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<w.c.>
posted
Here's a nice summary of Brother Lawrence's counsel regarding recollecting the Presence of God, with the website it is taken from listed below:

The Practice of The Presence
All contemplative practices point toward the whole of life lived consciously and with a desire to appreciate God's presence and to be open to God's guidance. The most direct and holistic practice, then, is a moment-by-moment presence to God in all the daily situations of our lives: in work, leisure, relationship, no matter where we are or what is happening. Brother Lawrence, the 17th century French Carmelite friar, described four specific ways of practicing the presence.

First, he suggests "little interior glances," simple moments of remembering, noticing, or just seeking God's presence in the midst of whatever is going on.

Second, he speaks of repeating "a little phrase that Love inspires," letting a word, phrase or image repeat itself quietly deep inside us as we go through our daily activities.

Third, he encourages the habit of "conversing everywhere with God," entering all situations with a sense of relationship with God, a trust in Christ being with us.

Fourth, he prays for an open, all-embracing contemplative attitude in all times and places, what he calls "the loving gaze that finds God everywhere."

http://www.shalem.org/article1.html
 
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That's very profound, W.C.! What you're sharing demonstrates a deep understanding of how God's grace is breaking into human history through the incarnation.

I always get just a tad annoyed when people call themselves Christian, but then, in the next breath, say they have no use for the Church, or "organized religion." Without organized religion, it's doubtful that the message of Christ would have been passed on through the ages with any kind of integrity, much less any kind of forms for communal worship.

There really is an experience of Christ to be found in Christian community that isn't available through a private faith relationship. I'll go more into this with the lenten series I'll offer later this year on "Growing in Christ." As you note, there's also a kind of family that one becomes part of; this part is a little harder to realize as some communities do a better job of this than others.

--------

Good summary of Br. Lawrence's work. You can see here how important the discipline of attention is. Another favorite of mine is "Abadonment to Divine Providence," by de Caussade. He emphasizes the same, but goes much more into it.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
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Here's an easy way to review the method of Lectio Divina, from various sources on-line.


http://www.osb.org/lectio/about.html

http://www.valyermo.com/ld-art.html
 
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I was brought up in churches where communal prayer was practised as a free, spontaneous expression of the Spirit's movement in the congregation. Such a form is open to abuse and prayer meetings could easily degenerate into expressions of ego or importance or position, be marked by dull, dry routine or be showcases for individual eloquence or verbosity. Occasionally, the freedom was used to put down fellow believers or members of the congregation.

However, when this form of prayer works, as it did in early Plymouth Brethern churches and in certain cases today, the nature of the prayer meeting is a wonderful channel for the Holy Spirit's presence. Members of the body have to cultivate humility and earnestly seek God's presence through worship and thanksgiving but when they do, the presence of God is almost tangible. I think worship is the key. A worshipful atmosphere during prayer can generate such a strong link to the throne room of God. Also, one has to be honest. No airs and graces or contrived modes of expression.

I'm blessed to be in such a church today. Meetings are filled with spontaneous singing and prayer which give rise to wonderful expressions of affection amongst the body - hugging,huddling, dancing, holding hands etc - pure expressions of love and community which are uplifting and deeply healing.

I realise that more ritualistic forms of prayer have their own distinctive qualities, but I'm really only familiar with what I've described and, as I say, if it's done with the Holy Spirit's guidance it can be a truly wonderful experience.
 
Posts: 464 | Location: UK | Registered: 28 May 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
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Stephen:

I've attended a charismatic Episcopal church a few times, but it was difficult to get comfortable with those already close to each other, or at least because I'm not familiar with those intimate expressions in a group setting. But there is certainly a part of me that is drawn to something like what your describing. Phil's descriptions of speaking in tounges as the Holy Spirit communing through us with Christ has been a familiar, private moment on a few occasions during the prayer of recollection that is affective oriented.

My concern would be the space allowed for affective recollection to turn into silence. But in a group setting, if people are as comfortable with each other as you describe, then many expressions of grace are possible.

Have you seen Jan van Ruusbroec's "The Spiritual Espousals"? Ruusbroec was a 12th century monk, a forerunner of sorts to Meister Eckhart. You might enjoy reading his beautful essays on spiritual devotion. There are passages that describe the different ways in which the Holy Spirit inhabits the soul in prayer.
 
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Hi w.c.

I'm quite keen to read the essays you mention because of the great pleasure I took in reading the Sam Morello book on Lectio you once suggested. So I'll look them up. Unfortunately I haven't retained much of the terminology from Lectio and Teresian prayer.

You highlight other difficulties in the group setting I described. It's obviously not for everyone. Not quite sure what you meant by the affective recollection turning into silence. Would silence be a problem? Maybe you mean the opposite. The church I'm in used to have long periods where nobody did anything and the silences could be deafening. Some people enjoyed that, it gave them room for contemplation or whatever. And some actually left when the worship and prayer became livlier and louder. On the other hand, a bit of silence can be quite good and because of the nature of the service there is still room for periods of quiet reflection. Its all about the leading of the Spirit.

