Contemplative Prayer

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Contemplative Prayer class


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All this stuff of therapeutic and the incarnational and all the magnificent things I can do with my imagination and all the wonderful considerations, this isn't the moment for all of that. So it takes a real dying to what is normally our basic self-awareness of our psyche, what's happening there, but to still all that. So, as it were, to be aware that that cloud is above us, and then to put a cloud over all the rest below us. There's two clouds, he says, if you go to page 53. And this is why it becomes hard work. It's not just you sit down and have a mystical experience. This is a hard work beginning from the first of the day throughout. Chapter 5, that during contemplative prayer all created things and their works must be buried beneath the cloud of forgetting.


If you wish to enter into this cloud, to be at home in it, and to take up the contemplative work of love as I urge you to do, each one of these words is powerful and right on and dense. To find that cloud up above is our home. There is something else you must do. This is a work. Just as the cloud of unknowing lies above you, between you and your God, so you must fashion a cloud of forgetting beneath you, between you and every created thing. So, the ongoing work of that chapter or whatever it is, is to construct this cloud over all the rest. This, at least, is the method of the cloud of unknowing. Others will say explore a little your anger or work a little, but this is this method. You've got the cloud up here where you don't see much of anything.


Now, you can see and feel and do all kinds of things, but quiet it down. Your problems, your doubts, your anger, just quiet it down. It will survive half an hour of just peace, and it's always changing anyway. One idea is followed by another, certainly one feeling is followed by another, one memory by another. This is all transitory, but just still it for a while within this cloud of forgetting. That's why when we're up here, the whole thing is just bathed in fog. It's kind of fun, because that's kind of humor. So, we're here somewhere, just on the margin, and desiring yearning upward in this moment of contemplative prayer. Through what? Through desire, craving, yearning, cleaving to God, the author says, through this agape love. This can penetrate right to the heart of this imagination, can't intellect, can't memory, but this is blind, naked, active love can.


So, that's basically it, but it's easier to say than to do, because the main enemy then, so to speak, is distractions, and they shouldn't drive us crazy. We should begin the period knowing we're going to have lots of distractions. The mystics talk about the monkey cage within our mind, with all these monkeys jumping here and there, the whole affective, chaotic thing. The beat poet talking about the Coney Island... Coney Island of the mind. I think that's a wonderful image, and that it's out in one version where there's a gross black and white picture of Coney Island on the cover. Well, I just assume at the beginning of the quiet that that's going to happen. It's not going to be mystical hezekiah for lots of periods. I'll be off here when my anger gets so forth and back there with this memory and up there with this idea, but then just when I realize that, don't spend the next 20 minutes clobbering myself, but just very gently ascend back up the mountain.


Let it be. Know that also sometimes I'm aware there's lots of movement and noise and chaos in one level, but again, at a highest level, something else is happening. And this very mysterious self-awareness is just kind of like a spotlight. It bounces around here and there. If we can still this a bit with this real asceticism, saying I can let all that other stuff go at least for half hour, an hour or something, then I'm drawn up into the cloud. And then when we have to descend the cloud again, all these things will be at least a little healed, more harmonious, more seen in perspective. Questions, comments about this? Basic practice then. That's basically what it's all about. Living the two clouds and the mountain in this particular moment of prayer. What makes the difference between the cloud forgetting and depression?


And depression? No, repression. Oh, repression. Good. Now, as I understand it, this gets technical, psychological, but there's a definite distinction between suppression and repression. Suppression is when I consciously say I'd like to dwell in my fantasy on that image, but I'm not going to. I set it aside. Repression is when I'm not aware I'm doing it, and I force it down because my ego and superego just can't handle it. Then it's in there, but it hasn't been dealt with. With suppression, it has been dealt with, with a conscious, free decision. So as I understand it, this putting of the cloud there is equivalent to a mature decision that at least for this period, I'm going to set all this apart. So it's not a violence. Well, it can require a certain violence, but it's not the sickness of repression. It's the discipline of focus. I find I have the hardest time with that between, like, you know, some days the thou come up


and I'm just trying to push it back down into my, you know, back out into somewhere. And other days, it comes up and I just let it go. And it just kind of loses its own power. It goes back into that cloud. And it's something I struggle with a lot. It's like, you know when I say, well, I'm not going to give this any power, but I hate just thinking about not giving it any power. I'm giving it power. Absolutely. Coney Island games like this. Yeah, the cloud offers four or five very specific tactics with distractions, but saying each one of us, these are just suggestions. Each one of us must come up with what works best. And in a given moment, one tactic might work best. I find if the distraction isn't that strong, I can just say no to it without investing too much energy and go on to the other thing. If it's kind of a throbbing thing, I have to... He offers some other kind of bizarre things.


