Saturday, October 27, 2012


To be fully human is to be recreated in the image of Christ’s humanity; and that humanity is the perfect human “translation” of the relationship of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, a relationship of loving and adoring self-giving, a pouring out of life towards the Other. Thus the humanity we are growing into in the Spirit, the humanity that we seek to share with the world as the fruit of Christ’s redeeming work, is a contemplative humanity.

In an analogous way we can say that we begin to understand contemplation when we see God as the first contemplative, the eternal paradigm of that selfless attention to the Other that brings not death but life to the self. All contemplation of God presupposes God’s own absorbed and joyful knowing of himself and gazing upon himself in the Trinitarian life.

To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the Trinity.

Christian solitude is the way in which we allow God to challenge and overcome our individualism. In solitude we are led to recognize the strength and resilience of our selfishness, and the need to let God dissolve the fantasies with which we protect ourselves. (What an awful waste it would be to come to a monastery and then spend our lives protecting ourselves.) In the desert there is no one to impress or persuade; there it is necessary to confront your own emptiness or be consumed by it. But such solitude is framed by the common life in which we have begun to learn the basic habits of selflessness through mutual service, and in which we are enabled to serve more radically and completely, to be more profoundly in the heart of common life in Christ’s Body, because our private myths and defensive strategies have been stripped away by God in silence.

Christ Preaching, 1652, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, etching, .
Excerpts from Abbot Damian’s recent Sunday Chapter Talk weaving passages from Archbishop Rowan Williams' address to the Synod of Bishops.