Ways of Knowing
John says, “I did not know him”. Of course, he knows Jesus, his cousin, while at the same time he does not know him. At first he did not know the real identity of Jesus. But eventually he can say: “I myself have seen that this is the Son of God.” John’s time spent in solitude and contemplation would have brought about the change in his way of knowing Jesus. Is this the message that today’s gospel holds for us?
‘Contemplation is any way one has of penetrating illusion and touching reality.’ (Parker Palmer) Contemplation is an entirely different way of knowing reality that has the power to move us beyond words, theories, doctrines, and dogmas so that we will come to know the very Source of everything that exists. Contemplative Prayer is gradually detaching us from the God we think we know to the God who actually is and whom we don’t know. The goal of contemplation is not success, only the continuing practice itself. Contemplation reveals more and more of the mystery of silence and the importance of receptivity over effort. Silence leads to stillness; stillness leads to surrender. At first our experience may be one of emptiness but we are not speaking of just emptiness, but of emptiness that is beginning to be filled with a Presence. Perhaps we could say that contemplation occurs when interior silence morphs into Presence. This Presence, once established in our inmost being, might be called spaciousness. There is nothing in it except a certain vibrancy and aliveness. You’re awake. But awake to what, you don’t know and cannot describe. Contemplation is another word for prayer, a kind of prayer that doesn’t seek to fix, control, or explain but surrenders to Presence.
Adapted: Thomas Keating; Richard Rohr
‘Is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?’
‘As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.’
‘Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?’
‘To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.’
Anthony de Mello