Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Union with God is not something we acquire by a technique
but the grounding truth of our lives that engenders the very search for God.
Into the Silent Land
Martin Laird, OSA

This year during Lent I decided to pick up two new pieces of spiritual reading. The first book, by James Martin, SJ, was My Life with the Saints. An excellent read that is both memoir of his discernment journey and stories of saints that have touched his life along the way. I highly recommend it! The second book, Into the Silent Land, by Martin Laird, OSA, is of a much different sort.

Into the Silent Land is a guide to contemplative prayer. It’s not a how to, necessarily, although it could be. It’s also not an academic book about the theology of contemplation, although there are certainly some elements of that. It is more an in depth look at the human person in relationship to God. At least, so far in my reading of it.

The book is based on the fact that union with God is not something that we acquire or work for, but something that we realize or of which we become aware. And while that’s not necessarily a new insight or idea for me, the simplicity with which he states it - very matter-of-fact - caught me and when I read it I realized just how much I needed that message...

I've been doing a lot of thinking/praying lately about relationships - with God, with self, with others. That's what I do during Lent, typically. And in my prayer I've noticed that my fundamental premise has become one of alienation. Meaning, the belief that I am somehow separated from God (and consequently self) and that union with God must be worked at.

Laird's book reminded me of a few things. Allow me to quote something at length:

Union with God is not something we acquire by technique but the grounding truth of our lives that engenders the very search for God. Because God is the ground of our being, the relationship between creature and Creator is such that, by sheer grace, separation is not possible. God does not know how to be absent. The fact that most of us experience throughout most of our lives a sense of separation is the great illusion that we are caught up in; it is the human condition. The sense of separation from God is real, but the meeting of stillness reveals that this perceived separation does not have the last word. This illusion of separation is generated by the mind and is sustained by the riveting of our attention to the interior soap opera, the constant chatter of the cocktail party going on in our heads. For most of us this is what normal is, and we are good at coming up with ways of coping with this perceived separation. (Laird, 15)

I don't know about you, but that description of the mind as a cocktail party (many conversations and a lot of noise) or as the playing of a soap opera (replaying old conversations, imagining situations and outcomes) is so true for me!! I am constantly replaying things in my mind or imagining how much easier things would be if they went my way or thinking of what I would say if I had the courage to speak up.... Does that resonate with anyone else?

So, I've been spending some time during the second half of Lent (since returning from the Los Angeles Religious Ed Congress) trying to ease the chatter of the mind. Maybe that's why I haven't blogged recently.

As Lent draws to its close today and we enter the Triduum Season - the shortest of all Liturgical Seasons, but one that is packed with meaning - may it be one of rich prayer for us all... and a recognition that our union with God is already a fact.

Many blessings to all who read this,

Sr. N

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