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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and all the rest. So this, one of these great Abbas is saying to the pilgrim, prayer is so powerful, so mighty, that pray and then do what you like. Prayer will guide you right to right and just action. In order to please God, nothing more is needed than love. Love and do what you will, says the blessed Augustine, for he who truly loves cannot wish to do anything which is not pleasing to the one he loves. Since prayer is the outpouring and the activity of love, then one can truly say of it similarly, nothing more is needed for salvation than continuous prayer. So this is this whole focus. If I can just pray continuously, then I'm a Christian. If I can't, I'm not really a Christian yet. And how do I pray always? Well, the means is through Jesus' prayer, and you can take that or not, but that's the means. And again, the underlying theology here, again, I think is this agape approach

[01:02]

that we've heard in other terms in the cloud, but now down here at the base of the mountain. And so, but what is love? Love is prayer. It's the same thing. What is prayer but the outpouring, the activity of love? And I think this, St. Thomas might even say this also, that you've got this basic disposition of heart out of wanting to will God, wanting to will God's glory and honor and good, et cetera. But when you pray, if it's authentic prayer, you put that into act. You go from potency to act. We're doing that in our Thomist seminar. So then he goes on eloquently. Pray and think what you will. Pray and pray and do what you will. Pray and do not labor much to conquer your passions by your own strength. Prayer will conquer them for you. Pray somehow or other. Only pray always and be disturbed by nothing. Be gay in spirit and peaceful. Bring to God at first just quantity.

[02:04]

That is within your power. Just pray more and more and more and more. And God will pour upon you strength in your weakness. Prayer, dry and distracted maybe, but continuous, will establish a habit and become second nature and turn itself into prayer which is pure, luminous, flaming, and worthy. So it really takes this pray always very seriously, almost to the point where it's dangerous, you know. If we sit down and try today to say 10,000 Jesus prayers, you know, it can kind of flip us around. How many of you have read Salinger's Franny and Zoe? Yeah. Well, the little girl, the gal, almost has a full nervous breakdown trying to do this. And then at the end, she's like, oh, what the heck, and just lets it go. So you don't want to take this in too mechanistic a way, and you want to read this only dialoguing in an ongoing way with your spiritual director, et cetera.

[03:04]

But it is the whole Eastern monastic tradition of what a monk is all about. In the Eastern church, when a monk makes his first vows, or his vows, he's given the habit, but he's also given the Jesus prayer rosary, as if to say, now be a monk, pray the Jesus prayer. And it's this whole thing of constant prayer. Any questions, comments, objections about any of that? Yes. Yeah, I think the pilgrim, the way he also says that, at the beginning, of course, it's a kind of prayer, strenuous prayer. We make efforts, but gradually it becomes a kind of self-acting. The prayer prays itself. So it's not trying to make a person crazy. I mean, if that's the case, that means he's not doing well. Gradually, the work of, is God working in me?

[04:05]

So there is prayer praising itself in me. So even if he sleeps, he walks, he's walking or doing things, gradually, it's like a stream, a murmuring stream running all the time, streaming, singing, repeating the Jesus prayer, sometimes with words, sometimes without words. That's right. Like a constant river flowing. Now, the prayer can become coordinated with a breath. It can become coordinated with a heartbeat, et cetera. And as you say, at a certain point, it prays itself. And then at the end, talking about these glorious moments of just when all of creation is full of light and everything is the Jesus prayer and absolutely. So as you say, it's hard work at first. We'll hear the very same phrases with Brother Lawrence, except he does not use the tool of a prayer prayed over again and again, but just a simple being with God and saying whatever comes to mind. And Father Baker also, this is where the Eastern method

[05:07]

offers a very specific way that, for some, is liberating and exhilarating and disciplined. For others, it's a little too narrow and tight. But it's the same thing with Brother Lawrence, who went through 10 years of just real hard. But at the end, he could not not be with God. And this is just joyful, peaceful. So the same thing, absolutely. But the goal is this constant prayer, to take seriously. God is always with us. I want always to be with God, as the lover would want always to be united with the beloved, even when they're physically parted, even when the lover's thinking about something else, et cetera, but it's within that context. It's in that dynamic of the love that unites them, so that whatever else he does, it's for her and with her, et cetera. And he'll use, you know, he might phone her through the day or keep her picture on his office desk

[06:08]

and that kind of thing. So there'll be helps and ways to send her flowers, et cetera, but to stir up that basic commitment of the heart, of the will. Okay, and then in the West, we have all these different voices, including someone like Father Augustine Baker. We've just been reading Dane Gertrude Moore, who was his disciple. If you were listening closely, there was some interesting stuff there. But in terms of being in the English tradition, not doing a lot of meditation, imagining that you're up at the crib again. Again, if I do that, it's make-believe. Jesus really isn't now a babe off in Bethlehem, and I'm not really there, et cetera. But God is really here. And so I can just be there with God. So if you were listening, what was it, a couple of refectories ago,

