“Contemplative” and “cloister” are not synonyms. Cloister is at best only one of many vehicles to contemplation, needed by some, irrelevant to others who see the face of another Jesus in the poor, the rejected, the starving, the beaten, and love it dearly. To call only one of these “the contemplative life” is to overlook entirely the contemplative dimension of all life—the life of the mother who feels the presence of God while bathing her baby; the life of the man who feels God’s breaking heart in his own when he sees young soldiers walk by, the lives of old people who have spent all their lives doing good so that the reign of God could finally come, the lives of young people who offer themselves up for the love of another on altars of their own. Contemplation has to do with seeing life as it is, not with escaping to find another. Contemplatives are ordinary people who are extraordinarily conscious of the impelling life of God both within them and around them.
—Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief
Dedication to God is developed by commitment to one’s spiritual practices for God’s sake. Service to others is the outgoing movement of the heart prompted by compassion. It neutralizes the deep-rooted tendency to become preoccupied with our own spiritual journey and how we are doing. The habit of service to others is developed by trying to please God in what we do and by exercising compassion for others, beginning with those with whom we live...Habits of dedication to God and service to others form the two sides of a channel through which the energies of the unconscious can be released without submerging the psyche in the floodwaters of chaotic emotions. On the contrary, when these energies flow in orderly fashion between the banks of dedication and service, they will raise us to higher levels of spiritual perception, understanding, and selfless love.
—Father Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart
In a Christian believer love sits upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and man, which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival. In a circle near the throne are all holy tempers — longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, temperance; and if any other were comprised in "the mind which was in Christ Jesus." In an exterior circle are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of men. By these we exercise all holy tempers; by these we continually improve them, so that all these are real means of grace, although this is not commonly adverted to. Next to these are those that are usually termed works of piety — reading and hearing the word, public, family, private prayer, receiving the Lord's Supper, fasting or abstinence. Lastly, that his followers may the more effectually provoke one another to love, holy tempers, and good works, our blessed Lord has united them together in one body, the Church, dispersed all over the earth; a little emblem of which, of the Church universal, we have in every particular Christian congregation.
—John Wesley, Sermon 92: On Zeal, § II.5
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
― Ansel Adams
· Are you more comfortable the work of Martha or the stillness of Mary, or are both a part of your life? How do you nurture them?
· How does Centenary support both parts of your faith life, what Wesley calls works of mercy and works of piety?