You kind of look over the shoulder of this and see a farther horizon, a bigger context. Or you can just surrender, saying there's no way I'm going to escape this distraction. And then sometimes, somehow, just that through the irony, through the humor, it loses some of its force. I like the image of the ocean. If you just walk into the ocean when the big waves are coming, the waves will just knock you down. If you can plan it carefully enough and just go right down, almost hitting the bed, but under the wave as it's breaking, it won't faze you at all. So it's like if you can somehow go down to the depths through humility or something while this huge distraction is crashing over you. The other thing is if you can have some experience of the union with God, again, that very much helps because that can draw you upward because you're aware that it's below. And then he'll offer this key help, which is the Word, which is something like a Jesus prayer. Often a word or a phrase quietly prayed over again and again can keep the lower faculties


sufficiently busy, as one of the earliest commentators on the Prayer of the Heart says, and can help us just with the one word shoot our dart into the cloud. So there's all kinds of strategies, but that's the battle to be fought because our whole psyche, certainly after the Fall, is extremely disordered, is extremely chaotic. And the one thing we really, it's terrifying also, I think there's lots of fear of just being there because lots of stuff bubbles up from beneath, etc. And we're aware of our own nakedness and weakness, etc. But if we can stay there, how? And here's where the whole psychology of the will comes in. It's not of what we're feeling today or a brilliant insight, but if I'm committed to this, darn it, no matter what, then I'll use a whole range of strategies to stay there. But I'm just going to sit there. Zen is a lot of that. It's just sit down and be there kind of thing.


And then come up with a whole range of subtle ways of dealing with all these things. One thing is just to name them. I'm angry and I'm aware of this area of anger within. Or I'm afraid or I'm sad or joyful. Joyful, enthusiastic, that can also be a great distraction. But just to name. Someone sneezes in the rotunda or something, just be aware. Oh, something else is happening at a different level. If you use this skyscraper image, it's as if you're way up in the skyscraper, a beautiful apartment, and you're with a close, close friend. If they're working on the road beneath, you know, you don't take time to go over and open the door and scream at the noise below. Just kind of let it be. Maybe close all the windows to the extent that you can, but then just focus on your friend to the extent that that's possible.


Don't descend the mountain, directly engage. But I think if you definitely say no and it works, that's again not sick repression. That's free, conscious, chosen suppression for this moment. Then you may want to go back to it afterwards. There might want to be a whole half hour afterwards when you just do therapy. Why am I in this specific angry thing against him and what's beneath that, etc.? But in this particular moment, it's not that. It's just being with God in the silence. Other questions, comments? So think about the cloud in scripture and as archetypical symbol, and we'll proceed then specifically with this method of the cloud. God willing, next Wednesday. Thank you. I like that wave analogy.


I find it very hopeful. I think a lot of people don't understand the physics of the wave. It's actually a circle or an oval. And the further you can get down towards the bed when you're trying to get beyond the wave, the more you can use the undercurrent to actually get further. Because it actually speeds your progress. As long as you're getting under the crest of where it's breaking down, it actually pushes you faster than you could be able to swim, depending on how big the wave is. That's right. And sometimes it flips the body in a marvelous curve within the body, but not enough. ...can be presented as agape in some kind of rigorous way. What happens in terms of its relationship to scripture? So we were exploring that a bit. And so remember that fundamental text of 1 John. Not only is God loving, among the various other things that God does,


but God is love, so that somehow everything that proceeds out of love proceeds from this inner life, this inner energy and essence. So that it's all about that, ultimately. Well, the class isn't over yet. It seems dark in here. So, given this, then, in the Old Testament, we already have an echo of that in the great Shema. Bill has come to the front of the class because he came out with the Shema. This central liturgical and spiritual moment, and doctrinal, it all comes together for Israel. One is our Lord, and so we should love the Lord our God, etc. And then this, through Hosea, and the canticle in Isaiah, etc. All those texts, and examples of friendship love, and filial love, and spousal love, etc. Then, in the New Testament, our Lord sums it all up,


the law and the prophets. And this sums up his whole life, also. And thus his incarnation, God so loved the world. And thus his sacrifice, greater love has no one than this, and to lay down one's life, etc., etc. And 1 Corinthians 13, which we're coming up on now, soon in Vespers. I hope we're always waiting for that. So, if we take this equation, the thesis is that we can claim the heart of Scripture. So, now we want to go back to the cloud, and our marvelous mountain image. Each one of us is a holy, sacred mountain. And to claim that, and to realize all the different levels of this mountain. That whole thing about levels is dangerous. It concerns us about themes of hierarchy, and denigrating things below, etc. But it also gives a much subtler model of the human psyche.