[07:09]

we were hearing about Dane Gertrude Moore's prayer life under the influence of Father Augustine. Deep within her was an ability of the will to tend directly to God alone. So deep was this instinct that she was scarcely aware of it, and yet so strong that she acted according to it in spite of herself. The book mentions she was quite an extrovert, quite an active woman, and she was involved in everything that was happening in the cloister, and yet she was with God. And remember all our business about the will, et cetera. Well, this is tied into this kind of English tradition. I may not have great feelings or insights, or I'm just there with God. Contemplative prayer, the prayer of simple loving attention to God beyond all images and words. So her will tended toward God at its own accord,

[08:10]

and no amount of thinking made any difference to its instinctive movement. So in other words, she did not have to think of reasons for loving God. She simply loved him. And then she could reactivate this through the day in different kind of pauses between doing this and that. How? Through these affective acts of love, these prepared her for genuinely contemplative prayer and buoyed her up through times of darkness and aridity. So Father Augustine, he has a whole section in his Holy Wisdom. And note the title. It's not called Holy Love. It's called Holy Wisdom, Father Bramante. So at the end, he's got all these devout exercises, all these phrases for he owns sweet Jesus, and some of them are quite long, but they're to stir up the heart. And then if you go to chapter four of the first section of prayer without ceasing, and he says, we really,

[09:11]

also as Benedictine, she tends towards this. This isn't just as he casts stuff for the extension of prayer. This is our Lord's command that we should never omit this duty of praying. He puts it in Latin. It's a good Benedictine. O portet semper orare et nun deficere. It's necessary always to pray and not to let off. We ought always to pray and not to cease. Then he goes on, how? And again, he says explicitly, it can't be in specific vocal prayer. We can't always be in church saying lauds or something like that. But the heart can always be cleaving to God wherever and whatever else we're doing. To preserve our souls in an uninterrupted attention to God and tendency in spirit to him, so that whatever, so actions we do, they should be accompanied with the most fervent and persistent prayer. This is our goal. And in the meantime, it's not through vocal prayer.

[10:12]

No other manner of prayer, but the internal exercise of the will in holy desire can meet this precept of our Lord. And so he quotes Saint Augustine. If thou dost continually desire God, thou dost continually pray, since prayer is simply this will cleaving to God. So that's his answer. And it's basically the answer, I think, of East and West. It's just that East ties this prayer to it to facilitate keeping the will there. Questions, comments? So we're all gonna go out and pray. So now having done that, we've come right to the doorstep of Brother Lawrence, which will begin next time and hopefully end next time. But be thinking in the meantime, I think we're rather facilitated in this place,

[11:13]

in this life, because literally everything tries to sustain us in one way or another as contemplatives. The whole plant, the way it's set out, the place of the church, the place of the individual cells, the refectory, the time that's given to this and that. The hope is that this will sustain a guide for a lifetime in God's presence. And well, we're so, I think, so much more fortunate if you live in a business office where it's all, if you work in a business office eight hours a day, where it's all geared to keep you involved with, I don't know, investment or whatever you're doing in your business office. Or if you're in a bank and you're there at the window eight hours a day and you've got to take those deposits and figure out those withdrawals and all that, that's something else. And then you go home and your house is set up in a different, but here the whole thing is to favor

[12:15]

this practice of the presence when you think about it. So we might just give a few moments to that next time and then plunge right into Brother Lawrence. But he writes that for everyone. He writes that for people out there in the world who have an eight-hour job and then come home to screaming kids and angry wife or maybe a loving wife or whatever. But I think we should be grateful that, as I say, we've got this set up. The whole set up is to facilitate all three of these dimensions, including this basic one. So be thinking about how the place and the schedule does and maybe, in some ways, doesn't facilitate it. And we'll explore that a little next time. They've certainly facilitated. Their sacramental presence of the compassion of God. So that's a beautiful point. Thank you, Father. Okay. Just to review a bit,

[13:19]

we had our magnificent image of the mountain that can now be presented in full technicolor because we have all these colored. So that's quite something. And at the bottom, you see all these little towns and cities and all that is within, all these different areas of our psyche. And at the top, that's not whipped cream, as Father Bruno suggested. It's not a volcano. That's our cloud of unknowing. And that is always there, whatever we do. We don't put it there through the act of the will because that is simply the reality of the... Oh, good morning. Yeah, okay. Okay. So that is just the reality of the ineffability of God. We can place, through will and through discipline, the cloud below, the cloud of forgetting. But we don't want to do that all the time. You don't want to forget, for instance, about the class on contemplative prayer.

[14:19]

But in any case, that other cloud is always gonna be at the summit. And then with all the towns at the bottom. Then you remember last time, this kind of triadic shape and dynamic of contemplative prayer was over on that board. But Bruno said we should bring things together at the end. So what he does, brought it over here, and we're going to suggest a certain correspondence. That is the silent prayer into the total mystery of God, et cetera. That corresponds, in this image, to this summit. And liturgical prayer, I think one can appropriately argue, is, in some sense, right in the middle. It's a sacred place of signs, gestures, and it wants to mediate between the deepest mystery, which we can't even give a name to, and our ordinary life. It's not at the total summit, according to this model,

[15:22]

though people like Barajin might be involved, but it's involved in the area, again, of thoughts, considerations, images, et cetera. But all those are explicitly set aside for the worship of the ineffable God. So kind of a mediating. Now, what we want to get into today, and maybe next time, we'll see how it goes, is this other dimension of a prayer that I think has to be, insistent, is fully contemplative. These two are contemplative in a mediated way, not in that mysterious immediacy of apophatic prayer, but we are also mediated. Everything comes to us through the senses, et cetera. So these two dimensions of prayer help incarnate us. Is that the transitive root for, to render us incarnate. And as we stressed last time, there's this whole interplay between these two, so that each kind of reinforces and strengthens the other.

