some people would say that's not very modern. But on the other hand, to be with the sinners and to eat and to not be with John in the desert and things. It's like there are two meanings of that word, too. One is discretion, is moderation, the kind of rational power. But the other one is discernment of spirits. So it's a question of whether somebody has a special place. And if you have a God, there's some exception. And that moves into the higher level of discretion, which is discernment. There's a kind of funny one-liner, we must be moderate in everything, including moderation.


So that every now and then we've got to say moderation. But he says specifically here, because otherwise our life is a little too controlled and balanced, et cetera. But we need that, I think, foundationally. And so he balances this out. So with the love and the contemplation and going for it, he let out all the stops. But he says, this doesn't mean just wild abandon to what's called spiritual gluttony. You know, I want it. I want this experience of God. I want the unction. I want to be a saint. And sometimes when another of our people uses this, I'm going to do everything I possibly can to be a saint. There's something not quite right about there. So there's this delightful chapter where he says, at least with God, mask your yearning. Kind of play an amusing game


of moderation, of caution, et cetera. Chapter 46, page 107. So I say again, avoid all unnatural compulsion and learn to love joyfully with a sweet and gentle disposition of body and soul. Wait with gracious and modest courtesy for the Lord's initiative and do not impatiently snatch at grace like a greedy greyhound suffering from starvation. So it's another side to it. I speak half playfully now, but try to temper the loud, crude sighing of your spirit and pretend to hide your heart's longing from the Lord. Kind of play hard to get or something. This is very subtle. But perhaps you will scorn this as childish and frivolous, but believe me, anyone who has the light to understand what I mean and the grace to follow it


will experience indeed the delight of the Lord's playfulness. So the Lord very often plays hard to get. And we should too, kind of thing. You know, we don't sit down in the rotunda and say, God, I've got to get you today. I'm going to get you. We probably won't get God. So if we're there attentive and prepared for God, but saying, God, if you don't come, that's all right. I've got other things to do. That's kind of fun.