Introduction and Chapter 1

For January 15

Feel free to skip below to the questions if you have already done the reading 

INTRODUCTION (xxiii-xxxviii)

“Human vulnerability is the unifying thread that passes through all of our prayer. It is the meeting point of God and man. This is because God is vulnerable too.” (xxix)

“Contemplation is nothing else than a mental attitude of loving, simple, persistent attention to holy things…. Prayer is called meditation until it has produced the honey of devotion; after that it changes into contemplation…. Thus as bees draw nectar from the flowers, we meditate to gather the love of God, but, having gathered it, we contemplate God and are attentive to His goodness because of the sweetness that love makes us find in it.” (Quoting St Francis de Sales, xxxiv) “With this in mind, our focus in this book is on the contemplative dimension of prayer, understood as vulnerable, attentive, loving presence in the relationship between God and man.” (xxiv)

 “The journey of the Christian life involves the gradual transformation of the one who comes to believe in the love that God has for us and steadily opens to that love. As the love of God slowly and steadily permeates the life of the believer, he becomes more like God. This is a journey that requires our active participation in the moral life and also our steady adherence to God’s love in our lives of prayer. This journey is the beginning of eternal life (John 17:3)...” (xxxvii) 

CHAPTER 1. HUMAN AND DIVINE RELATIONSHIP (1-26)

"God is not a blank screen onto which we can project whatever we want, though surely our imagination does project some desirable qualities onto Him in the way in which we understand them and need them. And, truth be told, we actually project imaginatively into every relationship we have.... But the reality of who each person really is conflicts with and modifies our projections and preconceptions over time, if we are open in the relationship." (7)

"Placing ourselves in God's loving presence is the starting point that St. Francis de Sales recommended for all of our prayer.... He then elaborated on several ways that we can think of the Presence of God: First, that He is universally present; then, that He is profoundly present in our own heart and mind; that we can remember Him in His constant thought about us; and that we can also picture Him next to us like a dear friend. The more concretely we envision our relationship with God, the better our prayer will be." (9)

"[God's] love for each one of us is infinite. He loves me infinitely. He loves you infinitely. Pray in the face of this unfathomable mystery!" (10)

"God becomes radically vulnerable, using all His divine power not to protect Himself but to love more deeply and become vulnerable to us. And He does this for all, and for each and every one as if each were the only one." (11)

"The fundamental dynamic in Christian prayer is self-gift, which is the heart of divine love and the height of human love." (12)

"The Incarnation redefines the moral life of the Christian as well as the prayer life of the Christian.... As members of the same body, we learn not to hate or hurt each other, and even to reverence and love each other. Because we are all incorporated into Christ and thereby into the Trinity by grace not by right, we rely on and help each other rather than striving to overcome one another. We are interconnected in such a way that even though we may feel distant from each other, we are actually interconnected through a circulatory system and a nervous system of grace and love, under the direction of our Head, who is Christ." (13)

"When we go deeper into prayer, we discover an enormous depth to ourselves which at some point is discovered to be like a great abyss or void.... Yet it is the void of darkness, dryness, and this abyss that keep most people from entering into deeper prayer, or into prayer at all. In the depths of ourselves we often encounter great pain and sorrow, and often experience our own negativity and depression. Sometimes we have wounds and painful memories. Sometimes we are deeply aware of what we have done and what we have failed to do. Worst of all, we feel the weight of self, of being who we are. Sometimes we seem complete strangers to ourselves..." (21-22)

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/COMMENT

Please "Enter your comment..." below (then hit "Publish") to respond to one or more of the following.

1. The authors teach that "vulnerability" is a point of contact with God. What does this mean to you? Does it help you envision the life of prayer in new or helpful ways?

2. Do you think of "contemplation" as fundamental to the Christian life? What are the challenges and rewards to thinking of Christian commitment in these terms?

3. Does the authors' understanding of prayer seem unduly focused on oneself? If not, how does their portrait of prayer open us up to the service of neighbor?

4. Feel free to comment on any aspect of this week's reading. 

Comments

  1. As a life-long Catholic, I've found it easy to pray and enjoy doing so. I recently experienced the loss of a loved one in early December. In November, I prayed furiously for him to be well and things were looking good. Suddenly, at the beginning of December he died. Since then, I've been angry, confused and unwilling to pray or attend Mass. After reading the introduction and first chapter of this book, I look forward to not only regaining my desire for and enjoyment of prayer, but enhancing that desire and enjoyment.

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