[16:26]

And so with the mountain, we've got to ascend and descend. So what we don't want to do through this class is constrict our thought about what is contemplative prayer just to those summit moments. And I think Merton and Father Bruno brought this out very clearly. There's that, and then there's all these other mysterious moments that Merton came to value ever more, especially these moments, the ordinary moments throughout the day. Merton said when he went into his hermitage in solitude, he actually got less splendid, mind-blowing experiences up here. That there was a mysterious more and more sense of God diffused through the day. God is kind of there as horizon, there as mysterious behind it all, or within it all, et cetera. And for some people, this is their main focus in how to live the contemplative vocation. So we want to give some good quality time to this also.

[17:29]

The cloud gives almost no time to this. We'll be looking at Brother Lawrence as a classic expression of this dimension of contemplative prayer. He gives very little time to these two. So someone like Father Marcaccini would try to work it all in, but he's very focused on this, et cetera. So it's interesting how different kind of temperaments can go towards the one or the other. But I think it's a healthy, full contemplative life wants to weave all these three in, the ascension to the very summit, and then the rejoicing at the midpoint, and then the descending into the towns and valleys, and sometimes even into the dark areas underneath the mountain. We're going to get into that, but that's a very fascinating area how God is present to us in some kind of powerful way also through our unconscious and dreams. I was talking about dreams here

[18:30]

at the beginning of the class. So any comments or questions about this? Yes, well, I'll just leave the resonance in the Philokalia, the New Theologian talks about three methods of prayer and attention in the whole section on the line. And the first one is the control of the vices, and the second one is vocal prayer and somnambulism, and the third being mental prayer, continuous prayer. It has, you know, at least some... And I'm wondering also then about the same, kind of the same theme going up with John of the Cross. We know these things as kind of dynamic. We go through all of them. I wonder if in between, you know, the methods of prayer, there are the different dark nights. Well, the crossover into the next level. We'll see that for Brother Lawrence,

[19:30]

he had a long period of dark night. He had a period of 10 years of dark night, extremely intense, and the impression that he was doomed to hell. And then he came out in this most serene, simple prayer that just more or less pervaded throughout the whole day, year after year after year. So I think that's interesting stuff. There could be a dark night in liturgy often, where just nothing seems to be happening, and we're very distracted, et cetera. And certainly a dark night up here, where lots of noise of the city, it's towns, et cetera, get into that. Yeah, so it's each one of those. And I'm going to be relating the Eastern prayer, the heart of prayer of Jesus to down here. This is the attempt to make the prayer continual, continual prayer. But in its deepest levels, it's certainly up here, and it can certainly be prayed also to Jesus' prayer in the liturgy, in the moments of liturgy.

[20:31]

So hopefully it all weaves together. Father Brue? The practice of the presence of a sanaphrasian is very deeply connected. So the sanaphra is almost just giving more space to the presence, in a way. On the other hand, there's a kind of increasing multiplicity that you could have. The sanaphra is very simple. And then you get the, what would you call it, complexity of the liturgy. And into the even greater complexity, and so there is that shape that's coming up. You know, Panikkar's Blessed Simplicity, that would be up here. And then Creative Complexity, as you say, he says both of those have to be in all of us. So, yeah, when we're worrying about the Cassidy trial and the phones that went out this morning, et cetera, that's down here. And then just go into the total simplicity of prayer. And then again, the liturgical prayer, I think, mediates it by taking some of the stuff down here, some of the symbols and images and events,

[21:33]

and rendering them specifically sacred, meal-washing images in the psalms out of anger and sadness, et cetera. And so I think it all, it can be a magnificent whole. We don't, I think, want to be anti in one of them, though we can in all honesty say that one or another speaks much less to one in a certain period. Sometimes one might be surprised. Some people get very little out of liturgical prayer for the longest time, and then suddenly it really blooms and nourishes them. Or there's nothing up here, and suddenly that becomes central, or whatever. So to remain open to the surprises. But I think they're meant each to really nourish and strengthen the other. And in the Eastern religions, certainly they have their liturgies. Certainly if you know Tibetan Buddhism, they have wonderful liturgies, and also Hinduism and Zen.