So we can understand how lots of things, for instance, can be happening within us at the same time. We can get lots of stuff from outside, and we can be feeling, say, sadness, and we can be remembering all kinds of stuff, and worried about tomorrow. But somehow, still, at some deepest level, at the center of it, or at the deepest point, or at the summit, it's all the same. Some mysterious sense of being united to God. Before we plunge back into that, remember our homework assignment. To think about sacred mountains, certainly in the Jewish-Christian tradition, and then in other religions, as we're aware of them, so as to claim a bit more this image. Because it is absolutely archetypical in the fullness of the Jungian. So what are some sacred mountains that occur to us? Pardon me? Yeah, what happened on Mount Tabor? Yeah, and that's at the center of our monastic life.


The mystery of the transfiguration somehow sums up what we Kamaldi's are all about. So the Sacred Hermitage, and so many of our houses have that dedication. What does Jesus do at Tabor? He goes up on a mountaintop, and there is transfigured before them. And there, there's Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, and the whole kind of thing. What other mountains? What do Moses and Elijah remind of us? Mount Sinai? Indeed! Both of them were there. This kind of mountain from which it all begins, in terms of salvation history, where the covenant is established, and these first incredible theophanies that Israel is just always going back to from there on. Mount Sinai. And then, remember, Elijah goes back there.


In the first theophanies, there's lightning and thunder, etc. And so Elijah goes back to try to get a hold on things, and he's there in the cave on Mount Sinai. There's this whole new approach to the way God's revelation might be in the still, small voice. So if you've got Tabor on the one hand in the New Testament, and Sinai on the other, a certain way you could reconstruct the whole of Scripture, in terms of two mountains. Other mountains, yes? I'm with those two. You did? This one has a resonance, really, for me with Buddhist plantation and talking about how they always say you are like a mountain, you sit like a mountain. And of course, there's that line in Psalm 135, those who put their trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. To me, that has a really impressive resonance. Mount Zion.


And then all throughout many of the pilgrimage psalms, there's 132, 133, 134, 132 talks about the dew from Herb and Fawn on Mount Zion. 134 has May the Lord bless you from Zion. Where is Mount Zion? Can we hear? I'm sure we all know, but just to be clear. It's the hill on which Jerusalem is. Precisely so. We've got these two mountains out in the wilderness of Sinai and Tabor. But then the mountain on which the holy city is set, Jerusalem, with all the resonances, it's on the mountaintop. So that's kind of exciting. So to go on the mountaintop into that mountain, you don't know what you'll find. It seems just desolate emptiness.


But it's the whole people of God there. It's the whole city that descends from on high in which Jerusalem is just a prefiguring. So yeah, Mount Zion. The Recipient was starting to pick out psalms, etc. One of the ways of claiming the office, I find, is to resonate with certain themes throughout the psalms. I like any mountain psalm, and I tend, at least with a pencil, to note that in my psalter. I think that's permitted, isn't it? Yeah, good. Any theme about love, that would want to be noted. I like any theme about the heart or the name in terms of the Jesus prayer. We'll be seeing that a little more as a contemplative means of carrying us throughout the whole day, etc. But to claim scripture because it is ours as the source of nourishing for our contemplative lives. And one of the ways to do that is just to note when something very special comes up. Yes?


In keeping with what Supreme was saying, just the image of Mount, in Psalm 121, that phrase was also a kind of a mountain psalm. My eyes do not, but one shall come. Beautiful. And then also, in keeping with what we were saying last week about love and equating the mountain with love, though the mountains fall, Isaiah, the mountains may fall, and they may turn to dust, yet the love of the Lord will never fail and will never pass away. So, that love is even greater than the power of the mountain. Yes, regularly, scripture uses mountain just as a symbol for something incredibly strong and permanent and then goes into the Semitic, how even more is the mercy is the love of God. So that's... And there's also, by Mount Zion, there's also the Mount of Olives, which is both a combination of


Gethsemane and Ascension, suffering and glory. Extremely important. It's somehow on the Mount of Olives that Jesus begins his last trip into Jerusalem. He is triumphant. And then, it's the scene in Matthew of his eschatological discourse, just the end of time, and then Mount Olives, that's the point of the anguish and the suffering. And then, the final, in a certain sense, mountain of the Ascension. So, there's somehow these decisive moments of salvation history of the Old Testament and of the New are mountains. A couple of other mountains we might know note in Scripture. I think Mount Horeb is a synonym for Mount Sinai. That's a good one.


Yet another mount over there? Yeah. Lots of mountains. What about in terms of contemplative orders and their names? Yeah. What happens there? Pardon me? Yeah, they make good candy. Yeah. Yeah, they battle it out. So, a mountain can be a place of battling. And the whole, you know, Mount Carmel and our own Carmel, so that's a biggie. Where is Jesus put on the cross? Mount Calvary. So, another mountain. So, again, you can explore and ponder our whole salvation history


just in terms of these summit experiences and these summits in geography. What about monasteries? Do monasteries like mountains? Mount Athos. This kind of central place for the whole Eastern Church. You know, Cenzo says, we in the Western, we're into hierarchy, so where's the center of the Roman Catholic Church? Well, Rome, the Vatican. But the center of the Eastern Church is not Constantinople or Moscow. It tends to be for so many devout Orthodox, Mount Athos. That's where they aspire to make a pilgrimage to before the end of their life. That chap was on the phone these days. He's looking to make a pilgrimage of, I guess, about six days on foot here up the mountain. So, we're on a mountainside. But there's something about mountains that draw monasteries. Mount Sinai, that ancient, ancient monastery.


