Greetings from Miriam, Andrew and Ann from the Holy Transfiguration Community. It was a delight to spend time with the Canberra Baptist community during this last week and we were grateful to be welcomed with warm and generous hospitality, despite the very chilly weather! There were several opportunities for conversations around life in a monastery, our experiences of contemplative living, and times of prayer together in a contemplative way. These enriched our visit and we have come home with memories of engaging openly and robustly with others about this way of living which is grounded in contemplation. We resonated with the real need we heard within the church for a deepening openness to the Spirit to sustain life and mission.
Ann is the author of this article, but I write on behalf of Andrew and Miriam, and a contribution from them. For Miriam her experience of contemplation is ‘being with God’. A simple yet profoundly expansive response. Meditation is the activity which takes us there. Andrew’s take on contemplation embraces an openness to a growing intimacy with God, to being held by God as he embraces both his beauty and darkness toward a growing sense of ‘true self’ and from that an emerging sense of mission in his life. For me, I would say ‘yes’ to both those responses and add the symbolism of a flowing river. The water needs a source; a spring emerging from the depths, a path to flow upon and a way of flowing out into the sea. A blockage to the spring, the bed or the outing causes drying up, stagnation or bursting out. In my life I need all three things; an abiding source, a guiding pathway and an expression of compassion to all of creation. This for me is a contemplative life which holds both the inner and outer self; a life integrated with God, others and self.
Learning the contemplative way of being can feel a bit clumsy but I am encouraged by the words of Jill Manton, the founder of WellSpring where I work. She says it is like a new cushion which at first feels different, a bit stiff, and doesn’t quite fit me but with time, and wrapping it around to find my body it becomes a home place. If you are noticing the longing of God drawing you into something a bit different, may we encourage you to lean into God and find the way which leads into your truest self.
Many things have been written about contemplative living and they are helpful, but it is the experience which transforms. When we fall in love with our beloved, the theory is far from our minds for that would diminish the relationship. So it is with God; let us know deeply the experience of being the beloved. Learning the theory will come in time and enhance our living, but may it be the gaze of God upon each one which calls you into deeper love and sense of mission.