[22:35]

But they also have their moments of deep silence, and they have their moments of using the mantra. I was told that Hindu women, when they're sweeping, I think this was the event, our ashram, they repeat a mantra, they sing it even together as they're looking, kind of thing. And if you go to Mount Athos, to come back in the Christian era, much of this is on liturgical prayer. I don't know what they do inside of prayer, but they also have the, I guess in their cells, etc., but the Jesus prayer throughout the day, especially in some of the monasteries, now is very much stressed. If you remember, right back to our first class, Raniero can't be here. I threatened to quote him, even if he's not here. He said, is contemplation kind of ascending to the heights, or is it going down into the depths of our humanity? And, quoting Bruno Werner there, in this model, it's both and. So, in all kinds of ways, it can't be a summit of the mountain

[23:36]

unless there's the solid base in all of this. And we need to acknowledge that and claim it and not try to be just pure angel spirits up at the summit. And in some way, we present all that, even though we leave it behind in the cloud of forgetting. But also, the time comes, as with taber and transfiguration, to descend from the mountain, to go back into the cities and byways and preach the word. And that, in our life here, means doing what he's doing now, taking care of Brother Philip and the guest house and all the rest of it, the cooking, et cetera. But that doesn't mean leaving behind the whole contemplative dimension. Jack says some other things. If you're in the bakery, never say to him, let's rush this job and just get it done so we can get on to it. For him, the job itself is the practice, is the prayer. To do it in a mindful and present way

[24:40]

and hopefully in a prayerful way. So, it's both and. Both getting down into the depths of our humanity, individually and collectively, all the things that have to be done, and to render that also contemplative. And then also the moment of the silence. And if people are deeply in the one, they can be very deeply and available in the other. Yeah? One other point about the practice of the presence, that there's something tricky there in the sense that you can either cultivate an experience in a sense, the continuity of the sort of feeling of the presence of God, okay, like pray Hecate, pray Jesus, or something. Or, you can be present to what you're doing, and that's quite different, okay? In other words, you can be trying to continue a continual experience of God as God, or as presence. Or, you translate that into something else, in which you're not really remembering God, okay?

[25:40]

And I think it's important to realize the difference when you're up to length on it. Yeah, yep. And I think sometimes, I think sometimes we want to do the one, and sometimes we want to do the other, and sometimes we need to do the other, and with full serenity, not with a kind of a tense, if we're working on something complicated on our computer, writing a letter that needs to be written, or something like that. We need to be fully present to it, and not all over the map. We can't split our mind. We can't try to punctuate that, or interrupt that with a brief ejaculation. Go crazy. What I was kind of anticipating, but what these people will say, is it might be that if you have a fundamental disposition of heart, that you want to do it all in and through God, and you know that God is somehow in and through also the writing of the letter, if it's done well, that even if it's not there consciously, or in experience, at some deep level, maybe it is there,

[26:40]

and there is continuity. Yep. The mysterious key here is disposition of heart. That, what is a prayer of intention of Brother Phillips in the morning? It's not bad, you know, to offer all your prayers, and all your works, all your joys and sufferings of the day. If you do that, and then kind of renew it throughout the day, that's getting to this. You should put Brother Phillips' prayer in. I think what Father Bruno is referring to in the examiner's strip so much, you know, when you're digging a hole, just digging a hole, you know, when you're walking, just walk, come turn every step. And Father, do you see a distinction between that, between the kind of presence? There's a, because when you're doing things, for instance, it's one thing if you're driving a car, and you can keep a presence of God by kind of ejaculating a mantra or something. In the case of Jesus, we're in the Rosary,

[27:41]

so say with half your mind, when you're watching a book, there's something else to be totally engrossed in the work that you're doing. Or if you're talking with somebody, where you totally have to be in, you have to be present to that, and you're not really thinking about it. There's no attempt to keep the continuity of that feeling of God being next to you, or with you, present in you, or whatever. So it's quite different. It's a different kind of attention. It's a different kind of intentionality, I'd say. And it's very important to realize that that's valid, too. The bottom line is faith. The bottom line is a life of faith. It's not an experience of God. Absolutely. And here you get into a kind of spiritual gluttony thing. Up there at the top of the mountain, it can be for those mind-blowing experiences. And at the bottom, it can be to strain so that I never forget God kind of thing. And both of those are wrong. And this serene giving myself to what needs to be done, but to give well and with the right intentions. It's all that. We need to have that freedom. Even if afterwards we realize, well, I wasn't fully in God all the time.

[28:43]

Absolutely. And that's what going down the mountain is all about. It is the case, for instance, in Spiritual Direction, one of the books, well, I think it's our famous, Gerald May says, if you can be with the other and have some sense that it's not just you two, it's in this larger context of God that you're both seeking, that really adds a different dimension. And so we try to return to that regularly. So I would hope they're not two radical poles, but maybe some kind of continuum and we have to go back and forth kind of thing. But that is two very different senses. And what we don't want is the totally distracted, where I neither have the intention nor am I focused on the work, nor minimally on God. That's not good. And sometimes when we get rattled, that's what happens. So to come back at least to the focus on what's to be done with the basic intention to do it for God and neighbor.