Some of you have been there, haven't you? Yeah. Who else? Father Bruno? No. No, we will go. Yeah. I read somewhere that these mountains, in Israel especially, aren't particularly high mountains. They're kind of... I've never been there, but you have, Bruno. I guess it's kind of... Sometimes we would call them hills or something. Even going up to Jerusalem can be a real intervention. There's a sharp wilderness decline there. So, it's all relative. Tabor is significant. What is? Tabor. Oh. What about where our Benedictine family would speak on? Monte Cassino. That's a magnificent mount. If you want to stray a bit into the Franciscan, if you go to Assisi on the top of the mountain, if you go to Subiaco, where Francis received


the stigmata, just on the side of the mountain, incredibly averna. Incredibly. Also, Subiaco. Benedict's earlier experience is clinging to the side of the mountain. There's something about mountains and the monastic life. Camaldoli is right in the... way up there in the Tuscan mountains. We have this glorious book given to us by our friend Anne Thurber. Sacred Mountains of the World. Glorious photographs, but it begins with the Himalayas. We haven't even touched other religions, but certainly the mainline religions and the mainline areas have their sacred mountains. The Himalayas, abode of the sacred. China, mountains of the Middle Kingdom. Central Asia, Japan. Mountains of the Rising Sun. South and Southeast Asia, cosmic centers. Only then, with chapter six, do we get to the Middle East. Heights of Revelation. Good title.


In Europe, North America, the high and the beautiful. Then they have a whole chapter on the symbolism of the sacred mountain. It's not just one. There's a whole range of symbolisms in these different religions. Mountains and the sacred in literature and art, and tracing Dante and spiritual dimension of mountaineering, et cetera. But a good book regarding the kind of archetypical, and it's a glorious photographs. But here, with the mountains, seems to be kind of the earth straining upward in some kind of cataclysmic yearning. And so this is ascending that point where all also the underworld is brought up. We get closest to heaven, and then very often God graces us by coming down from the heavens and dwelling on the mountain top. It's a privileged place of manifestation of the


divine theophany. There's one in India, there's one in Harsik, and I've never read a book about Arunachala, which is the mountain of Ramana Maharshi. And the mountain is identified with Shiva. The mountain is supposed to be like pure energies. I've heard of it, but it's a very special place. We have that book. This, where we have this Benedictine experience. You look over and there's this Indian mountain. It looks like a maiden. It's such a powerful force. And you can't just look in a kind of indifferent way at the horizon. Inevitably, you go right to that. As you say, it's a kind of a power-energy source for the whole. The most recent issue of Lo Servatore Romano, the Holy Father went up to northern Italy to see these magnificent mountains. Believers climb the Mount of Holiness. So this is basic for our whole imagery. Here's a quote just from a Navajo


man as he's remembering his early years. A wise elder among my people frequently used the phrase, Pinpe Obi, look to the mountaintop while he was alive. I first heard it 25 years ago when I was seven years old, as I was practicing for the first time to participate in relay races we run in the Pueblo country. We give strength to the Sun Father as he journeys across the sky. I was at one end of each track which ran east to west, the earth track, like the path of the sun. The old man, who was blind, called out to me and said, young one, as you run, look to the mountaintop. And he pointed to Taikoma, the western sacred mountain of the Tiwa world, which loomed off in the distance. Keep your gaze fixed on that mountain, and you will feel the miles melt beneath your feet. Do this, and in time you will feel as if you can leap over bushes, trees, and even the river. I tried to understand what this last statement meant, but I was too young.


And a few days later I asked him if I could really learn to leap over treetops. He smiled and said, whatever life's changes you may face, remember always look to the mountaintop, for in so doing you look to greatness. Remember this, and let no problem, however great it may deem, discourage you. This is the one thought I want to leave you with, and in that dim coming time when we shall meet again, it shall be on the mountaintop. So, it's, uh, this is just the kind of thing that Jung loves in all these different religions and places throughout the world, without evident possibility of it's not clear that that Indian had read Moses on Mount Sinai, etc. But there's something about that. So that this basic image of a Saint John of the Cross, or the spiritual journey in the contemplative life, or the cloud, this interior mountain, I think we can claim. Just two nights ago when I was sitting in the Rotunda after Vespers, it's like being within the mountain,


