Today we live
in a very 'noisy nation' and in the midst of much "digital distraction".
Consequently, at this time of year having an authentic experience of the
"heart" of Christmas--its deeper, inner meaning--is becoming increasingly more
counter cultural. For it means silencing the "cultural cacophony", the
"societal sirens, bells and whistles", and journeying interiorly and
courageously into our hearts. Christmas is addressed, first of all, to the
human heart. Jesus has come to make his home in the heart of humanity.From the Fullness of the Father's "Heart" one
Word has been spoken in the world: Jesus! The Word has come to dwell among us
so as to dwell within us.
Verse 3 of
the Christmas Carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem", begins with these lyrics:
"How silently, how silently the
wondrous Gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessing of his
Two thousand years ago as shepherds kept the night watch
over their flock, in sacred silence Jesus was given to the world as Gift. Today
he continues to be given in silence to humble, human hearts that are opened to
receive him. "Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to
come", or "silent love" (CCC 2517). We have been created for "the world to
come"--for Heaven; we have been created for beatitude, the "beautific vision"
of God, where, Face to face in Heaven "We shall see him as he is" (1Jn. 3:2B). We
have been created to be in the presence of the divine. This is one of the fundamental
lessons of Christmas.
religion is a religion of the Incarnation (of God en-fleshed in a human
nature): "A religion in which God and humanity are face to face" (God Day By
Day. Vol. 4, p. 78). With the birth of Jesus we are now "face to face" with
God. Jesus is the "face" of Love and Compassion: A face we can see, a voice
we can hear, a life we can know, and a heart we can love. How
wonderful--even overwhelming-- it is to
know that through the working of the Holy Spirit and Mary, God has a human
face: Saving grace has a human face that we can gaze upon with the eyes of our
hearts in prayer."I want to see God"
expresses the true desire of man" (CCC 2557): "Come," says my heart, "seek
God's face"; your face, Lord, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me" (Ps
calls us back to our "Bethlehem beginnings". Symbolically, Bethlehem is the
place where contemplation is born--in a
mutual gaze of "silent love". We learn "at the manger" to gaze in silence
and stillness--to adore him! God's gaze changes me. Jesus took upon himself
a flesh and blood humanity so that each of us could become truly mystical--an
authentically spiritual being in his presence. Here "at the manger" faith
is born. One must be a contemplative first in order to become an effective
intercessor. One needs to learn how to truly gaze at Jesus, Love Incarnate--how
to truly face Jesus--before one can truly "face" the world with a loving,
interceding heart.One has to become a
"God gazer" first. One must learn to gaze truthfully and lovingly at Jesus in
silence before one can see the face of Jesus truthfully and lovingly in the
rest of humanity.
As we learn to gaze on the face of Jesus in
contemplative prayer, our hearts are purified and, in time, we learn to gaze on
the face of all humanity with love and compassion. For an intercessor, it is
absolutely essential to pray for others with the love and compassion of Jesus
in one's heart. In the gaze ofcontemplation we are formed more and more in the image of Jesus; hence
we begin to see interiorly more with the eyes of his heart, hear more with the
ears of his heart, discern more with his heart, and love more with the love of
writing to the Ephesians, prays, "May the eyes ofyour hearts be
enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call"
(Eph.1:18). Contemplative, communal, intercessory prayer is very much a charism
of the heart, and it is most definitely "his call". A popular Christmas Carol
asks, "Do you hear what I hear?"; "Do you see what I see?"; "Do you know what I
know?" The questions are not asked as a boast; rather, God desires everyone to
hear his voice, "see his face", and know his personal love. This is what we
desire in our prayer for others. As we begin to grow in "his call", we begin
to experience a sincere solidarity with all people--a mystical identification
with all of humanity. Then, the mystery of Christmas is beginning to be
fulfilled in our lives.
1)What has been your experience of
contemplative silence during this Christmas season?
2) In what way(s)
is God's gaze in prayer changing you?
Any scripture cited in
the text;2 Cor. 4:6; 2 Cor. 4:
18; Eph. 1:18; Eph. 3: 17-19