[29:47]

And then if that can move into some kind of mysterious being with God, at least intermittently, I think Brother Lawrence would say that can really help at least. Well, so we've looked at the mountain in Scripture. We've looked at the cloud in Scripture. If we were to look at references to liturgy in Scripture, we'd find it all the way from certainly the first books of the Old Testament as a fundamental way to pray. And again, I'm not going to say much about liturgy, not because it isn't important. It might be the main focus of some here, but because hopefully, yeah, Father Ehrlich will be coming in and picking up that. Where is this whole idea of abiding with God, being always with God? Is that in Scripture at all? Or is that just like Brother Lawrence' 17th century French school or something like that? Are we deeply rooted in Scripture here? Or are we not deeply rooted in Scripture? Yeah.

[30:47]

There was always the one or the other abiding with them, yeah. They kept that with them, yeah. They didn't just... Yeah. And these are the great objective symbols that God is with them always. The Psalms are pretty strong in the presence of God. Indeed. And abiding with God. Yeah. We'll remember this, what we prayed yesterday morning and this morning, Psalm 15. I will bless you, Lord. You give me counsel, and even at night direct my heart. I keep you, Lord, ever in my sight. Since you are at my right hand, I shall stand firm. That we didn't pray, but this one we did. But since you are at my right hand, I shall stand firm. I keep you, Lord, ever in my sight.

[31:56]

This ever, always. This is a theme that comes up sometimes. Here we prayed Monday. My eyes are always on the Lord who will rescue my feet from the snare, etc. So this is a theme that comes up in the Psalms. There's the other way, too, in the sense that God has always got God's eye on us. Precisely. Even when we're praying. We'll see. Yeah, this is just our response to the objective given. So this isn't some heroic decision we make, but given that God is always with us, we just want to always be aware of that. So absolutely. So I will always praise your name day after day, fulfill my vows. A great thing for the Hesychast tradition when the name is used to abide with God. So this is what we would have prayed today.

[32:59]

No, this is what we'll pray tomorrow. And what we did pray today, because it's for the apostles. And then it goes on. They shall pray for him without ceasing and bless him all the day. So this is an aspiration in the Psalms. Where else in Scripture? I should have compared you. Coming in the final verses. You might need to read it. John and Paul. In the Old Testament, you come in and invoke the temple. All those pharisees, pure peasants are going to the temple. And then in the New Testament, they will be transferred to each one of us. That's right. The divine branches. The divine branches. Absolutely. And also Jesus' discourse in the Last Supper. Those who love me, I and my Father,

[34:02]

so loving, will come and take our boat. And we were aligned here. We were aligned to repeat frequently the Gospel of John. That's right. So yeah, you threw about four or five texts there. And each one of them would want to be looked at very carefully and meditated. But they certainly ground biblically this endeavor. But that first one you mentioned, St. Paul. Do you not know that you are God's temple and the Spirit of God dwells in you? So all of that stuff we saw in the Old Testament about the Ark being there. This now is interiorized and personalized, each one of us. And the body. Do you not know that your body is the temple? So it becomes very incarnate. So that's important. And then that's St. Paul. And the amazing parallel in John, if anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him.

[35:05]

And we will come and make our abode with him. This is interesting for our own theme of love. It's somehow this commitment of the will to God that brings God and the Son and the Spirit into. Then that, as you say, John 15, that whole theme of abide. So it's not some intermittent, every now and then kind of thing. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. So he starts out saying, I am the vine, you are the branches. If we're cut off from the vine, we can't do anything. So we've got to abide. So he says, abide in me. Then he goes into this synonym, abide in my love. So this is a challenge for all of those people who are caught up into this commitment.

[36:10]

There's also this sense of God's presence in the Torah, in the canonical Torah, or as rabbis would say, in the empty spaces between the letters of the Torah, which is very original. I think it blows a lot of the jam. Yeah, very mystical work. Somehow God is there in the whole thing, and in the reading and the proclaiming. Then does Jesus ever have anything to say about this? We've got Paul here. We've got, well, of course, we've just had abide in me. That's the Johannite Jesus. What about the synoptic Jesus? Now we're into Luke. This is his feast day. And the harshest spirit is given up, threatened with. Yeah, abides with us. Yeah. The tagline explains this. Yeah, you could say, though, that that's, in a certain sense, intermittent.

[37:13]

They've got to descend from the mountain of... But he taught them a parable that they should pray without ceasing, Luke 21, 36. This is just a classic text for the desert fathers and mothers, for the whole chesikaz tradition. Then he goes on, Jesus, to talk about the insistent widow, remember, who bangs on the door of the poor judge day and night. I wonder if Loretta Lupe is doing that today to try to keep Patrick Cassidy away from us. We have the trial today going on, I guess. So he taught them a parable that they should pray without ceasing. Then there's an amazing echo of this in St. Paul, 1 Thessalonians, pray without ceasing. So this is just the kind of basic exhortation that the early monks take very rigorously. You can take it as a kind of Semitic hyperbole. It means, you know, you regularly pray. You take prayer seriously kind of thing. But the desert fathers said,