a mountain hollowed out, a little sacred mountain, like in the cave, or the depths of the mountain. So we've got our own mountain we look to from within the church, and we journey into. So, other things about mountains, yes? There is a kind of dialectic between the mountain and the cave, okay? And Jung doesn't already provide for that. He goes to the mountain, then he goes to the cave. And that's where all the thunderstorms and hurricanes and everything turn into this quiet red. So it's a little bit like masculine and feminine. And it happens also in the New Testament. Remember when Jesus says, it's not an hour on that mountain, but it's burdened with truth. And that's at the well, okay? And with a woman. And so I think there's a kind of transition happening that's being indicated into an interiority of worship. And then we recover the mountain in a consciously symbolic way. So there's a process that has to happen. In a sense, the mountains have to be torn down, and then they have to be


built up again. Every mountain must be laid low in Isaiah. And the hollow, the feminine part is a very important part of that. My only hesitation is that some mountains are very masculine there, but some mountains are incredibly feminine, you know? And I was just thinking, la montagne in French. But yeah, mountains often are kind of, and you climb up by rugged. But... The Jewish understanding of mountains is pretty masculine. Interesting. The first thing that occurred to my mind for some reason was Tolkien's Hobbit. And there the treasure is under the mountain, and you have to go down, [...] in order to conquer the dragon. Part of the archetype is everything is under the mountain. So you have to go down to get the treasure in order to bring it back in order to bring it back up again. So it isn't that the only archetype is that the treasure is at the top and you have to climb to the mountain.


Absolutely not. You enter at the top of the mountain and you have to go down into the bowels in order to find the treasure. Absolutely. And Dante's use of the mountain imagery in terms of... He finds himself lost at the very beginning, but then he sees a little glimmer. He wants to go straight up, and he realizes he can't. He has to go way down, right into hell, and then go up Mount of Purgatory to ascend to... He goes right to the center of the earth. That's right. There's all kinds of things you can do with this. For some people, mountains will immediately resonate. For some people, again, language going to the center or going to the depths. We would also, if we had time, want to claim fully that this incredible archetype of the ocean out there or the waters, etc., but there where they're very agitated on the surface and you go down, down, down to the hidden treasure. But this is one archetype. And so to claim this, not as kind of... It's some kind of imperialistic... But work with it and see where it helps


and where it also very much is limited, etc. I noticed that Robert Goliath works a lot with men in our defense movements. He talks about young ascenders, especially a certain type of young man in the pool area. So for that young man and for every young man, at some point, he has to get down and sit in the ashes. In other words, the upward thrust in some way has to be ballasted and counterbalanced to even overcome the power of this descent. He sees that as a process in the development of masculinity. And then often the Cenex is pictured somehow right up there at the top of the mountain, just with a loincloth or something, just sitting, meditating on it all. One of the things the mountaintop gives you when you're not in the cloud is this incredible horizon over the whole... But... All right. Yes? Then I was thinking, of course, with the two mountains, especially as I mentioned at first, Curry of Nyssa, of course, makes a big deal


about this and Moses. And it's like Moses becomes a completely mystical picture for our own going into the darkness to find God. And Tabor then becomes a big, very major theme for the Eastern Orthodox because their belief in the height of prayer, each one of us gets transfigured. There's some kind of experience of the latter. That's right. From the top of the mountain. Just to anticipate your homework assignment for next time, several of these mountains are related to clouds. It's the one that goes together with the other. But talking about Tabor and talking about Sinai, think about clouds in the Old Testament. Think about how that is archetypal too. And this is good to claim because every regular here, we're in the clouds. We're in the fog. But yeah. The whole goal of the


contemplative life is to open ourselves to that uncreated light of Tabor for the Eastern Church. And so to look to the mountain, as this old man is telling. And to look for the covenant, Sinai, and the new covenant. Oh, we didn't get one mountain. We left one mountain out. How does Jesus begin his earthly ministry? The sermon on the mount. That's right. He goes into a mount. And there he sits down. He's the new Moses. He's giving kind of the new covenant. There's lots of grass around there. So all these people can sit down on the mount. So... Good. So I think we've made our point. I'll put this book out on the library table. And again, your basic homework assignment is each one of you to claim mountains as you find them helpful or not. I've got an incredible postcard collection of mountains. Growing up in


Denver, when the air was clear, you would just look over and there's an incredible range of the Rocky Mountains. But here again also, right on the side of the mountain. Alright. So we want to look at the cloud. First of all, I think it'd be good to plot where the particular practice that the cloud is talking about fits into the monastic day. We've got to be realistic here. As the cloud is realistic, it's not as if we can be living the cloud prayer in its fullness and purity and directness every moment of the day. For instance, here, we're in a classroom. And the cloud prayer ideally wants silence and probably subdued lights, etc. This is not an ideal situation for praying the cloud prayer directly. But it's not excluded that the cloud prayer be experienced also in


the classroom. So this is a very simple scheme that we came up with. To very much simplify, you might think that each one of our days is divided into three basic parts. And you can put them in any order. This isn't like ascending the mountain or something. Though I think the author of the cloud or someone like John Lacrosse would say, this is the way it works. We're going from the lower areas of the mountain to the top here. Now you can accept that or not as you like. But there's the part of the day that takes most of the time. There's our work, study, recreation, classes, sleep. It'd be great to spend a lot of time on contemplative prayer and sleep. How God is also in our unconscious. How very mysterious things are happening through also contemplative prayer in our sleep, etc. Also recreation. We try to push recreation. It's a very different space. Very different dynamics can enter in.


