From Illuminated Life
Abba Nilus said: “Do not want things to turn out as they seem best to you but as God pleases. Then you will be free of confusion and thankful in your prayer.”
ho is there who hasn’t, at some time or other, wanted life to be different than it is? Who of us has not wanted it ourselves? We get tired of what we’re doing or where we are. We look for better days somewhere else. We want to do something different but, down deep, we don’t really know what it is. All we know is that we yearn for what we do not have. We feel the confusion. We lack the gratitude for life of which the desert monastics speak. We lack and groan through life. And so we miss it. Life ends and we have not lived it. We yearn for the more we cannot see.
Contemplation is also yearning. But the contemplative knows that no matter where we go – and go we must if the call is clear – we will still, in the end, be yearning for what cannot be seen. Yearning is, in fact, a sign of the spiritual life. Those who do not yearn for God do not know God. But yearning for God requires that we allow the Life within us that is the energy of the universe to connect us to Life everywhere, in every one, at all times, always.
Contemplation is the magnet of the soul. It draws us out of ourselves and more deeply into ourselves at the same time. It is always restless, always at peace. What is here is everything and what is here is never enough. The contemplative yearns always for the Light that suffuses all of life but is yet only a glimmer here of the total Mystery in which we are immersed.
Contemplation is the giving over of the self to oneness with the One who is the life of the entire universe, the One of which everything is part, but nothing is all. It is joy and pain at the crossroads. It is Awareness writ large and daily life full to the brim. It is God everywhere and nowhere. The implications astound us: To be contemplative means to live in the presence of God and the absence of God at the same time.
The life of the contemplative is spent nurturing the presence of the Ultimate and hungering after the absence of the Ultimate always. To the contemplative, Life is only the beginning of awareness. Death is only the birth canal to new life, the process by which we are expelled out of the womb of the world into the womb of God, out of life lived in darkness into Life lived in light.
The contemplative enjoys – and the contemplative yearns. Life is everything and life is empty. Life is meant to be lived to the full.
The only question for the restless soul is: For what do we yearn? If we yearn only for more of ourselves, we will never be satisfied because in our smallness we are not enough for ourselves. If we yearn for God, we will not be satisfied either but we will at least know that we have what we are alive to discover: the Glory of God in me.
To be a contemplative, it is necessary to say every day what the ancients of every tradition have been telling us over and over again for eons, “God is in me and I am of God and so I and everything are one. Alleluia.”