[38:14]

hey, at least this is something we want to aim at, how to pray without ceasing. So they really anguish over that. But, and we'll see the various answers they come up with. And that's basically the whole chesikaz tradition and then the whole, in the Western, the whole thing of the practice of the presence of God, whatever names it assumes, et cetera. Any other questions? So it's very much in Scripture. And to develop an ear, again, in the Psalms, in my own Psalter, I underline that kind of text. It has to do with mountains or clouds or love or wisdom. Here I've underlined wisdom, Father Bruno. Here's insight. Or pray without ceasing the heart. These, for me, are themes that link what's happening. Oh, sing to the glory of His name, render glorious praise, name, et cetera. So that's, how lovely is your dwelling place,

[39:19]

Lord God of hosts. My soul is longing and yearning. My heart and my soul ring out their joy, et cetera. So to somehow claim the text, also at this level of contemplative prayer, I think is helpful. So as we've mentioned, this isn't just kind of a pious devotion. I'm going to pretend that God is here, so I imagine God here. No, God is here. I'm just trying to become more aware of it. And then when I go back to my cell, God will be there. Then at Eucharist, He'll be there. At lunch, He'll be there. The saying of the rosary after lunch, He'll be there. At every moment, He's there. So this practice is, again, not a let's make-believe kind of thing. If anything, it could be called reality therapy. T.S. Eliot says, Humankind cannot stand too much reality. So we're basically, most of the time, running away from this awesome thing

[40:21]

that God is here and we did not know it. So this practice wants to bring us back to this harsh, almost horrifying reality that God is everywhere. I remember in college, we were out at this bar, and it was an evening, and we were all religion majors and talking about this mystery of God being everywhere. And I was kind of tweeting this girl saying, Don't you like that God is everywhere? She said, No. I don't want her to be here, for instance. It is very painful, this thing. And I think part of the monastic courage is to slowly, slowly allow, so to speak, God to be everywhere. But if you get into the whole theology of the thing, and we want to do that, certainly, if you go into the classic Thomas theology, and I guess we're all classic Thomas by now, in what sense is God everywhere, theologically speaking?

[41:21]

There's at least four different levels to this in classic Thomas thought. So as we go into the presence of God, we go into a mystery deeper and deeper. It's not an easy thing. What are the different ways in which God is present? Where's our Thomists? Well, first of all, simply as God, being God, God, to put it paradoxically, cannot not be everywhere. We as creatures can't be everywhere. Being here now, I can't at the same time, in the same way, be back at my cell, and then off at Camaldoli, and down at San Diego. I'll be at San Diego this weekend, but I'm not there now. When I'm down there, I can't be here. This is just part of the human condition in terms of space. And in terms of time, being here in this section of time, I can't in the same way be back in the 1600s,

[42:23]

or in the 1700s with Brother Lawrence, or... So that's the definition of creature, is to be defined by one time and one place. And the very definition of God, as God is ubiquity, is being everywhere, at every time, and in the fullness of God. So this is a great mystery to be pondered at. We can't keep God out of anywhere, and God can't keep God out of anywhere. And this is the darkest experience we want to get into that. It might be an inner psychic state of anger, of fear, of... God is there. God is right there at the heart of that. It might be when I'm absolutely distracted and can't think of God, God is there. It might be in that darkest, most, in some ways, diabolical place of Calvary, where people are killed, and... God is there. So that's the first way that God is everywhere,

[43:27]

simply as God. A second... Yes? Absolutely. Now we're going to go precisely into that specific meaning, that God is everywhere simply as God, and then, in some kind of special way, God is God as creator. So every little baby that is conceived, God is directly involved in that conceiving, and that, in some way, is a new incarnation, because that little baby is directly the work of God in definitely an analogous way to the way that Jesus is the work of God. So God is not just hanging around, but God made the whole thing, and since we're not deists, it's where God makes it and then walks away. God is constantly intervening to sustain things in existence. This is that important distinction between the essence and existence

[44:28]

of all creatures. We are radically contingent in our existence. We can conceive of ourselves as not existing. The whole world doesn't fall into absurdity. If I try to think of the world without Raniero, for instance, suppose he were to die, suppose he's had a heart attack in there, and the world goes on, you know. We'll have to change the words again. That's right. Suppose there had never been a Raniero. Still one can conceive of the whole universe, you know. But one can't conceive of the universe without God, that kind of thing. So we are constantly sustained in our existence, and we can continue in existence through this direct intervention of God, creating and recreating and recreating, which is simply sustaining in existence. There again, the image that I love is the singer singing out the note.

