Sabbatical Reflections: Portals to Beauty (Part 2 of 3)

Once we have entered into relationship with the Beautiful One, how do we come further up and further in? One of the ways into deeper communion with God is what some saints have called contemplative prayer. This may be the heart’s reflection and longing for the Beautiful – the living God.

Fr. Thomas Dubay, a Catholic writer and spiritual mentor, describes contemplative prayer as “a real awareness of God, desiring and loving him, which we do not produce but simply receive from him when we are ready for it” (emphasis mine).[1] He continues, “our contemplation is a love matter before all else, a loving with our whole heart, mind and strength, a love poured out by the Holy Spirit of God himself (Romans 5:5).”[2]

This form of prayer could be called prayer of communion, for its nature is a profound communion with the living God. It might be identified as a prayer of conformation, because in this vital relationship we become more and more like Christ. It may well be described as transformative prayer because in the end we are changed from “glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The concept of contemplative prayer could be summarized by intimate communion. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word yada means “face to face.” This word describes the intimate knowledge that God has of man as well as of lovers as they lie face to face.  It is the image of the unspeakable in the Apostle Paul’s ecstatic prayer of intimacy in Ephesians 3: 14-19:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (emphasis mine).

Again, Fr. Dubay reminds us that this prayer is about intimacy, “deepening our relationship with the indwelling Trinity, even to the point of being ‘filled with the utter fullness of God.’”[3]

The focus of Paul’s prayer is communion with God, not a reflection on self. In today’s often narcissistic environments, much of our prayer focuses on self. God is viewed as a supersized genie that exists to meet our needs, provide for our wants, and fulfill all our desires.

The focus of contemplative prayer is on the Triune God, his being, his nature and his glory.  It is “a celebration of Trinitarian truth, goodness, and beauty; joining with the heavenly choir in its delightful immersion in divine Beauty .” (Rev. 5:9; 7: 9-12; 8:2-4)

This prayer of communion is not personal introspection, a dwelling on self; nor is it the popular Eastern form of contemplation of “centering” on one’s true self.  No, “God is not only greater than anything created:  he is endlessly greater, he is purest and unlimited power . . . love . . . joy . . . goodness . . . life . . . beauty, literally he is unspeakable.”[4] He is to be the center of our contemplation. Again Dubay reminds us:  “Even human love is cooled or killed by egocentric selfishness. So also with divine love.”[5]

Just as the focus is on God, so too, the initiative for this communion is from God. While we can commence prayer of confession and petition, the prayer of communion is initiated by God. We see this in the Old Testament; it was God who acted first to dwell among his people (Ex. 25:8; 29:28-46). In the New Testament, it was Jesus who came to dwell with us, to begin in intimate communion with us (John 1:1-4,14). And finally, when Christ died, it was he who sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within the life of the believer (John 16:5-13).

-Darrow L. Miller


[1] Dubay, Thomas; Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within; Servant Books, Cincinnati, Ohio (2002); pg 85

[2] Ibid 154

[3] Dubay  173

[4] Ibid 87

[5] Ibid 174

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