Richard Rohr – Everything Changes

We’re calling this year’s theme “Old and New: An Evolving Faith.” The term “evolution” may be challenging for some Christians who believe that science and the Bible contradict each other. We’ll look more closely at the Bible (and how Jesus interpreted it) next week, and later this year we’ll focus on Creation and science. For now, let’s simply consider how the inner process of change and growth is fundamental to everything, even our bodies. Having undergone several surgeries, cancer, and a heart attack, I’ve been consoled by the way my body takes care of itself over time. The miracle of healing comes from the inside—but with help from doctors and nurses!

In religion, however, many prefer magical, external, one-time transactions instead of the universal pattern of growth and healing—which is always through loss and renewal. This is the way that life perpetuates itself in ever-new forms: through various changes that can feel like death. The pattern disappoints and scares most of us, even many clergy who think death and resurrection is just a doctrinal statement about the lone Jesus.

There is not a single discipline today that does not recognize change, development, growth, and some kind of evolving phenomenon: psychology, cultural anthropology, history, physical sciences, philosophy, social studies, drama, music, on and on. But in theology’s search for the Real Absolute, it imagined a static “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it, a solid substance sitting above somewhere. Theology has struggled to imagine that once God includes us in the narrative then God is for sure changing! Is that not what the Bible—at its core—is saying? We matter to God and God thus allows us to change the narrative of history . . . and the narrative of God.

Religion tends to prefer and protect the status quo or the supposedly wonderful past, yet what we now see is that religion often simply preserves its own power and privilege. God does not need our protecting. We often worship old things as substitutes for eternal things. Jesus strongly rejects this love of the past and one’s private perfection, and he cleverly quotes Isaiah (29:13) to do it: “In vain do they worship me, teaching merely human precepts as if they were doctrines” (Matthew 15:9). Many of us seem to think that God really is “back there,” in the good ol’ days of old-time religion when God was really God, and everybody was happy and pure. This leaves the present moment empty and hopeless—not to speak of the future.

God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing for the good. This is the generative force implanted in all living things, which grow both from within—because they are programmed for it—and from without—by taking in sun, food, and water. Picture YHWH breathing into the soil that became Adam (Genesis 2:7). That is the eternal pattern. God is still breathing into soil every moment!

Evolutionary thinking is actually contemplative thinking because it leaves the full field of the future in God’s hands and agrees to humbly hold the present with what it only tentatively knows for sure. Evolutionary thinking must agree to both knowing and not knowing, at the same time. This is hard for the egoically bound self. It wants to fully know—now—which is never true anyway.

(Source, HERE)

Richard Rohr – What do we mean by “contemplation”?

Richard Rohr – The Welcoming Prayer

welcoming prayer

I’d like to offer you a form of contemplation—a practice of accepting paradox and holding the tension of contradictions—called The Welcoming Prayer.

First, identify a hurt or an offense in your life. Remember the feelings you first experienced with this hurt and feel them the way you first felt them. Notice how this shows up in your body. Paying attention to your body’s sensations keeps you from jumping into the mind and its dualistic games of good-guy/bad-guy, win/lose, either/or.

After you can identify the hurt and feel it in your body, welcome it. Stop fighting it. Stop splitting and blaming. Welcome the grief. Welcome the anger. It’s hard to do, but for some reason, when we name it, feel it, and welcome it, transformation can begin. Continue reading “Richard Rohr – The Welcoming Prayer”

Richard Rohr on Centering Prayer

Fr. Rohr-Franciscan
Fr. Richard Rohr

In the 1970s, Trappist monks Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, and William Meninger reintroduced Christians to contemplation through the simple practice of Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is one good way to draw us into the silence that surrounds and holds us, but of which we are too often unaware. It helps us sink into the wordless reality of who God is and who we ourselves are.

1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, breathing naturally, relaxing deeply. Become aware of your love and desire for God in this moment.

