“The Scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame” – Romans 10:11
I wrote in the previous meditation on Paul’s affirmation of the way in which Christ opens up for us a path to understanding just how near God is to us and spoke of the practice of Centering Prayer as a way I’ve been taught to receive this nearness.
I wrote of this practice as “inviting God to inhabit us.”
Now, of course, God already inhabits us. As Paul told the Athenians during his visit there, “in [God] we live and move and have our being.” The practice of silence has the effect of bringing this truth home to me. As I quiet down and am aware of my breath, the beating of my heart, I am aware that these functions are involuntary. They just are. What Paul said to the Athenians is true.
The invitation to God to indwell us, then, is a way of consenting to God’s presence and activity in us, and a way of welcoming God into those depths of ourselves that we are so good at suppressing because consciousness of those depths goes along with shame. Who hasn’t felt unworthy because of family or social pressures to be someone we don’t perceive ourselves to be, or because we are aware of things we’ve done or left undone because of our own fault? Without the possibility of being deeply known and given what we deeply need; either deep affirmation of our worth or deep forgiveness for our faults, what joy can there be in our life?
Paul, echoing the prophet Isaiah, assures us that those who entrust themselves fully to God will not be ashamed. The practice of Centering Prayer, or some other form of invitation to God to live within us, goes along with an increasing awareness that God already knows us intimately, and this knowledge embraces the depths of us, depths where shame lurks. As Fr. Keating told us, the practice of contemplative prayer is a way of letting God love us, and in loving us, heal us. And in healing us, leave us more available to bring a healing presence into the world. It is, as he said, “Divine Therapy.”
This practice has sustained me and continues to sustain me through difficulties.
O God, unto whom all hearts lie open, unto whom desire is eloquent and from whom no secret thing is hidden; purify the thoughts of my heart by the outpouring of your Spirit that I may love you with a perfect love and praise you as you deserve. Amen. (from the prologue of The Cloud of Unknowing, anonymous)
-Fr. Jonathan Weldon