God contemplated all that He had fashioned through His Word, as Genesis (2:1-3) tells us, and we would be wise to follow these words. CNS photo/Chaz Muth

Contemplate the Lord and call out to Him

By  Deacon Andrew Bennett, Catholic Register Special
  • October 27, 2022

Since the beginning of Creation, contemplation has been revealed as essential. We read in Genesis the resounding refrain that God, in creating the Heavens and the Earth and all that is in them, “saw that it was good.” In blessing the seventh day on which He rested from the act of creating, God contemplated all that He had fashioned through His Word (Gen. 2:1-3). 

At the Incarnation of that same Word, we read about the Mother of God’s contemplation of what sort of greeting the angel Gabriel brought to her (Lk. 1:29). At Our Lord’s Nativity, Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Our Lord Himself, in Gethsemane before suffering His Passion, pondered in agony what He was about to undergo for our salvation. These moments of contemplation are but a few of those we encounter throughout Holy Scripture. They are moments of wonder. They are moments of reflection. They are moments of intimacy with the Divine Nature.

This essential character of contemplation was brought home to me several weeks ago when I led a small group of 14 Christian young professionals from Ottawa on a weekend retreat at the Benedictine monastery of St-Benoit-du-Lac in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. As we had hoped, we found there time for contemplation, both in the sacred liturgy and in our shared and solitary moments of prayer, our experiences of God’s fall grandeur and our fellowship. The contemplative character of the place and of the life of the monastic community practically cried out “Peace!” 

St. John Paul II, remarking on this in his 1996 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Via consecrata (On the Consecrated Life), emphasized the necessity of the contemplative life for the life of the Church. 

“The first missionary duty of consecrated persons is to themselves, and they fulfil it by opening their hearts to the promptings of the Spirit of Christ. Their witness helps the whole Church to remember that the most important thing is to serve God freely, through Christ’s grace which is communicated to believers through the gift of the Spirit. Thus they proclaim to the world the peace which comes from the Father, the dedication witnessed to by the Son, and the joy which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit,” he wrote.

Yet so many of us as Christians, neither called to a contemplative vocation or having frequent access to a monastic community nearby, are so often starved of contemplation that we lack peace. We cannot hear the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We are deafened by the noise of the world and our own busy-ness, what 

His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah labelled in one of its more disordered forms “the heresy of activism.” Too often, instead of contemplating the Saviour, we act as if we have become Him! This is a wicked temptation and a pernicious sort of idolatry. Some of us might experience the desire for more contemplation in our daily lives and in our daily prayer, but we get distracted and we keep busy. The consequence is an arid faith.

Contemplation and silence are bound together like a crystal decanter and wine: the decanter is at its most beautiful when filled with a ruby-coloured, full-bodied Cabernet. Likewise our contemplation is most beautiful when it is filled with moments of silence, moments in which we pause and in that pausing we have an opportunity to commune with the Holy Trinity, to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice. 

For many of us, increasing our time spent in silence might provoke anxiety or fear. Not only might we come into contact with God in that contemplation but we are also going to come into contact with ourselves and might not like that very much. Our Lord knows that. He knows our struggles. He absorbed them into the wood of the Cross. But, if we trust Him and reach out to Him we will be given the strength and the perseverance to deepen our contemplation of Him and the world He has created, including our very selves. 

As a priest once said to me as I struggled to join myself to Christ in prayer, “Remember that He is always there. Call out to Him: ‘Lord I am here. Lord I am yours.’ ” 

(Bennett is program director for Religious Freedom and director of Faith Community Engagement with Cardus.)

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