2. Choose a word or phrase that expresses your intention to be open to God’s presence (such as this week’s Gateway to Silence—“Just be.”—or Grace, Rest, etc.).

3. Hold the word gently, without speaking, repeating it in your mind slowly.

4. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, sensations), simply return to the word, which symbolizes your intention.

5. Gradually let the word fall away as you slip into silence. Rest in silence.

6. Continue in silence as long as you wish (20 minutes twice daily is suggested by many teachers).

James Finley – A blessing for Contemplatives

May each of us be so fortunate as to be overtaken by God in the midst of little things. May we each be so blessed as to be finished off by God, swooping down from above or welling up from beneath, to extinguish the illusion of separateness that perpetuates our fears. May we, in having our illusory, separate self slain by God, be born into a new and true awareness of who we really are: one with God forever. May we continue on in this true awareness, seeing in each and every little thing we see the fullness of God’s presence in our lives. May we also be someone in whose presence others are better able to recognize God’s presence in their lives, so that they, too, might know the freedom of the children of God.

Richard Rohr on the Loss of Any Alternative Consciousness

Hugh of St. Victor (1078-1141) and Richard of St. Victor (1123-1173) wrote that humanity was given three sets of eyes, each building on the previous one. The first set of eyes were the eyes of the flesh (thought or sight), the second set of eyes were the eyes of reason (meditation or reflection), and the third set of eyes were the eyes of true understanding (contemplation). They represent the last era of broad or formal teaching of the contemplative mind in the West, although St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) and Francisco de Osuna (1492-1542) are some rare examples who carry it into the following centuries. But for the most part, the formal teaching of the contemplative mind, even in the monasteries, winds down by the beginning of the fourteenth century. No wonder we so badly needed some reformations by the sixteenth century. Continue reading “Richard Rohr on the Loss of Any Alternative Consciousness”

Richard Rohr – The Sacrament of the Present Moment

The early but learned pattern of dualistic thinking can get us only so far; so all religions at the more mature levels have discovered another “software” for processing the really big questions, like death, love, infinity, suffering, and God. Many of us call this access “contemplation.” It is a non-dualistic way of seeing the moment. Originally, the word was simply “prayer.”

It is living in the naked now, the “sacrament of the present moment,” that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us. Words by themselves invariably divide the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is.

When you can be present, you will know the Real Presence. I promise you this is true. And it is almost that simple.

From The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, p.12

Prayer: When I am present, I can know the Real Presence.

The Three Stages of Contemplative Life – Purification, Illumination, Theosis

Homero Aguilar – Contemplation

Origen of Alexandria came up with the idea first.

Unless you’re a Christian history geek, chances are you’ve never heard of Origen. He lived in Egypt from about 185 to 253—meaning he was a third-century Christian, who died sixty years before Constantine decriminalized the faith. In other words, he lived long before the desert fathers and mothers, before the rise of Christian monasticism, before what we now know as “Christian mysticism” or “contemplative spirituality” really took shape. Indeed, Origen’s extensive writings inspired the great desert father Evagrius, who is generally considered to be the first Christian writer to describe contemplative prayer in his work.

The “idea” that I’m referring to is the notion that Christian spirituality can be understood as involving three stages. To give this notion a bit of gravitas, Origen appealed to the Hebrew Scriptures. He saw three of the wisdom books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, which appear in consecutive order in the Christian Old Testament; as symbolic of these three stages, which he labeled (in Greek) ethike, physike, and enoptike. Translated into English, the stages involve the acquisition of virtue or ethics, which leads to a more Godly way of relating to the natural world, which in turn prepares one for the vision of God, or contemplation. Continue reading “The Three Stages of Contemplative Life – Purification, Illumination, Theosis”

Fr. Richard Rohr on the Art of Action and Contemplation

…you cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without
1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity;
2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety; and
3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know.
This is how you allow and encounter mystery.
All else is mere religion.

From Richard Rohr, From A Lever And a Place to Stand: The Contemplative Stance, the Active Prayer,