And different ways of being with God. And then work. As someone here says, we shouldn't just see you. I want to get it over as soon as possible so I can get back to the stuff that I like. So now in and through work, there should be a contemplative capacity. Here a form of prayer that can very much help us is the Jesus prayer. If we were to have time, we could really go in there as helping us throughout the day, linking it all up. And how many of you know Brother Lawrence's practice of the presence of God? That's a classic. His basic point is there's not a special place where we're with God and we forget God. God is everywhere. In anything we do, we can simply be with God in the most simple way. He was Carl Leitling's brother and shoemaker, etc., and arrived in extremely deep, intimate union with God simply by being with God wherever.


Because God is wherever. So, these are two ways to strengthen our ways of being contemplative in this whole block of time that isn't directly sacred. That is, isn't directly set aside when you're on Pots and Pans, you're on Pots and Pans or the Retreat House or something. Though in a monastic context, in a certain way, everything is sacred, but this is the most secular, the most, kind of, of the daily routine. But if we can be with God here, then that very much facilitates being with God in these other moments. The second moment is set aside specifically for prayer, but it's not the particular kind of prayer that Author of the Cloud is talking about immediately. Liturgy, vigils, logs, vespers, and, of course, the Holy Eucharist. Is this a higher moment of union with God than this?


That's all debatable. To get a sense of how we can be contemplatives in liturgy, Father of Adorant, if he's able, he's going to take the next series of these talks and go specifically into liturgy and contemplation. So I won't get much into there, just to say some who find very congenial this form of being with God, they can't tend to underrate this. Inevitably, for periods, this will be experienced almost as an obstacle. Liturgy, also collatio, devotions, lexio. These are practices that want to take us deeply into God, but through the mediation of a whole network of signs and symbols and history and gestures, etc., if we can stay in there with any kind of centeredness, I think, and if we go deep enough into the words, into the action,


into the music, we can find some kind of resonance between the out there, the basic thrust of the song, and our just being with God, as here with dealing with a poor person, for instance. We listened to Saint Vincent de Paul yesterday. Or, if I'm there, then that situation, whatever it is, that person, whomever it is, whoever it is, can be sacrament for me in Christ. And so, certainly the word of God doing lexio, for instance, the whole purpose is to go from, as you remember, lexio, meditatio, ratio, contemplatio. The same with liturgy. Liturgy wants to take us into the deepest mystery of God. It wants to be word into silence. So devotions, the rosary, are a prof of prayer and all of a sudden, there's probably lots more mystics out there than we think of. They're the


little old ladies who are there in the back of the church praying the rosary, and they're not thinking about every meditation. They're just in a very mysterious, deep union with God without being able to articulate it, but that repetition of the Hail Mary, our Father very much helps them. You can do a kind of Trinitarian thing here. It can be very forced, but our final stage is this is what the cloud is all about. These moments, some of us experience these moments in a particular way after vespers or after logs or going into our cell. The cell is also for that, to give at least 20 minutes, 30 minutes a day to silent prayer. That's the moment that the author of the cloud is talking about. That's the moment Therese is talking about in the interior castle as we journey deeper into the castle. That's another image. She goes from the outer to the inner with all these complicated rooms and mansions


and outside there's all this noise and all those serpents remembering, lizards and things, but as we can go deeper and the central chamber is the bridegroom. So that's the same thing, and you get there through this silent prayer we'll be hearing more and more as we get into the third mansions and on the fourth. It's the same thing. But that's here. So we can feel a little frustrated if we read the cloud and then realize with so much of the day I can't just be there in the silence and seated and centered, but the cloud is quite aware of that. But if we have these others rightly they support this very much as Fr. Lawrence says, if you're distracted when you go into this kind of prayer it's because you haven't been with God enough the rest of the day, but it works the other way. If you're living these 20 minutes, half an hour, an hour or two whatever day, then inevitably that awareness


of a deep communion with God extends and then liturgy becomes alive from within and collatio and new insights, contemplative insights into scripture, etc., and the devotions, etc., and then work and recreation, etc. Not to say it all becomes bliss, but it all takes on a different form. So to chart your own life very concretely in terms of your own obediences and your own rhythm and going to liturgy and to try to see how it can be a thing where one plays into the other and mutually supports the other. One can relate each one of these to different modalities of love, since our theme is not Christian love, but certainly the feeling of love as we journey deep into the history of the Godhead, of the Father. Jesus often went off into a mountain to pray and certainly to address Abba. It's also the place of spousal love in Hosea. Yahweh


