The Christian contemplative life is a practical mysticism calling a person to fundamental transformation. This way of life seeks to be a progressive unfoldment of the never to be withdrawn Presence of the Indwelling Spirit of Christ. The Power to transform is already present for those who have experienced this fulness and for those who see it into the very Reality they behold (2 Cor 3:18). These persons experience and recognize the Mystery—a hope they are convinced is already fulfilled (Col 1:27).
The Christian contemplative tradition is one of fully realized eschatology. That is, Christ’s Indwelling Spirit as Parousia is experienced in complete Union for all who receive him, not as an isolated historical event. The Christian way is essentially a mystical path for anyone who has personally experienced the unitive Christ Presence. Contemplative Christianity is also a practical mysticism in that it calls one to fundamentally transform from narrow individual self to the Union of all together in One Christ—open to all ages, levels of experience and gifts.
Christian contemplative living is practical in helping one to recognize myriad gifts in the context of the ultimate Gift of Christ. This process of seeing and recognizing gifts and discerning them and cultivating the more significant ones is a sign of maturity on the spiritual path. This leads to a hallmark of the mystical sojourn which is simplicity. Growing in spiritual maturity leads one to prefer gifts whose currents run deeper within the quiet Love’s Presence.
The contemplative way is one of persons and communities of persons who are experiencers. That is, they undergo a unitive experience of the Divine Indwelling. The unique reality of each experience is absolutely valuable. Each of these persons recognizes the desire to reach out and share life together in an open-ended constantly moving, growing and enriching process.
The Christian contemplative way is personally historical concretely embodied in real people who are experiencers. Abstract doctrine and complex structures attempt to reflect the creative light of the experiencers but these remain dynamic not static. These formulations bear witness to the level of development and insight reached at the moment. The living experience of the community is in a continuum of ongoing development in the Living Christ. Thus, the central experience of the Christian contemplative way is the full reality of Christ’s Indwelling Spirit recognized in, through and with all who are called into this unity. These experiencers together are the Living Christ.
The contemplative experiencer develops a growing sense of the principle guiding a new and different response calling for the quest for human unity. A spirituality assuming a concrete emergence of Christian ecumenism suggests the gradual dissolution of old separatist ways. Like our first Christian ancestors, this can lead to new positive openings and become a significant part of a new unitive Christian heritage.
A theological study of Christian contemplative spirituality implies a special agenda concentrated essentially on the experiential. Other areas of interest are significant as related to this center.
(Note: This blog in two parts is a recasting based upon reflections of Robley Whitson’s introduction to his, The Shakers: Two Centuries of Spiritual Reflection, Paulist Press 1983, from the series The Classics of Western Spirituality).