[45:29]

And the note is there, and it's got its beauty, but the moment the singer stops singing, the note falls into silence, into nonexistence. So we are that note constantly being sung through the constant active creative intervention of God so that anything I see, anything I do, it's in putting me in direct contact with God's activity. That's why what Father Bruno was mentioning is totally legitimate. If I'm fully mindful in a reverent way to Brother Philip or to whatever, writing a letter or whatever, I'm within that divine dynamic, even if I'm not calling it to mind and feeling great things about the divine presence, etc., so that each one of us, each creature, is this startling witness and proof of the direct and immediate activity of God,

[46:32]

not just the ubiquity, not just the presence of God as God, but the active, creative, and sustaining presence of God. So these are good things to chew on to kind of give substance and commitment to this practice, just as there's all kinds of theology about the ineffable prayer. God is, as God, totally other, totally ineffable. So that cloud has to be there. If I can clearly define God, that's not God. If I can clearly feel God, that's not God. That's why much of the monastic journey is a breaking of the idols, etc. That's the whole importance of the prophets, etc. So we need to enter into the darkness, etc., and so with liturgy, that Christ is that body and blood that is the Eucharist, etc. So this is the strong theological underpinning. Then there's a final dimension of God's presence that comes with the New Testament,

[47:33]

and certainly also the Old, as we've seen already, and that's God actually breaking into history, journeying with Israel, coming to us in Christ, abiding with us as Father, Son, and Spirit. That is, being present to us, not simply as God, not simply as God, Creator, Sustainer, but as God, Redeemer, as God, Sanctifier, as God, Spouse, as God, Friend, as God, Mother, as God, Father, all these images. This is where the whole love thing comes in. If anyone loves me, he will come and keep my commands. We will love him and come, etc. So this is by grace that God is present to us. So St. Thomas brilliantly distinguishes all these to put them back together in a sort of extremely profound, kind of overwhelming way that God is present to us always, whether we're in sacred liturgy or not, whether we're seated in Zazen or not. It might be while we're emptying

[48:36]

Brother Philip's colostomy bag with Raniero now, or off there in the guest house with Gerard or cooking with Martin or whatever. Questions, comments about any or all of this? Is it a fourth month, really? Well, it's a fourth if you distinguish God's creation and then God's sustaining us. But those are so linked. There's certainly the big three, the three being God as God, and then as God as Creator, Sustainer, and then God through grace as our Spouse and Friend. St. Thomas says it's like, you may know in a kind of abstract way that God is everywhere, but if you're not personally involved with God, it's like being in a room and seeing someone over there who's a total stranger. It's completely different when you suddenly realize, my God, that's my closest friend from my early years or something, and you rush over, and in fact it is,

[49:37]

and they embrace you and all that. That's a very different way of being present. So we want to go fully into that way, obviously, at any level of these being with God. But there's a sense in which this is the foundation of all the rest. If we don't accept God is everywhere, it ain't quite right to have Jesus as the prisoner of the tabernacle kind of thing, and he gets lonely there, so we have to go and visit him. You can only have a solid, deep theology of liturgy that has some dignity to it if you're acknowledging that God is everywhere, also in the very secular dimensions. And the silent prayer is something if it's not just an exquisitely isolated moment, but, as Bruno says, in some way just the intense, focused moment of all the rest. So the thing about what Paul preaching,

[50:38]

in him we live and move and have our being, that's kind of the ground of all this. Other questions about this whole theological? And then certainly Rahner spells it out in very subtle ways about we can't know anything unless it's knowing that one particular thing in the light of its connections with everything else, and then you get everything else with everything else, and finally you have the whole thing. So everything is in the context of the whole, and then this immediately has to be of the whole also with a capital W, and so we want to deepen that insight. It's interesting that Thomas, while speaking about the third kind of presence, he mentioned the presence of grace and friendship. He quotes a phrase from Augustine, niti est cognosci.

[51:40]

To be sent is to be known. Referring to two divine persons, the Son and the Spirit, being sent by Father to us in a special way through grace, and the special purpose of this being sent to us is to be known in a personal way, as a friend to a friend. So this third kind of presence is not just a personal presence, a very personal, eternal presence. I think that's the strength of Christianity. It's not just a mindfulness in the presence of the void, but it is also Jesus, and it is the Spirit who fills our hearts and this kind of thing. So I think that sustains our ongoing being in a very intense thing. And then as you were talking about to knowing God, I think this is where our themes of knowing and loving come together, because in Scripture to know a person is this intense coming out also of a marriage act.

[52:44]

That's the deepest way of knowing, so they come together in that intense way of interpersonal union, which is knowing and loving, et cetera. So given this, let's look at what these people who push constant prayer, what they have to say about it. And it's a whole tradition. Just for a kind of convenience, we're jumping into the 17th century and looking at Brother Lawrence. But we could do a whole semester on this. And if I had time, and if you had the patience, we should. But part of your monastic life and Lectio should be slowly, slowly claiming this whole heritage. And I just sketched a few chief moments, but the constant prayer theme in Christian monastic life, certainly it goes back at least, well certainly to Scripture as we've seen, but then someone like Paschen in the conferences.