leads this faithless Beloved into the desert to woo her again. And that whole thing about Eckhart's parental love, we have this fragile divine child within which we must very carefully take care of. That's a dimension of love which can be lived in this. You can't say that friendship love is characteristic in a primary way. It may work some different way for you. I'm saying, work it all out. Get in touch with all that range of experiences of human love and relate it to these different moments. But Jesus says at the key Paschal moment, I call you no longer servants but friends. And as we gather in the liturgy as friends for the common praise of God, it's also very much filial love as we address our Father in the Spirit, etc. But this, it's Christ the High Priest who gathers


us. He is the main celebrant, etc., the Word of God. So you can relate, if you want, to this level, especially to the Son. And then it really takes the Holy Spirit, I think, to keep us going through the rest of us, the prayer of the heart the rest of the day without just getting totally scattered, etc., and to move into the mystery of the dark area of sleep and the shadow of nightmares and glorious dreams, etc. So this is kind of a map of the day to say, remember, it's particularly in this one moment that we're focused on, but it's a moment so potent that it can be as leaven for all the rest. St. Teresa said, if a person will dedicate 20 minutes a day to this silent prayer, everything will change. Questions? Comments? Does that map make sense? Oh, you know, with strangers, even


with our enemy, that's where we're called to live those other... as Francis embraces the leper or were to be patient. Sabrina had a lovely prayer today with patience. That's a very important dimension of Christian love. We don't just love people we like kind of thing. So that's where we can exercise that. Also, in a contemplative way, Francis had all this aversion to leprosy. He couldn't stand them, but he at least... this is anticipating my St. Francis homily. But finally he gets off the horse and embraces the leper. That just changes his whole life, he says. That's when everything just turned around. So that, for him, was a very contemplative moment. He wasn't in the rotunda doing zazen or something, but he had a very contemplative moment. And he said at that point, the leper was Christ for him, as he found out in a dream that night. So we shouldn't constrict and confine


our contemplative life to one area, but know that there is a privileged practice, a privileged space, the whole tradition would say, that can nourish all the rest. And without a real practice of that, the other can start becoming kind of unraveled and distracted in the etymological sense, pulled apart. Other questions? So each one of you might make your own kind of map of the day and where each type of prayer fits in, each type of contemplative practice and hopefully how they are supporting each other or aren't so much. So with that, let's go back to the cloud and then see this practice and what he says about it. First we'll hand out our handouts. Now this is all collated by


one of my two best contemplative assistants. So they're in order of features. So first of all, you find in the cloud what you find in lots of these contemplative classics, that is an exhortation and an encouragement because it's not easy sticking at it. Very soon the question comes up, what on earth am I doing here? I'm not doing much of anything. Am I just wasting my time? It's a pure illusion. Hopefully there's enough of these. Hey man, good. So I guess 14 is about right. So if you go on page 60, what's the use of it? What's the value of this? Chapter 9. And the subtitle of chapter 9


is fun. That the most sublime thoughts are more hindrance than help during the time of contemplative prayer. This again is sublime, as interesting as you send up, etc. So there's nothing that has the value of this contemplative prayer. If you go down about 9 lines in a little, for I tell you I will tell you this. One loving blind desire for God alone is more valuable in itself, more pleasing to God and to the saints, more beneficial to your own growth, and more helpful to your friends, both living and dead, than anything else you could do. Now either we believe this or don't, but it's an incredible claim. This is a very serious theologian and I think every Catholic and Orthodox theologian would ultimately agree with this. This one real moment of contemplative union with God is what all eternity will be all about, and is more valuable than writing manuscripts, brilliant and


preaching to immense crowds. John the Cross goes on and on in this vein. It's better to be there in solitude, just with God in one instance of this for all of humanity, than out preaching and converting tens of thousands, etc. And you are more blessed to experience the interior affection of this love within the darkness of the cloud of unknowing, than to contemplate the angels and saints, or to hear the mirth and melody of their heavenly festival. Here he's taking a little potshot at Richard Rowe, a near contemporary of his, who's a very enthusiastic mystic who has all these wonderful experiences. His body actually heats up in mystical prayer, and he hears music, and he feels things, etc. He's a very forekind of mystic. And the author of The Cloud says with a kind of a kind of a put-down, he says, that's all very well and good. But just one instance of this in the darkness of