Because the church is quite small, we really welcome new faces and a couple of people recently have come in and fitted in quite comfortably with the worship. Also I don't think the closeness we have is something that excludes other people, it's based on a spiritual unity rather than any natural personal affinities. I mean I have absolutely nothing in common with 90% of the members and probably wouldn't be friendly with them apart from the church. Also there are members who don't get involved during the intimate moments but I think they are repsected for that and for other qualities they display.

Ofcourse, its not an ideal church. Plenty of room for improvement, and, well, I'm in it. Anyway, hope this doesn't sound like too much of a plug for my church being the best church or anything like that. It's not. I guess its just a response to the many people these days who grumble about the condition of the church and say they have no time for ecclesiastical fellowship. Its no bad thing to take delight in what God can do amongst a group of believers.

I wonder too if I pick you up right about the church being graced with imperfection. Paul gives us plenty of advice and encouragement about unity in his Epistles. Personally, I mourn the brokenness of the church because I think it should be a vehicle for grace in the world and any brokenness inhibits this flow. We are the salt of the earth, a light on a hill, and if we lose that then we all suffer. When the body is divided it makes room for the enemy to inhabit those places of brokeness. Any unity is God's doing anyway, that's his grace healing up continual strife and division. I don't know if grace necessarily needs brokenness. After all, to paraphrase the gospels - "to him that has, more shall be given, and too him that has not, the same shall be taken away."(Sorry, I couldn't find the quote.)

I do hope I picked you up right, w.c. Interested to know what you think about what I'm saying anyway.

Cheers.
 
Posts: 464 | Location: UK | Registered: 28 May 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
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Stephen:

Regarding imperfection in the church, there certainly is that stagnanting contraction of the heart where members of the body seldom seem to connect with each other in the way of fellowship you describe. But my meaning of brokenness is in the vulnerability shared between us, or the common longing that is underneath all the various human pathologies.

St. Paul's struggle, and his sharing of it with the church at Corinth, is probably close to what I'm saying, where he implores God to remove some unnamed defect that causes him pain of conscience. Through some ephiphany he comes to know that through this wound grace flows. The habit or addiction or character trait isn't resolved or healed as he hoped, with God revealing to him "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

So brokenness could imply depravity or something inherently ugly about human nature, but I mean it quite differently, as this common vulnerability St. Paul seems to be referring to. Once that vulnerability is treated with respect, then perhaps then it can be experienced as an opening for grace to flow.

As for silence, I meant it in the positive sense as the gift of contemplation in the way St Teresa of Avila understands, which traditionally is described as "resting in God," held in a "loving gaze," where even affect has been suspended, or become so interior, that all the senses have gone quiet via the presence of God. IOW, "Be still and know that I am God." From what your describing in your church, it sounds like all of this comes and goes in its various manifestations according to the Holy Spirit.

During Holy Communion, I'm often moved to tears in experiencing some small drop of Jesus' passion, but this quickening of conscience seems to lead to deeper and more open attention to the Mass as His Presence, or more participation.
 
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Sorry to have misunderstood you, w.c. I really should take more time reading these posts Roll Eyes

I guess there are many instances throughout history of so called Christians covering their inherent vulnerabilities by forcing their way into the kingdom of God, grasping for power and control and effectively damaging the church as a body, instead of allowing the grace of God to minister to them and heal their brokenness. It's good what you say. The brokenness seems to lead to unity of the body and indeed empowers the church through God's grace. We are made strong through weakness, the meek shall inherit the earth, blessed are those who mourn etc. etc. Wonderful stuff!

Perhaps there are atleast two distintive strands in the communal worship of the Lord, both filled with their own particular shades and colours. One is the sweet, quiet reflection you mention where the soul is transported and touched by Christ's gentle hand; the other is like a passionate cry of victory where the spirit celebrates Christ's victory in resurrection and his ascencion to power and authority; the first leading to stillness and peace; the other motivational, warlike - the church as an army. I reckon I need a bit of both at times considering my own paricular vulnerability to occult energies and am thankful to have them both in measure.

I wonder if you have anything to say about this. In the meantime, thanks for your thoughts (in particular your sharing regards the Eucharist) which I will henceforth consider with less temporal urgency.

Peace and victory.
 
Posts: 464 | Location: UK | Registered: 28 May 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
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Stephen:

Yes to your comments about the different manifestations of the Holy Spirit through our various personalities: different members, one body. Ruusbroec already saw this as normative for the church in the 12 century. As did St. Paul very early on. And, as you say, different affects for different needs in healing.

Good to have the exchange with you . . .
 
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This has happened to me only once before, and yesterday it happened again. I was literally overcome with the need to pray. I guess one could say that I tend to avoid more overt forms for prayer. For better or for worse, I try to "steal" moments of prayer when I can. Maybe that's like the equivalent of snacking on junk food instead of sitting down to a real and nutritious meal. I think it might be.

