CONTEMPLATION: Focus on Christ alone
I must admit to having trouble focusing on Christ, an acquired skill. I can think of Christ for a while, but my spiritual attention span is minutes, if not seconds. What has helped me is my introduction to Cistercian Spirituality, in terms of contemplative charisms and practices.
By charisms, I mean those qualities that put me in touch with my inner self, “The Place No On Wants to Look.” Silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community. Practices are those things which I use to place my heart next to the heart of Christ and just wait. Granted that Christ is everywhere, the problem is, I am not always focused to listen with the “ear of the heart” as St. Benedict writes in the Prologue to his Rule.
What follows are some of my fractured comments of my own struggle with “focus”.
- I realize that whatever I attempt and whatever I do must be focused on Christ alone.
- To reach contemplation (from meditation), I must, like the grain of wheat, die to self (my worldly or false self) in order to make room for Christ.
- Profound listening (with the ear of the heart), takes silence and solitude for me to wipe away the cobwebs of distractions from my focus.
- I found that I need a spiritual plan, a paradigm, a framework that allows me to be present to Christ on a daily basis. (Daily is important, if I am to love others, as Christ loves me.) The frequency of contact with the one you love induces habits of behavior to form. Christ is always present, so I must make the effort to take up my cross daily and seek God where I am.
- I am a temple of the Holy Spirit. That awareness, not easily grasped except through faith alone, means I am a guardian of the love of Christ to those in the world. I must clean my temple out daily from the corrupting influence of Original Sin.
- I realize that, to focus on that which cannot be grasped by mere human effort, I must have humility, daily, to recognize that I need mercy and forgiveness of my lack of faith.
- I cannot approach the Father to receive his pure energy, pure love, and pure service, except through Christ, because he is both Divine Nature and Human Nature, who alone can approach the Father. Even in Heaven, we are as one before the Throne of the Lamb (Christ), who sits at the right hand of the Father.
- Contemplation helps me sit on a part bench, in the dead cold of winter, and seek to see Christ coming down the snow-filled road. It is the watching and longing for Christ that is important. Contemplation is about feeling that, not just knowing that.
- Because God is One, God (the Trinity) visits you through your humanity and sinful nature, not through magic. God is alive, not dead (I might be dead to Christ’s message.) This is our personal redemption each time we proclaim “the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory” (Eucharistic proclamation).
- I must avoid the temptation to keep asking God for favors in my meditation, leading to contemplation. If my spouse or children have fallen away from the Christ, there is the temptation to focus on God bringing them back to the Faith of their Baptism. The danger here is, when God doesn’t bring them back, you get angry with God because he did not do what you wanted. I try to separate contemplation from my petitions that are very close to my heart. Now, I just sit in a quiet place (maybe Trader Joe’s, Target), and repeat my center , over and over. It is “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) I let God do the talking and I just listen. I don’t approach God except in openness to whatever comes, open to the possibility of the manifest ability of Being itself. Contemplation is just you and Christ on that park bench, in the cold of winter, and you listen profoundly “…with the ear of your heart.”
- Humility, Obedience to what God tells you, Doing what you hear, keeping the room of your being free from spiritual hording, moving from your false self (the World) to your true self (One in the Spirit), joining with community of believers, eating the Bread of Heaven for nourishment while you are in the World, Praying to the Real Presence of Christ, reading Sacred Scriptures, receiving the Peace of Christ (not the absence of conflict but the presence of Love), all are product of the energy that you receive from Christ, if you focus.