the cloud is worth more than all the rest of this. And again, John of the Cross would absolutely agree. Also in terms of visions and special prophecies, etc. This is our answer to all the stuff that's happening now around the world of special messages from Our Lady and special secrets and all this. None of that is worth a fraction of just one moment of authentic contemplative prayer. And at its best, if you read all these messages in Medjugorje, they are to persevere more in prayer and to be more holy, etc. Just wanting to guide us back into the contemplative. Here he uses within the darkness of the cloud. This, of course, John of the Cross will take on directly. There's some debate. Did John of the Cross know the cloud? There's not direct evidence. I don't think they've found that yet. But some hypothesize some kind of emphasis. But this darkness image goes right back to Pseudo Dionysius


and to Gregory of Nyssa as classic way of expressing what happens there. Why? Because you go into the cloud. It's no longer clear. I see this watch very clearly, and it's 1044, etc. That's not the way we encounter God, the mystery of God. It's more a darkening of the faculty, simply because of the super abundance of light of God as the sun blinds our eyes, so we're in total darkness. So, as we enter into the divine presence, there's this darkness. So the exhortation is to really value this, even though there'll be the moments where it seems like of just no value whatever. Then there's the scruple, but I'm not worthy. This is too lofty and exalted and sublime, and I know this defect and that doubt and this sin in my past and this lukewarmness now, etc.


He has a wonderful phrase. He says, don't worry about that. If we're all caught up in our own unworthiness, this is just the way Satan tries to keep us from our full contemplative vocation. So he has this, I think, magnificent one-liner about how God sees us. It is not what you are, nor what you have been, that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be. So we all yearn to be Christians, and to be good Christians, and to live in full unity with all of creation. That's what God sees. And it's an amazing way also of seeing other people when we aren't feeling very attracted to them, you know. But what is their deepest desire? That's how God sees them. That's kind of the contemplative perspective. So, the remote preparation for this prayer. Again, remembering that this one might be a half-hour in the morning, and a half-hour in the evening, or it might be a minimum of a 20-minute period, or it


might be for some people an hour in the morning, an hour, whatever. What's the remote preparation? Well, first of all, liturgy, which is to be prayed with real reverence. People say, well, there's not much liturgy in the cloud, so it's not a particularly Christian Catholic book. Not at all. It presupposes that as just the kind of foundational prayer that we regularly go back to, that we journey from. I do not mean to imply that liturgical prayer is neglected. On the contrary, the true contemplative has the highest esteem for the liturgy, and is careful and exact in celebrating it in continuity with the tradition of our Fathers. Chapter 37. So, and then meditation. Good work. Obedience, humility, all these things. All this is preparation so that when you go there, we're ready. The immediate preparation he's trying to get us,


again, so that this half hour won't just be a crazy time lost, but extremely fruitful. The first thing is to forget. Forget all the things of the world. And this, again, is not when you're on duty in the guest house, and the phone is ringing, and you're ringing up someone. Don't just forget it all and go into bliss or something. This is this particular moment of the day. But, again, this will help you when you are in the guest house, hopefully. But in this particular moment, forget all the rest. This is not the moment to worry about whether, I don't know, your roof is leaking, or whether you were supposed to make that phone call, or whether... Set all that aside. Set aside even the most pious, the most devout, the most sublime theological reflections. This is a difficult time for priests who know they have to preach in four or five or six days or something. I find often in that period, all kinds of insights come for the homily,


and all kinds of connections. Just quiet it down. If they're valid enough, they'll come back. Forget everything. Certainly sin. Don't get caught up in, oh my God, I was unfaithful in this, and I got this. He has this lovely image. You just roll all your sins of today and your whole life into a ball, and then just roll them over to God, and let God play with this ball, or do whatever he wants. But be free of it. And he goes on and on. If Mary Magdalene, instead of just going over and clinging to Christ, and worried about, oh, I sinned then, and then I sinned... She'd never get on to Christ. So, forget your sins. So, it's not that we disdain all this rest. It's not that it's unimportant to us. It's just that this isn't the moment for it. Everything has its moment. This is the one-to-one, quality spousal time with the beloved. It's like with two who are married. They love their kids, they love their jobs, they want to do their jobs well, and she wants to


cook for him well the next day, etc. But in the moment when they go into the inner chamber and close the door, and it's just totally for those two, they want to give each other totally. That's what this is all about. So, before that, again, the preparation is to order our loves. Not to eradicate our love of friendship and fraternal love, etc. But to order it so it's all focused on this one love of God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Father Tugwell, the Dominican, has a lovely introduction to The Cloud in the Paulist edition. Our aim must not be just to transfer all our affectivity to God, but to reach a state of ordered love in which all our affections fall into place around our central love for God. Here's, I think, how this mountain image can work. If, at least in the moment of this prayer, it can be


likened to an ascent to the top, then if we can order and quiet the rest, the whole Eastern Christian thing of hesychia, of stillness, still the seeing, and the hearing, and the feeling, and the tasting, and the smelling, and the feelings, and the memory, and the imagination, and the light, just quiet it all into a mysterious silence.