Anyway, for those out there who know the old Brad and are wondering if this whole god concept thing is anything more than projection, than psychology, than a mood, wishful thinking, fantasy, an escape from a painful reality, or simply a rush of brain chemistry, let me just say that the finest proof of the existence of a Relationship that exists "outside" of us is this absolutely overwhelming and powerful need to be drawn into prayer. It was not the need for relaxation. It was not the need to calm my often turbulent mind. (And this, I think, shows the different intentions between meditation and prayer�both have their place, but you can't probably achieve everything with just meditation.) It was not the need to rest, although I was so exhausted at the time, but did not for a moment even begin to drift into sleep. This was something else.

And for me it was a wordless prayer. I simply had an overwhelming need to be some "place" and that place was to be in the presence of the Transcendent Creator. I didn't ask. I didn't beg. I just was. I felt the overwhelming urge to rest and to even be energized in this Great Unknown. I still do to some extent right now and am resisting it (stupidly) again because I wanted to write this.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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For better or for worse, I try to "steal" moments of prayer when I can.

Well, I think I just realized from saying this that our life can, and should, become a prayer. And I mean that truly. I mean that I don�t think our life should become an aerobic exercise of striven and serious prayer as set intervals. Trying to do that, frankly (depending on our intention�for after all, when is it ever wrong to give thanks or ask for help?) is what I think often pollutes our prayer and is surely why I tend to resist taking time to do it. I instinctively know that I'm just trying to use it as a device to serve my needs. Praying can be just like pulling out some piece of odd exercise equipment from the closet that you picked up for cheap on the Home Shopping Channel.

And so I have no problem at all advising to please don't make prayer a regular and routine thing analogous to taking out the trash or cleaning the toilet. Sure, we ought to tell those around us in our lives that we love them and appreciate them, but I think we ought to do that when we are truly feeling loving and appreciative. And that's how I approach prayer. I never wish to trivialize it by turning it into an exercise, by turning it into a duty or requirement. Then it becomes only this "thing" that I use, like a voodoo ritual, to get what I want. But if god is about Relationship, and I surely think she/it/he is, then shouldn't we relate as honestly and authentically as possible? I sure think so. And this is also why yesterday I also did a bit of a scolding of God, and I make no apologies for doing so. Sure, I might apologize if I thought I was unreasonable, but what would make me ever think that I could hide these feelings from an all-knowing Creator? He/she/it is not an idiot. It's not like a spouse or boss who we can fool by putting on a happy face.

And although I don't know if it's a true Intention yet, surely I can see now why I resisted set times for prayer and was trying to "steal" bits of prayer in the course of normal life. I was being drawn to the idea (which I think is a good one) of making my life more of a prayer rather than prayer (and God) sort of running only tangentially parallel to it. I think we can make them overlap much more. What this means in terms of practical reality, I do not know yet.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
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Sounds good. The process seems to be more than we can ever understand, so it's a "come as you are" invitation.
 
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I've been learning a lot about meditation and prayer lately and especially about being silent before God.

Brad, you made a distinction between meditation and wordless prayer. It seems to me that wordless prayer is meditation. What do you (or anybody else) think the difference is?
 
Posts: 3 | Location: Michigan | Registered: 02 February 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Beau, I think he was referring to the more Western use of the term, meditation (as derived from "meditatio" in the lectio divina process). In Christianity, meditation has generally referred to reflecting on the Scripture or some other spiritual reading. In the East, it refers to quieting the mind, and that understanding seems to have become the standard even in the West during the past few decades.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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"The Practice of The Presence
All contemplative practices point toward the whole of life lived consciously and with a desire to appreciate God's presence and to be open to God's guidance. The most direct and holistic practice, then, is a moment-by-moment presence to God in all the daily situations of our lives: in work, leisure, relationship, no matter where we are or what is happening. Brother Lawrence, the 17th century French Carmelite friar, described four specific ways of practicing the presence."

First, he suggests "little interior glances," simple moments of remembering, noticing, or just seeking God's presence in the midst of whatever is going on.

Second, he speaks of repeating "a little phrase that Love inspires," letting a word, phrase or image repeat itself quietly deep inside us as we go through our daily activities.

Third, he encourages the habit of "conversing everywhere with God," entering all situations with a sense of relationship with God, a trust in Christ being with us.

Fourth, he prays for an open, all-embracing contemplative attitude in all times and places, what he calls "the loving gaze that finds God everywhere."

The thread starts with "All Contemplative practises point to the whole of life."

It ends with "all-embracing contemplative attitude in all times and places............finds God everywhere."

The spoken and written words are not the goal; the end is not in the words themselves because they are just the rule that quiets the mind, the standards that show the way to a blissful, loving experience in life. Contemplation teaches without the noise of words because its obvious goal is the intimate union with God's pure consciousness.
 
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