Practical Mysticism: Contemplative Living for Christians (Part 2)

October 18, 2014 | Writings

The fundamental constituents of Christian contemplative spirituality are rooted in the direct experience of individuals and communities. Doctrinal formulations and social structures are derivatives of the direct experience as its expressions. Many and diverse forms of historic Christian contemplative experience arise to communicate understanding and invite participation in this transforming consciousness.

Mature contemplatives over time tend to integrate their essential experience with their total life context. Gradually, they establish what is mainstream further developing and strengthening these gifts while de-emphasizing, abandoning and reinterpreting what is variant.

The Christian contemplative experience is beyond imagination and speculation so preconceived plans for concrete preparations are useless because it’s beyond our knowledge. Still, if there were preparation it is an inward work that includes the willingness to be led by the Spirit into a greater light and the presumption that the increase in inner light involves a commitment to the pursuit of spiritual perfection.

In short, contemplatives embrace an open-ended experiential agenda free from narrowing their imagination on any anticipated sense of the Direct Union. The fundamental principle of the contemplative way is the unfolding experience as the dynamic norm of authenticity.

In the desire to be led by the Spirit and open to its inspiration, contemplatives gather sitting in silence and stillness keenly aware of each breath in the present moment. This practice disciplines external senses and allows for perception at depth from within to take place in a transforming consciousness of unitive presence. Thus the Christian contemplative has actual experience. It is the experience of “knowing that is beyond knowledge” (Eph 3:19) which contemplatives come into contact effecting seeing and being opened from within.

From their experiences of the Divine Indwelling, comes the contemplative’s understanding of the significance of the early Christian disciples and the meaning of Christ’s Glory. They see the early disciples as unique persons chosen to inaugurate the awareness and consciousness of the Indwelling Spirit; the first to be drawn into the unifying experience of the Spirit present and active within us all. They were the first to awaken in experience to what we all ultimately experience.

In Christian experiential history, like the apostles, contemplatives minister this experience to persons by bearing witness to what happened/s to them, thereby being the instrument of that happening to another.

Contemplatives believe in the Indwelling Spirit because they themselves are experiencers of this realization. They believe because others have nurtured them, that is, ministered life to them by the living witness of their experience. Contemplatives now experience for themselves and so enter an ever-expanding ministry of living witness to others. This essential process of realizing the Ultimate Dimension is a progressive unfolding of revelation.

The contemplative path is a way of living, not static or merely inner oriented mysticism. The contemplative way involves radical change, a new consciousness implying a reformed life. This way of life is a striking feature of contemplatives. It is the attempt to live fully in a way capable of embracing all people—a ministering life open to the freedom to love all equally. It sometimes embraces celibacy understood as a positive commitment rising above limited nature. It includes a recognition to be committed to true peace toward all—practical sharing and the realization of equal dignity of women and men.