[53:45]

The whole thing is how should we pray? And in Conference 10, kind of a culminating moment, the big thing is how can we pray constantly? Jesus says we should. St. Paul says we should. How can we do it? I can't always be muttering vocal prayers or having some image in my mind or something. How do we pray? So if you look at that conference, it's to respond to that anguished question of all those desert people who wanted to know, I came out here to pray. I don't want to pray just every now and then, kind of a subtype thing. How can I pray always? So that's right there at the beginning. And then St. John Climacus, it starts very, and you know his way is through the verse from the Psalms actually, repeated over and over and over again. This, way back in the 5th century, if we go to the 7th century, Mount Sinai,

[54:46]

we've already got an explicit reference to Hezekiah and to the name of Jesus that's to be repeated as constantly as the breath. And so most people who try to trace the lineage of the Jesus prayer, they say, at least you have to look at these texts. John Climacus, corresponding with our own Pope Gregory the Great, and the ladder of divine ascent. Sooner or later, as monks, you want to pick this up and go through this. There's crazy things in here, but there's also glorious things. Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of Hezekiah. That's in step 27, number 61. And Merton has a lovely essay on this. He says, this has just revolutionized Eastern spirituality. Just that verse, because they took that very seriously, that the remembrance of Jesus,

[55:47]

this is a technical term already, many historians argue, for the Jesus prayer, the name of Jesus, being repeated with each breath. So this, and then you will know what Hezekiah is about. Hezekiah is that ideal, ideal kind of milieu ambiance for being with God. That's the whole goal of the monk, to abide in Hezekiah, which is to abide in God. And all this is related to this wild, passionate love of the monk, who should be a kind of a crazy lover. Blessed is he who has obtained such love and yearning for God as a mad lover has for his beloved. Blessed is he who unceasingly strives to be with the Lord, as others try to please mortals. Such a person can get no relief from his strong desire,

[56:48]

even in sleep, even then he holds converse, [...] with his loved one. When he was wounded with love, said to himself, I sleep because nature requires this, but my heart is awake. The stag longs and pants for the Lord with the fire of love. And he goes on and on, and it's quite lovely stuff. Love is an abyss of illumination. Love is a fountain of fire in the nature that it welds up. It inflames the thirsty soul. Love is the state of angels. Love is the progress of eternity, etc. So here we've got these mad monks out in the east who say, I'm going to pray all the time because I'm going to be so inflamed with love. And that's basically the answer to, plug back into our basically, I can't be thinking of God all the time. I can't be muttering this prayer or that prayer all the time, but somehow I can love God all the time. This is the model. A mad lover,

[57:49]

does he really stop loving his beloved? It may be more or less present in the consciousness. He may be directly talking with her or he may not be directly talking with her, but if he's passionately in love with her, there's some sense in which that perdures through the whole day. And then there's the ways he'll sustain it and cause it to inflame again. And that's what the Jesus prayer is all about. That's what Augustine Baker will call aspirations or brief prayers or just a moment of reflection or something. But it's to sustain that basic commitment of heart to God. And then we jump. So we're way back at the beginning. Then we jump to a very recent expression of this Hesychast tradition, which is this wonderful way of the pilgrim. How many here haven't read this? Well, it's a classic and it's a crazy book,

[58:50]

but it's, first of all, it's not what it pretends to be. It pretends to have been written by a very simple Russian pilgrim who just set off as a pilgrim wandering. And his question is, how on earth can I pray all the time? He hears that verse from St. Paul pronounced in a church in the context of liturgy. And so he starts asking people, how can I live it? And he gets his answer in that and that. And then finally, he finds the Hesychast tradition. But in fact, it's at least been edited, the whole thing, by a very sophisticated Eastern theologian, probably on Mount Athos. Maybe the basis is a real diary of a pilgrim who came from Russia, got to Mount Athos. It's all being debated now. But certainly it was reworked and rendered very subtle and theological by some enthusiast of the Jesus Prayer

[59:51]

who puts all kinds of theology into it. God bless, my word. But there again, to push our theme, it's all based on this objective reality that God is always inclining towards us with all this mercy and compassion, etc. We've got to be aware of that and respond to it. It's not again that God does this every now and then or only at the time of the liturgy or only in the evening when it's time to say the evening prayers, but all the time. So I just have to be more aware and more grateful for that. So it's not a heavy burden. It's a joyful release that at every moment, somehow every moment, should be illumined by this incredible wild love of God for us. The boundless lovingkindness of God gives bountiful rewards. The love of God gives grace a thousandfold more

[60:54]

than human actions deserve. If you give him the merest might, he will pay you back with gold. If you but purpose to go to the Father, he will come out to meet you. If you say but a word, short and unfeeling, receive me, have mercy on me, he will fall on your neck and kiss you. That is what the love of the Heavenly Father is like towards us, unworthy as we are. And simply because of this love, he rejoices in every gesture we make towards salvation, however small. So the basic gesture we're to make, says this author, is pray. It doesn't matter how good you pray. Don't worry about the quality of it. Just worry about the quantity of it. Try to pray as much as possible. Then slowly, slowly, God will take care of the quality. In some ways, again, it's a crazy book. And it seems to be almost mechanical. And so he starts praying 5,000 Jesus prayers one day and 10,000 within a week, etc. But there is behind it, not just maybe

[61:56]

a wild fanaticism, but a deep theology. Basically, that every time I'm saying that prayer, there's some kind of goodwill there. And slowly, slowly, I'm opening my heart to God, who's present all the time. And then slowly, God can respond. Yeah. All the time, in Bible. So then he goes on, quoting the Blessed Augustine. This is something, because the East is not always so reverential to St. Augustine. But here, talking about prayer, again, he says pray and then... Talking about prayer, again, he says pray and then...

[62:39]